We interviewed Shrad Rao, the young CEO of payroll provider Wagepoint, and spoke about what it takes to launch and nurture a startup, the importance of excellent customer service and the surprising elegance of payroll.
Tell us about your business. Who are you, and what do you do?
Wagepoint is a fast growing technology start up, and a provider of online payroll software for small businesses. We have approximately 500 customers across Canada today, coming from a wide variety of industries –technology start ups, restaurant chains and other retailers, and service providers. All told, we’re currently processing around $120 million in payroll for these companies. We also just launched our service into the US market, and have the ability to process payroll in all 50 states.
We treat our small business customers as if they were our friends – and put that kind of care and attention into the relationship we have with them.
Simply put we’re a payroll provider. Companies have a moral and financial obligation to ensure that their employees are paid accurately and on time. We handle all that paperwork to ensure payroll is always done properly and in accordance with CRA/IRS regulations. The big difference between us and the big payroll companies is we have built a system that is super simple, super intuitive –like Facebook for payroll, and then back it up with highly personalized service and support.
How did you get into this field? Is it a family legacy or are you a pioneer?
We are passionate about the small business space and building user-friendly products for them. We asked ourselves, why can’t using payroll software be as simple as using Facebook? Using that lens, we built a cloud-based payroll app that simplifies the task of running payroll. We are a young startup that focuses on elegant products and exemplary customer service.
Why do you love what you do? What it is that drives you every day?
Thrilling and delighting our customers gets me out of bed every morning. I’m super passionate about customer service, and want to build a company that will always go the extra mile to make that customer happy and successful. I also believe that when it comes to customer service actions speak louder than words. It’s those thousand little touches that build long-term customer loyalty.
A lot of companies talk a good customer service game. But only a handful back those words up with action.
Was it all smooth sailing or have you had to overcome adversity to get where you are?
Just like any young company, we have challenges pertaining to finding the right people, making sure the company is funded for growth, figuring out when to scale the business and how to make sure no balls are dropped in the process etc. The trick to getting a startup off the ground is making sure you are doing the right things at the right time so that you extend your runway and increase chances of success.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
Payroll is a very time-sensitive task. Once we had a customer run payroll for the wrong pay date and he called us to ask us what we could do about fixing his mistake. We normally need 3 days at the very least to make sure the funds have time to move from the customer’s bank account into ours. But in this case, we had to figure out how to do it within 1 day. So, we physically went to our bank, withdrew $18,000 in net pay and then went to 7 employee’s bank’s and again, physically deposited their net pay. The customer and employees were happy and they had no idea what we had to do it pull it off. This is what we mean when we say, we go above and beyond for our customer.
Are you involved in your local community?
We support local and national Charities and NFP’s by providing them with a discount. We also sponsor local meetup groups to support the startup community. As we grow, we expect to continue to invest in Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto and Halifax.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
No matter which industry you operate in, take the time to understand the key metrics or drivers of your business. Your decision making should be a combination of gut and data. So track data early and track it often.