I have been running a small business for over 15 years now. My last company had up to 75 employees and my current company has 20. As a small employer my partner and I have the same challenges as any other small employer. You see, as a business owner we are focused on building our company. We worry about the same things other small business owners do like generating revenue, servicing customers, and constantly looking for new ways to bring value so that maybe someday we can either sell it or grow it to the point where we could work a little less and enjoy a comfortable living.
One worry of mine, and I won’t speak for my partner, is having that “Oh $###” moment where an I was not dotted or T was not crossed and some event happened that could overnight, ruin all the hard work we had put into the company. The HR/Benefits area is one of those places. For most small businesses HR is one of those things that comes after keeping your clients happy, and after generating revenue to pay the bills, and after brainstorming about how to bring new ideas to the market. I would imagine in this area we are probably like most small companies where “after” rarely comes and most wander aimlessly forward “hoping” we are doing the right things. Because of course, nothing will happen to me and we will take care of that tomorrow.
That got me thinking about what I would pay someone to help me in the HR/Benefits area. I would like someone to come into my office and make me worry free. I want to know that from an HR perspective that my handbook is written the right way, my job offer letters are sound, that I have the right signs posted around the office, or whatever it is that I need to know or do to eliminate any risks from an HR/Benefits perspective. In this area I don’t know what I don’t know so I need someone to tell me or simply do it for me. And if I have a question I want someone to call. Don’t send me to some website with a thousand documents and have me try to figure out which 5 of the thousand I need. If that’s what I wanted I could Google it myself and I already have a job.
I also want to be efficient. I want the security of knowing everyone is on the insurance plan who is supposed to be and those who shouldn’t be should be off. I don’t want an employee to have a major health event then worry that I did not add that person to the medical plan and I don’t want to be paying for people who are no longer covered. I also want to make sure my payroll deductions are right. I know we have a problem recording all the time off the staff takes and I want an easier way because the cost of salaries is by far the most costly part of my business and I can’t afford to give away free time.
I also want to make sure we are paying people correctly. I don’t want to be overpaying or underpaying though I am sure if I underpaid I would hear about it. I also would like some assistance in determining the right market wages for my employees.
I want my employees to be happy and productive. If they have a HR or Benefits question I want them to have someone to call. It would be easier if benefits were simpler and easier to understand but that is another subject I wrote about in another blog. I also want them to have access to the information they need when they need it. I want my employees to think highly of our organization and not think we are an unorganized mess and don’t care.
My partner and I spoke about how much we would be willing to pay someone to come in and make us worry free, bring efficiency through automation and maybe save some money, and be a resource to us and our employees because, for the most part, we don’t know what we don’t know. We agreed that we would pay about 1/4 – 1/3 of the full cost of a HR person. In the Boston market that would be around $2000 – $3000 per month. With 20 employees that would be between $100 – $150 per employee per month that we would be willing to pay.
We work with benefits brokers everyday who say their commission is getting cut and that they can’t make money in the small group business. In some cases fees have gone to as low as $5 PEPM. Yet here I am telling the world that I would be willing to pay up to $150 PEPM if someone could help us.
Since I started my first business in 1997 I have had benefits brokers call me up soliciting my benefits business. They all have the same elevator pitches about how they can save money or bring better or more services. Yet, in the 15+ years I have been running a business only one company called me saying, “Let me come in a eliminate your HR-Benefits-Payroll worries. We will get you in compliance, automate your business, give your employees access to information and make them happy. We will make you look good to your employees. And along the way we will save you money. The only firm that gave me that pitch was Paychex.
Now we did not take Paychex up on it because they compete with our customers. But I will tell you that their value proposition is what I am looking for. Yet, nobody else is calling. And I would imagine that my company is not the only small company in America that has this need and is waiting for the call.