Charles Read, a licensed CPA and the Founder & CEO of GetPayroll in Lewisville, TX, joins us in this TecHRseries interview to share excerpts from his 50+ years of personal and professional experience. A Marine Corps veteran, Mr. Read is an accomplished senior executive and entrepreneur.
Hello, Charles! It would be great if you can tell us a little about your professional journey so far, we’d especially love to know about your biggest takeaways and learnings over the years.
It has been a long and fascinating journey. My first job was working in my parent’s business when I was six years old, making old wet verifax copies. I learned business literally at my Father’s and Mother’s knees. After military service, I realized I needed a college degree. I went to North Texas State University and earned my BBA (Cum Laude) and my MBA. I sat for an passed my CPA exam while still in college. I went to work for Texas Instruments after college and worked my way up in title and salary through several companies until I was at J C Penny’s. I realized there in my early forties; I did not have the political skills to rise to the top in a major US company. American business management, for the most part, is very poor. It is run by people who clawed their way to the top or inherited the position. Neither makes for good corporate leaders. I was unwilling to stab people in the back or step on them to get ahead. To run the show, I was going to have to start my own company. I started mine about 30 years ago. I have never regretted the move.
I have worked for some very poor bosses. I promised myself I would never do some of the things they did. I have been pretty good about that promise. It doesn’t mean you’re an easy touch, even though I am one. It does mean that you think about your staff and their situations. I may no longer worry from paycheck to paycheck, but they may well and I need to be aware of that. Many bosses, particularly in family companies, don’t remember or never learned what it was like.
I continue to learn. In my sixties, I became a US Tax Court Practitioner to enhance my abilities to serve my clients from an ever more rapacious IRS. Writing my books and articles forces me to learn and study on an on-going basis
A couple of years ago, I applied for and was accepted as a member of the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council (IRSAC). We all go to D.C. five times a year to help provide the IRS with outside viewpoints, knowledge and opinions that they don’t get in their insular environment.
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Being a veteran must have helped inculcate some strong leadership qualities! Can you tell us about your biggest learnings that have helped in the B2B/Corporate world?
The Marine Corps taught me several things. Tenacity. Never give up. Complete the mission. Discipline – internal and external. Teamwork – one Marine cannot carry an 81-millimeter mortar and ammo by himself or set up a good ambush as if he were Rambo. It also taught me diversity. There was no color line in the Marine Corps. We all had the same experiences in Boot Camp and were all Marines, period.
I learned that tenacity is a must in dealing with the bureaucracy of the IRS and other taxing authorities. It is a whole series, or no’s followed by a single yes. I have had situations where it has taken as long as nine years to solve an IRS mistake. It would have been easy to give up and tell the client to pay the taxes, penalties and interest to make the problem go away. That is not what I learned. You keep pushing on till you reach the result you think is right. You bust through artificial barriers and seek out solutions and people that can provide those solutions. You never give up.
I had to unlearn some things. In the Marine Corps you either give orders or take orders. Everybody is senior or junior (and therefor subordinate) to everyone else, everyone. I had to unlearn that. In civilian life, people won’t put up with that; I won’t either. I also had to unlearn diving for cover from loud noises; it was embarrassing the first couple of years.
What are some of the major challenges in the payroll industry today, and how are you seeing teams use their tech stack to tackle them?
Technology continues to change. I have seen 40 plus years of change. Computers, fax machines, biometrics, laser printers, direct deposit, debit cards, electronic filing, EFTPS, internet you name it. That change is not going to stop or slow down. Just look at the push for “On-Demand Payroll” and the “Gig” economy.
Payroll is going to continue to change. We are on the cusp of Artificial Intelligence breaking into the business. How that will shake out, I have no idea. But I am reading and studying changes in technology almost daily. We have kept up for 30 years and plan to keep up for the foreseeable future.
Remember 50 years ago, within my memory, a lot of people still got pay envelopes with cash on payday. When I was first in the Marine Corps, we were still paid in cash. I don’t know of anyone that pays cash today. Where we will be in the future, I don’t know, but GetPayroll will be at the forefront of those changes. I expect that in a few years, checks will become obsolete, and electronic payment of wages will be the norm and checks will be relegated to a few mom and pop organizations without the tech-savvy to handle the changes. We may well find we carry our own personal bank, not just account data, on our phone which has morphed into a full-fledged digital personal assistant out of a science fiction novel.
How do the payroll needs for startups vary from that of the enterprises? What are the key features a startup would need from payroll software vis a vis the needs of a larger enterprise? Can you accordingly share some points on how these varying teams should choose software to streamline payroll needs?
My new book is on Payroll for Startups and small businesses. The first thing is for startups to realize when and why they need payroll. The moment they incorporate they have themselves as an employee. They don’t realize the need for a handbook the first time they hire someone else. They don’t have a clue as to IRS and State requirements. They want to pay everybody as a 1099 and don’t realize the problems that will cause. They don’t know what they don’t know and have no way to ask the questions. That is the reason for my newest book. Every startup should buy a copy, read it, and keep it handy.
As startups grow their needs change. We work with our clients to help them implement those changes. A startup starts with the founder wearing all the hats. As the company grows they have to pass off some of those hats to subordinates. Each time they pass responsibility and authority it creates risk and uncertainty. Good internal control procedures can alleviate that risk. We work with our clients on the controls they need to implement and when they need to implement them. The book also goes through various internal control procedures and policies.
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How according to you can businesses today drive effective business outcomes with HR-Tech?
Human Resources Technology changes and is enhanced on a consistent and constant basis. A business person without an HR department or their HR manager needs to keep up with those changes. You cannot afford to lag the market in an environment where recruiting employees is so difficult with an unemployment rate well under 4%. A business needs to know what is leading-edge technology changes and what are bleeding-edge technology and the difference between the two. One will enhance your company the other may ruin it. Knowledge is power. The competition requires that you are current.
What is the best recruitment/leadership/entrepreneurial advice you have ever received?
The first is attributed to Bill Gates – “Man will overestimate what he can do in a year, He will underestimate what he can accomplish in a decade”. Time is a great tool, use it wisely.
The second: “There is no traffic jam on the extra mile”. Customer service baby!
Any parting thoughts that you’d like to share? It could be on anything, a motivational tip, work-life balance, etc.
I have heard for years “On your death bed you will wish you spent more time with your family and not at work”. I prefer to think as I get old that I will be able afford the best medical care available the best place to live, all of the luxuries I can want. My family will have all they need with or without me. That I will be living the good life. Because I have worked hard and made it to the top of the food chain.
Tag (mention/write about) one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would like to read.
The new Commissioner of the IRS, Chuck Rettig, is quite a guy. He is an IRS and government outsider. I have watched him over the last year-plus in the office. He is learning all about the inside of the beast having fought it from the outside for 35 plus years. It is different from the inside and he is learning the details, I love to hear him talk about things as he progresses in the job.
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GetPayroll has provided full-service payroll and payroll tax services since 1991. It helps small to medium-sized businesses across the U.S. with direct deposits, debit card loads, printed checks, payroll deposits, reports, and tax filings, year-end Forms W-2 and employer-employee website portals.
With more than 40 years of payroll experience-mostly with small businesses–Charles Read is uniquely qualified to guide readers on every aspect of payroll. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a business owner and a United States Tax Court Practitioner. Additionally, he was appointed to the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council (IRSAC) in 2018, a small council that meets with the IRS leadership throughout the year to help provide real-life solutions to IRS problems or concerns. This is a position that carries a three-year term. Charles is also the Founder of Custom Payroll Associates, Inc. and GetPayroll. For more than 30 years, Custom Payroll Associates has served small- to medium-sized businesses on payroll processing, 401K reporting, direct deposit, human resources, and full tax filing, among other services. Custom Payroll Associates’ sister business, GetPayroll, is an online and mobile platform providing self-service, guidance, and tools for helping small businesses manage payroll and tax compliance needs seamlessly. He is the author of three e-books: Starting a New Business: Accounting, Finance, Payroll, and Tax Considerations, Small Business Short Course (Employees Book 1) and The Little Black Book of the Beauty Biz, Volume 1. Mr. Read is an accomplished speaker and has been featured on Fox Business News, Biz TV Texas, New York City Wired, Dallas Innovates and many more. In addition to his executive career, Mr. Read is a decorated United States Marine Corps sergeant and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.