Interview with Chris Cumo, PROXUS Co-Founder and Principal - Part II


Chris Cumo

Click here for Part I & Part III

Strategic, flexible workforce management solutions

Chris Cumo the co-founder and principal of PROXUS, a payroll, human resources, and benefits outsourcing and consulting firm based in Washington, PA. Founded in 2006, PROXUS started as a strategic alliance between Granatt HR and Chris’ payroll technology company Professional Payroll Solutions. In the decade since, PROXUS has grown into a leader in the workforce management space, serving clients in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey with employees throughout the United States. Chris spoke with citybizlist about founding PROXUS, keeping up with federal regulatory changes, and the future of the company.

EDWIN WARFIELD: How has the industry changed since you founded PROXUS in 2006?

CHRIS CUMO: Our industry tends to be reactive, because when there’s a regulatory change, we have to do something. ACA was a monumental change for us, and the amount of work that that caused for us was incredible.

If you look at any of the major players in the industry and you read any of their financial statements and quarterly reports and annual reports, they all point to ACA as being a huge uptick in their business, and now we’re all up against what we did two years ago—to try and match that revenue. But, for us, it wasn’t about that so much as we had to basically become experts overnight in a portion of ACA compliance that didn’t exist. Nobody really knew what to do with it. The explanations coming from IRS were clear as mud in a lot of cases. We had to really dig in and learn how to deal with this. And we have. It’s certainly not been without its fits and starts, but I think we’ve done a really good job. I think our clients appreciate what we were able to do for them, but again, like I said, our industry tends to be reactive because we’re looking at trends and then all of a sudden government comes along and says, “Now you need to do this.” “Oh, okay.” So now we have to go to our software providers and say, “You need to program for this stuff. This is how it has to happen.” Obviously, we don’t control that development so we have to hope that they do it right, and they did a really good job with it. And then we’ve got to educate ourselves and start to deliver information.

One of the other key things—and I just reminded myself of this—we’ve become much more of a content provider than we ever have. Clients are asking us more questions than they ever have around all the things that we touch on day to day, but they want to know more, they want more information, they want education. So, we’ve adapted a lot of our marketing strategy now to really deliver in content. In fact, today, we’re doing a webinar on branding your business for attracting talent, because a lot of companies don’t really understand what that means, and you look at the Silicon Valley—they’re great at it: “we’ve got beer pong, we’ve got picnic tables, we’ve got ping pong, we’ve got all of this stuff,” right, “we’ve got these incredible buildings.” But there’s also “here’s the work environment,” “here’s how we deal with family,” and work–life balance and all those other things, so we’re doing a webinar—literally, as we speak here, there’s a webinar going on today on how do you brand your business to attract that talent.

We find ourselves now doing a lot more of this outward-bound content delivery to our customers and to the general population and universe of our prospects more than we ever have. That’s, again, been driven by this change in regulatory environment and then change in the focus of we need to attract and maintain and retain talent, because that’s what makes your business run—and it’s good that people realize that, and now they’re asking us for help around that.

Q. How does PROXUS differentiate itself from competitors?

A. We have one thing that we do and do very well, and that’s servicing our customers. At the end of the day, the technology is the same, whether it’s ours, whether it’s ADP’s, whether it’s Paylocity—whoever it might be—the technology all does the same thing. It just depends on which flavor you’d rather deal with on any given day, but we all can cut a check, we can all do benefits, administration—all those other things. Where we have found our niche, where we have differentiated ourselves, is in that service delivery model: how we interact with our clients, how we respond, what we’re willing to provide versus what those large organizations are willing to do or not do. That’s been our biggest differentiator.

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Newmark Knight Frank (NKF) is one of the world's leading commercial real estate advisory firms. Together with London-based partner Knight Frank and independently-owned offices, NKF's 14,100 professionals operate from more than 400 offices in established and emerging property markets on six continents.

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