Does Your Franchise Need a Workforce Management Partner? Finding a service provider to help you manage payroll or HR functions can save valuable time. Here are five things to prioritize in your search.

By Stephanie Schomer

This story appears in the April 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

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Sean Manning kept following the money.

At first he was just a successful accountant, and his clients kept saying they needed help with payroll services. That's why, in 2008, he launched a company called Payroll Vault to help small-business owners manage payroll processing. Then industry contacts began asking for help — because they wanted to start their own payroll-services companies. He saw an even bigger opportunity: franchising. "If we want to help people build a business, let's give them everything we have — including the brand," Manning says. Payroll Vault started franchising in 2012 and today has 62 locations across the country.

Of course, as a franchise itself, Payroll Vault knows a thing or two about serving franchises, and so it works with franchisees of Domino's Pizza, Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, Weed Man Lawn Care, and more. Here are his tips for franchisees looking for a reliable payroll partner.

Related: What Franchises Need from a Payment Processor

1. Seek out service.

"We're in an industry that's a little challenged from a service perspective," Manning says of workforce management companies. "You're often dealing with a lot of big corporate brands with big call centers, maybe not a direct line." Smaller, more localized operations, Manning says, can provide a more personalized touch — something Payroll Vault prides itself on: "We answer our phone, and we check in on customers."

2. Request consultations.

If you're shopping for service providers, ask how they can help you beyond their core service. In 2020, for example, various relief programs (like the Paycheck Protection Program) were often confusing and conflicting. A good partner should be able to help you navigate shifting policies. "A consultative approach that puts an emphasis on education is what helps entrepreneurs through those tough times," Manning says. "It's about helping people understand the resources available."

3. Trust your fellow franchisees.

Working with franchise systems, Manning says, has been a lesson in collaboration. "We often see individual franchisees sharing resources or ideas with other franchisees within their network," he says. "Franchisees understand the value of outsourcing certain things like payroll, and those referrals within networks is often how we grow our own business."

Related: 4 Tips for Creating a Strong Franchise Infrastructure

4. Ask about a supplier's network.

Nothing in business truly happens in a silo. Manning encourages franchisees to ask any service provider about their own network — which could benefit your business down the line. "It goes back to that idea of collaboration," Manning says. "A payroll service provider should want to know and understand who your banker is, who your accountant is, who your attorney is. And if down the road you need a new banker or a new attorney, we'd want to be part of your trusted community and help you fill those gaps. Any service provider should do the same."

5. Embrace technology.

"Technology and workforce management has changed dramatically in the past few years as it relates to payroll," Manning says. "Small-business owners can save time and money by embracing that technology, but it requires a partner who can be both reliable and supportive." Ask potential service providers about the resources they utilize — ­and how they'll help you deploy them.

Stephanie Schomer

Entrepreneur Staff

Deputy Editor

Stephanie Schomer is Entrepreneur magazine's deputy editor. She previously worked at Entertainment WeeklyArchitectural Digest and Fast Company. Follow her on Twitter @stephschomer.

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