Bob Coughlin: Founder & CEO, Paycor

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Bob Couglin is Founder & CEO of Paycor.

How did you get into the industry?

I was fortunate enough to get my start in the HR tech industry right out of college — and I’ve been a part of it ever since. I started my career in ADP’s payroll processing department, focused on operations and services, and then transitioned over to sales. I loved sales because it allowed me to connect with customers and understand their needs and how we could serve them. That service model is what led me to start Paycor in 1990.

The industry has evolved over the last 27 years from being focused on payroll services to holistic human capital management. I’ve truly grown up with the industry, and my deep understanding and appreciation for both the operational and technical side of our business as well as sales and customer service have played a key role in my success as CEO of Paycor.

Any emerging industry trends?

The HR tech industry is in a state of constant change, driven by the combination of SaaS technology accessible to anyone, and the consolidation of many different capabilities onto a single platform. The industry trend has shifted toward employee engagement via self service — including the automation of tactical, mundane tasks related to all aspects of HR, from recruiting, onboarding and hiring, to payroll, time and attendance, and beyond.

In response to this trend, HR tech companies are increasingly developing software that allows their customers to not only gather all of their HR data in one place, but also derive deep insight into that data to drive action. Paycor is at the forefront of that. Today our solutions help our clients simplify people processes while making their HR data meaningful.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

The biggest opportunity today for HR tech companies such as Paycor is to provide more services — and do it in a way that’s easy for customers to consume and manage.

With that opportunity comes the challenge of delivering high-quality service and technology, even as we continue to rapidly add new capabilities across multiple areas. This especially rings true when it comes Paycor’s core customers, small and medium businesses, because the HR leader in an SMB is often wearing multiple hats and juggling multiple roles beyond just HR. That’s why it is critical for us to deliver a high-level of personalized service that allows our clients to thrive in a highly competitive talent market.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

After six years in the payroll service industry I found that clients were demanding a higher level of service. I was inspired by the belief that clients deserved a more personalized level of service and that a company could deliver it effectively and efficiently. So in 1990 I founded Paycor. Our original focus was payroll, but since then, our vision has shifted to being a full service human capital management software provider for small and medium businesses.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

Right now, we’re most focused on understanding our customers’ needs and listening to their feedback. We’re adding more capabilities to our software based on that feedback, and where we think the market is headed in the near future, all while making sure each capability we add is of high quality. We also plan to enter new emerging geographic markets and expand nationally. I’m very excited about the path we’re on right now.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

From a technology standpoint, continuously expanding our suite of human capital management solutions has been key to our success. A recent example is our acquisition of Newton Software, an applicant tracking system (ATS) software company. We’ve done a lot of work since then to integrate Newton’s capabilities into the Paycor suite to make it seamless. Hiring and retaining talent is a top challenge for business owners of all sizes, but especially SMBs, so there’s a huge opportunity for us to help employers improve their sourcing and hiring processes.

Even as we continue to add more capabilities to our technology, we make sure not to lose sight of why the company was founded in the first place: personal service. Paycor’s prioritization of the customer experience combined with our innovative software remains key to our continued success.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

As founder and CEO, my most defining moment in the last 10 years was making the decision to double on our spending on software development. For years, we spent less than 10 percent of our revenue on software development, so at the time, convincing our leadership team and the board that it was the right move was a challenge. I only wish that I had made this decision sooner. Doubling down on software development has been key in helping us better serve our customers’ needs.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

HR leaders today want instant access to insights, and they want that access to be provided in a seamless way. That means a company must have innovative software combined high-quality customer service. We encourage our customers to reach out to us for help if it takes them longer than five minutes to access the insights they need from their data — and our customers are always able to get ahold of someone right away. We want to be an extension of our customers’ HR departments.

Our customers encounter all kinds of challenges they didn’t anticipate before their days started. Our job is to help them navigate those challenges by predicting them before they even occur. For example — it used to be that if an HR leader wanted to see where they were from an overtime standpoint during the week, they’d have to run a report. Now, with solutions like our data visualization solution Workforce Insights, HR leaders can instantly identify key insights without having to import or export data. This allows them to track and manage business issues — such as those related to overtime spending — more quickly and effectively.

How do you motivate others?

I motivate others by thinking about what was critical to my success. I truly believe that motivation needs to come from within — but the right coach can make all the difference. When motivating others, I like to help them do three things: simplify their goal, develop a written plan that identifies all the things that stand in between them and that goal, and figure out the habits they need to create (or break!) in order to remove those obstacles.

Career advice to those in your industry?

My number one piece of advice for those looking to advance in any industry, but especially in a high-growth industry such as HR tech, is to make it a priority to learn every single day. The most successful people in this industry make learning everything about HR — from product details to industry trends — a regular part of their everyday life, not just 9 to 5. They truly become a student of all the different pieces and parts of HR, from both the employer and employee standpoint.