Small Businesses: When and How to Bring in a Payroll Expert

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By Robert Half May 14, 2019 at 12:00pm

As an entrepreneur, you’re accustomed to juggling multiple roles. After all, that’s how you got your company up and running. But now that your small business is booming, it might be time to delegate certain roles.

Payroll is a prime example. Bringing in a payroll expert can help you save time, headaches and even money. And the sooner you find one, the sooner your company will reap the benefits.

What a payroll expert can do for small businesses

Few things are more demoralizing than paychecks that are late or inaccurate. Payroll experts ensure that your staff are paid on time correctly and the business stays within budget.

These professionals are excellent resources when it comes to complying with state and federal regulations, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Noncompliance with any of these can come with stiff penalties.

What’s more, payroll experts reduce the cost of hiring and onboarding new employees, as many of them can also contribute to HR duties in small businesses. As your organization is ready to take on more employees, a payroll coordinator can assist with posting job vacancies, reviewing applications, interviewing candidates, conducting background and reference checks, and new hire orientation.

Handling your company’s payroll is a demanding and vital responsibility. If your time is getting stretched too thin — and increasing your risk of making mistakes — it might be time to bring in help.

Finding the right person for the job can be a challenge, especially if you’re not familiar with the field, so here are eight tips for hiring the payroll expert your growing company needs:

1. Examine your requirements

Are your workers local or remote? Is there a mix of full-time employees and contractors or freelancers? Does someone already take care of HR and accounts payable, or would this person need to wear multiple hats? Your job posting should include a comprehensive description of the responsibilities and type of payroll the new hire is expected to handle.

2. Anticipate the future

The payroll specialist you bring in should be able to handle your company’s growth, wherever it may be headed. For example, if you plan to open a branch office in a neighboring state or Canada, look for job candidates with experience processing multistate and/or international payroll.

3. Offer attractive compensation

Payroll managers are in high demand, according to the Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals. In a tight hiring market, you may not be able to land the talent you need unless you pay competitive wages — or more. Consult resources like the Salary Guide and Salary Calculator for the latest data on what payroll experts should be earning in your city.

4. Look for a certification

Unlike accounting, business or HR, there are no four-year degrees in payroll. There are, however, credentialing programs that attest to the holder’s knowledge of this field. Designed for entry-level practitioners, the Fundamental Payroll Certificate (FPC) verifies basic competency. Holders of the more advanced Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) certification are more experienced workers with in-depth knowledge of benefits, FLSA, FICA and payroll administration.

5. Hire for company culture fit

If your business is fairly new, you may still be solidifying your organizational culture. As the payroll expert you bring in might greatly influence future hiring, make sure this employee has values and personality traits you seek in all staff.

6. Focus on soft skills

Even though payroll experts deal largely with numbers and regulations, they should have excellent people skills. Look for candidates with a customer service mindset, excellent written and verbal communication abilities, and respect for confidentiality. They also need exceptional attention to detail, as payroll errors are expensive from both a morale and compliance standpoint.

7. Work with a staffing company

Recruiting takes time — something you don’t have much of. And when you’re hiring for a field that you may not be familiar with, it can be hard to know what requirements to ask for and what makes for a solid or weak resume. A recruiter who specializes in accounting and finance can handle much of the legwork for busy small business owners.

8. Be willing to train

Payroll experts are well versed in their field. But if your small business is in a niche area, like specialized manufacturing or an emerging technology, chances are good that talented payroll candidates won’t have relevant experience in your particular industry. Hire for the most critical skills, including soft skills. On-the-job exposure and training will take care of the rest.

A DIY approach has served you well for many years, but there comes a time in every small business owner’s life when they have to let go of certain roles. As your company grows, consider adding a payroll expert to your team.