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


Chris Cumo

Click here for Part I & Part II

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: Can you tell us about some of your clients, like the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter?

CHRIS CUMO: Alzheimer's is an interesting one. They were a client of our HR outsourcing business before they became a payroll client, and it was because of that relationship and the work that we did on the HR management services side of the business that gave us the opportunity to bring payroll in. We brought them on board and started doing their payroll and made them very happy about that. Unfortunately, they got absorbed by the national organization so we don’t provide them with payroll outsourcing services any more, and we do very little on the HR side of things. But that’s a good example and we have a lot of other ones like that where we’ve gone in, whether it was the entrée from payroll or the entrée from HR management services, and we’ve demonstrated our skill set and our responsiveness and our ability to provide service; and that’s given us the entrée to bring other things that we do into a client. We have quite a few others like that, but I think businesses in general are trying to really slim down on things that aren’t core, and what we do—we call it “non-core but critical,” because if you’re not paying your people, you’re not going to have them; and if you’re not taking care of them, they’re not going to stay.

We’ve noticed, within the past two years, a lot more of our clients coming to us and saying, “Hey, look, we really want to outsource the entire function to you guys. We don’t want to be dealing with payroll.” So, we’ve come up with an offering there, where we will take on that responsibility. The client still has to have some engagement, because at the end of the day, I can’t approve someone’s time-sheet on behalf of the client. Someone there has to say, “Yeah, that person did work those 40 hours.” But beyond that, we can take all of the other stuff away from them if they don’t want to actually go into our systems and do maintenance, and do entry, and things like that.

Q. Where do you see the business five years from now?

A. Five years from now, obviously the regulatory environment is going to drive a lot of what we do. Healthcare has really become so much more of a focal point for us, and never had to be in the past. That in and of itself is going to cause us to have to do some things, or not do some things, in the next five years. Our goal, obviously, is to continue to grow the business. We continue to search for what else can we provide to a client that’s got value—that’s going to help them to get more efficient, to build their brand, to help retain their talent, to help find the talent that they need? And if we can do all those things, well then, that just puts a lot more glue in our relationships. At the end of the day in our business, it’s all about the longevity of that relationship. We don’t really make any money on a client that stays with us for a year, because there’s so much cost upfront in us getting them converted, getting them up and running, that if we don’t do a good job there, we might as well not have done it in the first place.

We have probably 560 some clients that we do payroll for. We have another 100 or so that we provide HR management services to, that we don’t do payroll for. I don’t know that we need to grow that to 1000 clients. I think we can continue to grow the business by providing more services to our existing clients. And we focus on that 50- to probably 500-employee range, and those clients tend to want and need more of what we do. For us, if we bring on 15–20 of those in a year, it’s a pretty good year for us. If we can do 25 of them, great. But our philosophy has always been “measured growth,” and “do the right thing, and do the job well.”

You know, John always says that in our business, speed kills. We don’t try and convert clients every week, because that doesn’t work. We have a very good process now of how we on board, and the length of time that that takes, and those things all lead into a much better experience at the end of the day. The feedback that we get from clients, when we go through a migration, has been great, and that sets the tone for the relationship and allows us to continue to approach them with other things that we can do for them when the time is right. So, that’s really how we’re looking at building the business: continuing to deliver more to our existing clients. Grow the business in a measured fashion, so that we don’t get ahead of ourselves and don’t trip.

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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