Charles J Read of GetPayroll: “You can’t solve every problem, you have to choose”

It is tougher to start than it sounds. It takes longer. It takes more money. It takes more effort. It takes more hours. Convincing customers to sign on is a bear, particularly in the beginning. Having to wear all the hats in a business can be overwhelming if you let it. When you make your […]

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It is tougher to start than it sounds. It takes longer. It takes more money. It takes more effort. It takes more hours. Convincing customers to sign on is a bear, particularly in the beginning. Having to wear all the hats in a business can be overwhelming if you let it. When you make your original business plan and estimate your cash needs, double the amount, and you may have enough to handle all the things you did not think of or underestimated.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charles J. Read.

Charles J Read is an MBA, CPA, USTCP, and the Founder and CEO of GetPayroll in Lewisville, TX. Mr. Read’s companies have provided full-service payroll services, payroll tax services, and other payroll-related services since 1991. GetPayroll helps small to medium-sized businesses around the country with payroll checks and reports, direct deposits, debit cards, payroll tax deposits, tax filings, year-end Forms W-2, and self-service portals. Mr. Read, as a CPA, can serve as an IRS authorized Power of Attorney and advocate for many of his clients. In addition, as a United States Tax Court Practitioner, he has a bar card for the Tax Court. He can file petitions for and represent his clients in US Tax Court as part of his services without being an attorney.

Charles is an accomplished senior executive and entrepreneur with more than fifty years of financial leadership experience in a broad range of industries, including manufacturing both low and high tech, import, retail, computer software, and more. He consulted with small businesses for over 30 years in a variety of industries. He has been a licensed CPA in Texas for more than 40 years.

Charles 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. His fourth book, “Payroll for American Business, A Complete Guide for Small Business and Startups” is being published by Wiley in the summer of 2020.

Charles is also 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 decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was late getting into business as I went into the Marine Corps for four years after high school. Then I went to college. I worked in large and small companies after college. By my early forties, I realized I was never going to run a major corporation as my political skills did not allow me to knife people in the back or step on them to get ahead. So I decided if I were going to be the boss, I would have to start my own business. With that in mind, the wife and I started the company in 1991.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I think we were on our second or third year of business, and it was time to print W2s. I had decided to use a sealed form that required an impact printer (similar to a typewriter) that would strike the self-carbonizing form to create the printing on the W2s. I rented the printer, and it had problems. I had to sit at the printer and hand advance the carriage one additional line for every W2 to print in the proper place. It took hours, one W2, and one carriage return at a time. After that, it was always laser printers!

We could not afford to replace the equipment. We had to do with what we had. There was the computer with the wonky disk drive. I had to actually reach in and spin the spindle on the drive by hand when starting the computer. The motor on the drive was fine to drive it but too weak to start it in motion. It did make for great security on the computer as no one ever would have thought to start a computer hard drive manually.

In October of 1992, my oldest daughter died of ovarian cancer. She was living with us while she underwent chemotherapy. My world was destroyed. You are not supposed to outlive your children. My work for the next few months was terrible. I finally got my head straight the following spring. All of my clients were incredibly understanding. I redid a lot of work and apologized profusely. Many of them are still clients and friends to this day.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I grew up in a family business. My entire young life my parents worked at the business in part of the house that was converted to an office. I thought it was natural for a couple to work together in their own business. It never occurred to me that I should consider closing the business and give up. It just never was an option. Just keep driving forward. Hard work conquers everything. The old Marine Corps attitude; complete the mission at whatever cost.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are pretty good, even with the pandemic. We have our own building, paid for now. A profitable and still growing business. A great staff that keeps things moving. A new book that comes out from Wiley on the 12th of August on Amazon, “The Payroll Book, A Guide for Small Business and Startups”. I am a third-year member of the Internal Revenue Advisory Council, which puts me in contact with the people that run the Internal Revenue Service. I am a United States Tax Court Practitioner, which allows me to represent clients in US Tax Court even though I am not an attorney. Business life is good. Life is good, though lonely, since Ruth, my wife of 45 years, passed away five years ago.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I made lots of mistakes. Every new businessman does. It is part of the process. But making mistakes teaches you things not to do again. After you make enough mistakes, and not repeat them, you get a lot better at business. The lesson is simple. You will make mistakes, you will fail at tasks. The important thing is not getting knocked down; the important thing is getting up and trying again, and again, and again!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What sets us apart is compliance. There are millions of payroll mistakes each year. On the part of taxpayers and on the part of the government. The IRS alone issues around six billion dollars of employment tax penalties every year. Forty percent of small businesses get hit with a penalty every year that averages 845.00 dollars. We are specialists at making sure that the payroll is done perfectly, but, when there is a problem, we are uniquely qualified to fix it regardless of who caused the problem. We know how to work with the taxing authorities. Many times we are more knowledgeable about the law and regulations than the government employees that we are dealing with. In addition, we are there to help our clients prior to a problem. They have a real live CPA they can talk to and get advice from. That is almost unheard of in the payroll business. Most firms you can only talk to processors and not tax professionals. Customers first!

Last year, we settled an IRS penalty case from the tax year 2000. The IRS wanted more than 95,000.00 dollars in penalties and interest. I had pursued this for years. Using my contacts, I finally talked to the deputy chief of appeals and got her to have the guy that would not return my calls to call me. I went through the whole case with him and got him to agree to a re-exam. When the re-exam at the appeals office was completed, the client got a 400 dollars refund instead of paying 95,000 dollars. This is an extreme example, but this is what we do on a regular and ongoing basis.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It is all attitude. If you think it is too hard and you need to relax and kick back, then work for someone else. The hours can be very long and hard on you and your family. I think the results are worth it. The freedom, the security, the lack of a boss, the sense of accomplishment. Then when you succeed, you have the opportunity and the ability to do what you want when you want. WOW

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My father started his business back in the early nineteen fifties. I watched him for years growing up. My first job was making wet Verifax copies in the office (pre Xerox) at the age of six; for a penny each. His and my mother’s tenacity was impressive and memorable. They worked through all the technological changes and industry changes and remained a viable business until they decided to retire. I have tried to follow their example and create a business and raise a family.

But I would be remiss if I did not mention my wife. Ruth was willing to work with me and get the business off the ground. She was always my rock. She gave me permission to work the hours, and nights and weekends required to be successful in the beginning. She also worked with me whenever possible. Without her, it would not have worked. An understanding spouse is critical to success. You can’t fight the world and a relationship problem at the same time, it won’t work; something will break.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I don’t know about “Goodness.” I employ a dozen people and allow then to provide for themselves and their families. I have saved literally millions of dollars for clients in clearing up tax problems over the last 40 plus years. I have reduced stress and provided peace of mind for clients in not having to deal with payroll and payroll taxing authorities. I have consulted with hundreds of small businesses and helped in some small way with their success if by nothing else in increasing the time they have to spend on their business.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

It is tougher than it looks.

It is tougher to start than it sounds. It takes longer. It takes more money. It takes more effort. It takes more hours. Convincing customers to sign on is a bear, particularly in the beginning. Having to wear all the hats in a business can be overwhelming if you let it. When you make your original business plan and estimate your cash needs, double the amount, and you may have enough to handle all the things you did not think of or underestimated.

It is very lonely being the boss.

The old phrase “It is lonely at the top” is so true. You are on your own. The decisions are all yours. You prosper or fail based on your decisions. Sometimes the world seems to conspire against your success. You don’t have anybody to go to and say “What should I do”. You are on your own.

You can’t solve every problem, you have to choose.

People will come at you right and left. Customers, potential customers, vendors, employees, family and more. They will want something. Help, money, advice, time, freebies, free work and services. You can’t solve all their problems. Some will be heart-wrenching, some will be silly, some pathetic and some ridiculous to you; but not to them. If you try to solve all their problems, you will never be successful or grow your business. People will suck your life and energy if you let them. You have to learn to say NO.

Sometimes people won’t listen to you when you are right.

You may have the answer. You may have solved the exact problem before. You may know the person to talk to. You may know the form to file. You may know the button to push. But sometimes people think they are right and you don’t know what you are talking about. You just have to walk away and if they come back later, refrain from saying I told you so. They already know that, but don’t want to hear it.

Cash flow is king.

Revenue and profits are wonderful. But if you don’t have the cash in the till to pay the bills it does not matter. The dot com bust in the early 2000s is the perfect example. Lots of hype, lots of ideas, even some revenue but when the venture capital money dried up and there was no cash in the till it went boom, and then bust. Always look at your cash flow needs and plan accordingly. Anything else will find you in the dustbin of history, quickly.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Real-world education. I taught high school part-time for five years before my wife had her first stroke. I taught “Introduction To Business”, first period, at the local high school as a volunteer and then went to my office for a full workday. My students loved to hear about the real world. I could bring real stories from having been in the trenches, literally and figuratively, for 30 years at that point. I would also bring in local businessmen, local businesswomen, professionals and politicians to talk frankly and freely with my students. Then afterward, we would discuss the conversation as a group. My students loved it and it gave them a non-academic view of the real world and not an idolized distorted view of reality. I would disabuse them regularly of liberal claptrap they had learned in other classes. It became almost a game and they really wanted the truth from the real world

Too much of education at all levels is Ivory Tower nonsense. If college and high school kids were taught what the real world was like and not some academic liberal nonsense, we would not have a lot of the problems we have today.

Just my opinion!

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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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