Sean Gallagher meets small and medium-sized business owners and shares the lessons they’ve learnt in building their companies.
Most companies insist that their staff are their most important asset. However, for employers, paying staff has become more complex than ever before due to a lengthening increasing list of employer obligations and ever-changing entitlements for employees. In such circumstances, remaining compliant is a constant challenge for many businesses. This week, I talk to Anne Reilly of PaycheckPlus, one of Ireland’s most successful payroll outsourcing companies.
Set up by Anne Reilly in 2005, PaycheckPlus has grown to become a multi award-winning payroll outsource service. Based in Drogheda, Co Louth, but with customers in 18 separate countries, the company now employs 15 staff and this year will turn over more than €1m.
While she started out servicing her local market before expanding nationally, it was an enquiry from an international company with staff in Ireland that took her company to a new level.
“We specialise in providing our clients with a secure, cost effective and reliable payroll outsource service which includes looking after everything from calculating tax and distribution of payslips to fund transfers and revenue filing,” says Anne.
“We also look after Revenue Returns as well as complex tailored requirements such as Benefit In Kind (BIK) calculations, share options schemes, redundancy payments and special assignee relief programmes,” she says.
“Importantly, we keep our clients compliant with employment legislation and their employees happy by making sure they get paid the right amount at the right time,” she adds.
Because confidentiality is key in her business, Anne cannot disclose the names of her clients except to say that they are mix of SMEs and multinationals who employ from one to more than 1,000 employees and are drawn from a range of sectors including financial services, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, communications, technology, transport and logistics, professional services, retail, hospitality and education.
While 75pc of the employees whose payroll she looks after are based in Ireland, a further 25pc are based in the UK.
“However, our actual clients come from as many as 18 different countries including Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand,” says Anne. “These companies have employees based either here in Ireland or in the UK and they rely on our expertise to process their payroll based on our expert knowledge of Irish and UK employment and taxation regulations,” she adds.
Anne Reilly grew up near Clogherhead, Co Louth where her father was one of the first farmers in the country to grow mushrooms.
As a teenager she was well used to hard work as she and her siblings helped out with everything from picking to mucking out the mushroom houses as well as loading the vans at four in the morning before heading to the markets in Dublin’s Smithfield.
After school, Anne studied Commerce in UCD but dropped out early when she was offered a job in the finance department in McDonnell’s
Margarine in Drogheda, part of the Unilever Group. There, her role involved processing payroll for the 300 plus workforce — something she instantly grew to love.
Later, she moved to work as a buyer with Heinz in Dundalk where she remained for the next four years until starting a family.
With four young boys to look after she turned to part-time teaching for a time as well as looking after the books and payroll of a number of local small businesses.
Once her children were a little older, she returned to study with the Irish Payroll Association (IPASS) where she was later invited to become a lecturer.
“It was while teaching companies about payroll matters that I first realised there was a gap in the market for an outsourced payroll business and so, in 2005, I set up PaycheckPlus with a view to serving the needs of locals businesses,” says Anne.
As word of her service spread, she began adding many Dublin-based clients. Significant referrals from accountants and HR managers brought more new business. Even the downturn in the economy helped.
“The recession drove employers to look at how to outsource aspects of their businesses and because payroll is a repetitive back office function, it was an obvious choice.”
The company’s location in Co Louth also proved advantageous in that it was well placed to service companies who had operations on both sides of the Border.
In addition, many of their clients began expanding into the UK and requested PaycheckPlus to look after their UK staff. This led Anne to build out a UK service which, to date, has been shortlisted for three awards at the UK Payroll Awards in London.
It is also currently shortlisted for three Global payroll awards to be held in Amsterdam in June
However, her pivotal moment came when she received an email from an Australian company which was about to employ staff on the ground in Ireland.
Having secured the firm as a client, she went on to grow a sizable client base of international firms with employees in either Ireland or the UK.
While an enjoyable one, Anne’s journey has include a real learning curve.
“When I started out, I had no idea what KPIs (key performance indicators) were and was even terrified of doing sales. So I had to surround myself with people who had the skills I didn’t have.
“Today we have a hugely skilled and committed team. I also had to immerse myself in all manner of courses of study on everything from IT and data protection, to social media marketing, sales presentations, tendering, financial planning and corporate governance,” she adds.
She also has a mentor-coach who has visited the business for a half day every week for the past seven-to-eight years, something she highly recommends.
She also completed a course with the Institute of Directors as well as joining Going for Growth, the Enterprise Ireland-backed women’s entrepreneur programme.
“Both of these were instrumental in helping me lay down a proper foundation and strategy for the future business,” says Anne.
Today she finds time to give back through her role as a mentor to other emerging companies through the Acorns programme for rural female entrepreneurs.
Anne Reilly clearly loves what she does. She is also upbeat and positive about the future.
“We are continuing to expand our client base as well as our range of services such as looking after foreign exchange and international funds transfer for international companies who do not have an Irish Bank account.
“Because we look after payroll, we can see when the economy is on the move. For that reason we are optimistic and excited for the future,” she adds.
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