Perquest Inc. recently launched a new payroll processing system designed specifically (yes, really!) for small business.
Unlike large-company applications that have been repackaged to go downmarket, Perquest was built from the ground up for small businesses with up to 250 employees. And therein lies the beauty of it.
Perquest is fast. Easy to use. Cost effective. In many ways, goofproof. Exactly the kind of solution that small businesses need and want.
For small business owners, payroll can wind up being a headache. Many small businesses choose to run their own payroll in-house. But that can lead to costly errors. According to the IRS, 4 out of 10 small businesses are fined for violations of payroll rules. Some small business owners choose to outsource to one of the large traditional payroll companies, bringing headaches of a different kind. Going with a large payroll processor can mean being forced to fit into complex, rigid procedures designed for larger businesses. Not to mention being expensive.
Perquest has managed to design a service that captures the elements that matter most to small businesses (other vendors trying to tap the small business market, take note):
1. Fast and simple. Perquest is a Web-based, hosted (ASP) solution. That means there is no software to install, and no costly and lengthy integration projects in order to get started. The business owner doesn’t need to worry about servers to run the software and associated databases, systems maintenance, or updating tax rates — all that is taken care of. The screens use ordinary business terminology, not geek-speak, and the majority are highly intuitive. With Perquest you can get started in under an hour, which is excellent for a critical business process like payroll. Running each payroll can take as little as 5 minutes. To judge for yourself, take the full-functionality online demo.
2. Full-featured. Perquest offers full payroll processing end-to-end. Perquest handles salaried, hourly and commissioned payments, as well as one-time payments like bonuses. It handles cafeteria plans, 401(k) and other benefit deductions.
3. A solution that is fully self-serve, 24/7. With Perquest small businesses can do everything online — every time and anytime. For instance, there is no need to telephone the payroll service during regular business hours or fax any documents. And, as long as they have an Internet connection, small business owners and managers can run payroll any time of the day, from wherever they happen to be…in the office, at home, or on the road.
4. Price points that small business can afford. Most small businesses do not recognize that there is a price to handling payroll in-house. Just because they aren’t writing a check to a payroll service doesn’t mean it is no cost. They underestimate how long it takes to process payroll manually. Worse, they don’t realize how frequently mistakes can be made, leading to costly tax penalties and unproductive correction time. These kinds of costs are hard to quantify, but no less real. When you capture all costs of doing payroll in-house, Perquest compares very favorably…and may even be less expensive. According to Perquest CEO David Kahn, “Perquest costs less than $900 a year for a five-person business.” See Perquest pricing online.
5. Accurate and Secure. A payroll service must be accurate all the time. Perquest offers a guarantee on its website akin to the guarantees given by tax preparers: Perquest guarantees to file tax forms and payments accurately and on time, or pay the resulting payroll tax penalties. Also, Perquest deploys significant system security measures. For example, it uses Secure Sockets Layer (evidenced by the little yellow lock symbol in the lower right corner of the browser) at very high 128-bit encryption.
6. Data transfer with other software applications. The most popular bookkeeping software among small businesses, by far, is Intuit’s QuickBooks. Any payroll system has to be able to pass data to QuickBooks if it is going to truly serve small businesses and make them more efficient. Perquest exports general ledger data to QuickBooks, eliminating the need to manually key in data.
7. No IT technical staff is required. Perquest is among the new breed of software companies that make it easy for small businesses to use their service without any particular IT expertise. This is critical for small businesses. It is also something that most vendors trying to reach the small business market just don’t get. Small businesses frequently have no dedicated IT staff, or if they do, “staff” might consist of one person wearing 3 or 4 hats. A solution that requires IT intervention is simply not practical for small businesses. If you evaluate some of the leading online services used by small businesses today (e.g., eBay, PayPal), you find an important element in common. They make their technology so simple to use, that it’s as if the technology itself is transparent. Perquest has managed to do the same. They’ve made the technology as simple to use as, well, PayPal, or eBay.
Perquest is currently available in the U.S. state of California, and will be rolled out to Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada in January 2004. The rest of the United States will follow within the next year.