2018 Small Business Payroll Providers

Here at Little Fish, we’ve had the opportunity to do some research into payroll providers that are making waves in the 2018 payroll market. Below are reviews of some of the bigger names currently on the payroll market.


ADP is an industry giant with a big reputation. They offer a cloud-based software, easy user interface and great customer service.  The downside (or maybe upside for those who want minimal features?) is that nearly every piece of software is broken down into multiple modules that drive the user to continue purchasing more solutions just to get the full functionality of the system.  Overall, we love ADP.  Full disclosure: while we don’t get endorsed by ADP in any way, we do use their system to provide our services.


To our knowledge, Gusto is a newbie in the market.  We’ve not used them to date so we can’t give a personal review.  From research done via Forbes, a Google Search for complaints, and some social media reviews, they seem to have a positive overall user feedback.  They offer payroll services, HR services, and benefit services.  They seem to be less complex than ADP, but with a easier user-interface.


Paychex brags the same usability and interfaces that ADP has including in-depth payroll, tax pay, reporting, and more all in a cloud-based system.  They’re also one of the fastest growing payroll companies on the market and a top competitor of ADP.

That’s about it on the positive side of Paychex.  The system is known to be unreliable and buggy by all of the users I’ve talked with. From my own experiences with Paychex I’ve seen many system errors and customer service that does not rise to the challenge of resolving these errors.  Hopefully, they will get these solutions fixed because Paychex is a system with promise.  They just need to work out the bugs.


Paycor is a payroll company that is up-and-coming. We’ve not used them personally, but I’m highlighting them in this article for one particular reason: my experience with their sales staff.  When in communication with Paycor a couple of years ago, I had an excellent salesperson. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go with Paycor because the system itself did not offer the full blown solution that was needed at the time.  However, unlike most salespeople which will quickly promise any and all solutions you ask for and then fail to deliver once they have a contract from you, my experience was different. I had an honest, straightforward sales-person that told me what they could and could not offer.  No wasted time, no lies.  The integrity demonstrated by this singular salesperson is one really won me over and why I would recommend giving them a call and asking about their services.


SyncHR comes highly recommended, but the Little Fish team has not used it personally.  The features offered include HCM management, payroll, and benefits.  SnycHR markets themselves as a company that is “holistic.” So, if you’re interested in a personalized approach, checking them out may be a good fit for you.

How to Hire (3/3): Payroll and Taxes

Before you extend that first job-offer to your employee, you need to figure out how to pay them.  There are plenty of decisions to be made about payroll–one of the most important decisions is who will run your payroll for you.

Brace yourself here: There are more options than you have hours in the day.  If you want some help, check out our list of payroll providers.

While we can’t tell you which service to choose, here’s some good things to consider as you figure out what you’re going to do.

Who is going to manage the quarterly withholding, tax filings, and annual returns at the Federal, State, and City level?

This is an important item to consider because individuals who want to do this themselves take on all the tax liability associated with filing these returns, tracking records, and withholding the correct amounts from employees.   If you choose a third-party, they may or may not take on the liability associated with these filings.  The truth is that only a CPA or a CPEO take on the full tax liability associated with correctly filing your taxes.  Little Fish is proudly partnered with ADP so that full tax liability is removed from your business starting the quarter that you sign up with us.

Which States/Cities do you need to set up withholding accounts for? 

This is important for you to determine early on.  You not only need to setup withholding accounts with each city in which you do business, but also in each state and at a federal level. If you have a multi-state payroll, you will need to file with both states in order to make life easier on your employees.  In addition to setting up your income tax withholding account, don’t forget you need to withhold Medicare and Social Security taxes (as well as pay your employer portion).

Don’t forget your insurance!

Lastly, don’t forget your unemployment insurance at both the Federal and State levels.  These are mandatory for you to pay on behalf of your employees–and this is not something that you withhold from their checks.  Each state sets the taxable limit of wages, so be sure to check with your State’s department in advance and figure out what your unemployment rates and wages will end up being.

As a bonus tip: Have worker’s compensation insurance to protect you in the circumstance that your employee is injured and/or off work due to a job-related injury or illness.

In conclusion, as you consider the many decisions to be made with payroll, do a quick search and figure out solutions that work for you.  You can always contact Little Fish if want to outsource the hassle to a professional that cares about your business.

Please comment below and let us know what topics we can cover to help your small business.


How to Hire (2/3): Collecting The Right Forms

While collecting the correct new hire forms is extremely important, it is vital for you to know that these items do vary by industry and state.  To give you a birds-eye view of the requirements at a Federal level, make sure you have the following  forms and documents from your employees:

  • IRS Form I-9
  • IRS Form W-4
  • A copy of the employee’s SSN
  • A local state tax form–this form varies from state-to-state
  • Local municipal tax forms (when applicable)

Please note that these are just a few of the high-level forms that you as an employer must collect and file (or in some states E-Verify) in order to remain compliant. Your industry, state, and city often require more documentation.  It is important to check into your local requirements in advance of hiring an employee–or have a professional do this on your behalf.

Leave a comment or question below because we want to hear about how we can better serve you!

How to Hire (1/3): Developing Employee Roles

One of the most important parts of hiring an employee is defining the role that they will perform at your company.   No employer wants to hire a brand new employee only to find that they have an employee who doesn’t perform at the level they wanted.

As a small business owner, you can’t afford to hire a bad employee!

Below are 3 important steps that every employer needs to take before hiring a new employee.

Prepare A Job Description

Hopefully this is a first step that has you saying, “Yeah, duh.”  This means that you’re already ahead of other employers.  My client companies sometimes hire individuals and put them to work without a job description. In fact, one client had 300+ employees–and they failed to provide job descriptions.

As a result, Employees didn’t have a baseline for their work expectations. This effected every part of the business. Many employees didn’t perform required tasks. Others would often complain about having to perform certain tasks because it wasn’t ever communicated that this was part of their job.  During performance evaluations, employees and managers alike had no idea what goals they should set for the next year, so they would write in generic and unproductive goals that stagnated the business.

Having a job description that explains baselines for a job and still leaves ambiguity so that an employee can grow as your company grows is extremely important. Make sure you understand how to write a good job description.

Have Documented Processes

This is a step that most employers large and small overlook when bringing in a new employee. Because a job description only provides some baselines about the nature of work your employee will be performing, it is important to have an organized and clear documented process that will explain to your employee how to achieve each of their tasks.  This can take the form of a checklist, a booklet,  a spreadsheet, or even a neat training video.  These materials will allow your employee to understand and carry out the tasks that you’re outsourcing to them, all within the exact parameters of your preferences.

Explain Expectations And Boundaries

When my clients take the time to sit down and set clear expectations and boundaries with their employees–they change their work culture and increase their retention.  Take the time to sit down and explain verbally to every new employee the standards you expect.  This can include: the time of day you want your employee to show up to work, the standards of work quality you expect, the standards of customer service you expect, the acceptable way to schedule a conference room, and the time of day you expect people to leave.  The more specific and open you are about what you expect, the better your employee will be able to meet those needs.

Don’t forget to also explain the boundaries to your employee as well.  For example, if you hire a secretary who is always going above and beyond–is this something you want or do you want them to only perform certain tasks?  How much “above and beyond” is too much? When an accountant is your staff member, can they reach into the petty cash fund at any time or is there a particular process in place for that task?  These and many other boundaries are important to have in place so that you don’t have a miscommunication that leads to performance problems later on in the working relationship.

Closing Thoughts

In short, most new employees want to please their employer.  Their first month with your company will set the tone for the rest of their time with you.  These critical months will define whether or not they stay with you long-term.  Clearly defining roles  as a first step in the hiring process provides your employees with the knowledge they need to do well and have a satisfying work experience.