First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Joe Beverly: My family and I are doing well. However, we have been substantially separated. My wife got caught overseas in early March visiting her parents, and I haven’t seen her since.
The plan is for her to return in early November. My son lives in another state, one of my daughters is also in another foreign country working, and the other daughter is in nursing school. We’re all safe, but all separate!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Corporate Payroll Services.
Joe Beverly: Out of college, I worked in sales for a computer manufacturer in Atlanta and Germany. I founded my company in 1984 when I was 7 years old. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!) Initially, we installed computer hardware, packaged software, and we wrote and modified software for clients. That business paid the bills but was never very successful. In 1991 we pivoted to provide payroll services for our customers. We started with one customer at the beginning of 1991 and have 6000 customers now. We run payroll for our customers with employees in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.
How does Corporate Payroll Services innovate?
Joe Beverly: We innovate every day. Primarily our innovations are improving our software on a continuous basis, but we also innovate in procedural ways. We listen very carefully to customers and what changes they would like to see. Every month we survey a portion of our customers to find out what we need to do to change, and we make software and procedural changes to eliminate inaccuracies. That constant focus on perfection gives us one of the highest customer satisfaction scores in the industry.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Joe Beverly: Joe Beverly: The coronavirus has affected us in multiple ways. We have a large portion of our employees working from home now, which we did not have before. We were one of the early adopters of working from home when the pandemic started. On the night of March 2nd, I had seen enough of what I thought was coming to send an email to our senior management team telling them we had to figure out how to get people working from home and/or being separate from each other in the office. A significant portion of our employees started working from home the following day and increasing numbers over the next few weeks.
Our customer count dropped a little over 10% in late March and April, and we were not sure where the bottom was. We hit bottom in May and have been climbing back since then, with the exception of a few weeks.
We have made multiple changes around the office to protect our employees and reduce the number of outsiders entering the office. We have also customized some partitioning systems to provide physical barriers between those employees who have to be in the office.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Joe Beverly: In March, we had to make a lot of difficult choices and laid off a good number of people. Fortunately, we began hiring them back in May once we saw we had hit bottom. Due to our continuous growth since 1991, we had never had a layoff, but we knew we had to act quickly with so much unknown at that time. At this point, we’re hiring aggressively.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Corporate Payroll Services in the future?
Joe Beverly: I deal with stress and anxiety by working as hard as I can to get as much done as possible and solve problems as quickly as possible. I would rather be doing something to try to improve the situation rather than sitting and worrying. As we go forward, we have to be careful to keep our employees safe and serve our customers to the very best of our ability. Last year was our 29th year of the uninterrupted year over year revenue and customer count growth. I believe this year will be our 30th even though our growth rate will be much lower than projected this year. By continuing to focus on customer satisfaction and innovation with our systems, I believe we can continue to grow in revenues and customers every year for a long time.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Joe Beverly: Our largest competitors are ADP and Paychex. We have been competing against them for almost 30 years, and we compete against them by offering better pricing and substantially better service.
A substantial number of our clients come from companies who used those companies in the past. When I was deciding on how to price our payroll services in the fall of 1990, Sam Walton, the Walmart founder, was the wealthiest or one of the wealthiest people in the United States. I said to myself, “Old Sam didn’t become that wealthy by selling at Tiffany & Co. prices.” So, I decided to price our services very competitively.
We get a lot of customers to try us based on the savings they experience by using us, and then we keep them by providing outstanding service.
People think that excellent service is expensive to provide, but I think it is more expensive to fix problems and have high customer turnover. It is also a lot more stressful for management, employees, and customers to provide poor service. In other words, providing great service is LESS expensive and stressful when you consider all additional costs, revenue gained and stress reduced for everybody.
Your final thoughts?
Joe Beverly: I have said for a long time, there is no good long-term replacement for persistence and hard work. Our company is fortunate enough to have a great team that lives those ideas and works like crazy, and persists through difficult times.