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Keeping one step ahead of payroll

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  • 21/05/2003
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I have just bought two other firms but intend to allow them to continue independently. I have quadrupled my staff to 20 employees. With the onset of regulation it is a busy time for us and I do not want to lose the focus on clients, but I think I will need something to keep track of the staff and the payroll. What should a business of this size be doing?

Technology is not always the answer to every problem, however, this is one occasion where it can really help. Presuming you have a secretary or administration clerk handling your current payroll, or even if you are doing it yourself, you will probably find more and more time being taken up with manual accounting of this nature. The fact you intend to keep the businesses separate will also add to the burden, particularly if your invoice and payment methodology involves cross charging between businesses.

There are a number of software packages available which can assist you greatly. They will vary in functionality and also cost. Any good payroll software should provide the necessary data to run a monthly payroll and provide back-up of useful employee information.

A basic package will provide your monthly payroll information, produce payslips, monitor employees’ personal details ‘ contact info, cost codes, all types of absence (holidays, sickness, maternity) etc. If used effectively, it will remove the need for a significant amount of manual calculation, and even at the level of 20 employees is far more efficient than running a manual payroll, as records for Inland Revenue (IR) purposes are fairly onerous.

You can further enhance this with an electronic banking system (talk to your bank) which will allow you to download the payroll direct into the banking system, obviously saving time and reducing errors. Accounting software can also be used, further eliminating time spent updating the main accounting records.

At the tax year-end, some packages are even able to send the payroll data direct to the IR electronically.

Have a look around and see what you can find. It will not cost you much, and is likely to prove to be a godsend.

The first thing to do is streamline and centralise the parts of the firms that are common to all three businesses, but do not directly affect the sales and client relationships on a day-to-day basis; this is then not affecting business levels.

Assuming that the firms already have computers and networks in place (if not, this would be the first thing to do), I would start with the commission tracking and reconciliation, and payroll and reporting systems by implementing common systems across all the firms. This would enable common processes, and allow you track exactly how they are performing as well as saving you time and money on mastering different systems. Once these are running smoothly I would then look at installing common point of sales quoting, CRM and administration systems. This would make the staff more efficient and ensure they are all following the company’s processes, giving you peace of mind and ensuring you have consistency of information and allowing you to report and manage on all the firms activities and business levels.

I would also look at the training and compliance side of the business and to ensure consistency. I would suggest employing a compliance consultant to review what is currently being done and put in place a full end-to-end compliant sales process and set up an ongoing training program. I would ensure the CRM and administration system was able to implement and control the processes put in place by the compliance review.

It is possible to purchase a single system that would be able to provide all the above for you and ensure the sales process was followed correctly and keep track of all tasks and letters completed.

There are obviously going to be synergies that you can take advantage of across the three businesses that will result in some cost savings and should make the combined units more efficient than the three units separately. Draw up a list of core operational requirements and functions and IT systems including databases, sourcing software and electronic functionality like email.

Staff issues are also important including payroll and how it is currently administered, key personnel, job roles and descriptions. There is bound to be some overlap and if redeployment is not possible, you need to ensure you are up to speed with employment law before embarking on any redundancies. There are a number of online organisations available today which can help you navigate these issues for a reasonable fee, take a look at: www.incomesdata.co.uk or www.absolutehrsolutions.com.

Compliance is a concern and you should undertake a quick analysis of each business and, in particular, how they fit with the proposed changes in regulation. Some areas to bear in mind, with regard to compliance and regulatory overlap, would be possibly moving from three to one MCCB registration number, as well as consolidating your consumer credit licence and PI insurance costs.

At the same time maintain a seamless service to your clients, because if this suffers then you could do irreparable damage to the business and any significant operating improvements might be irrelevant if the business levels drop off. Local businesses very often depend on their reputation and you should therefore ensure that you protect this at all costs.

There may be some benefit in ‘uniforming’ any panels that you use and to see if there is any scope for improving the fees that you earn from the providers.


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