Payslip’s Fidelma McGuirk discusses shaking up the payroll market, giving her team ‘license to break things’, and focusing on cognitive diversity.
In 2016, Fidelma McGuirk started Payslip – the Mayo-headquartered company that automates the management of international payroll for businesses around the world. She came from a background in business and was previously CEO of Taxback.com.
Earlier this year, Payslip said it plans to expand its teams in Westport and Dublin with 150 new hires. This came after it secured €8.3m in a fresh funding round led by Luxembourg-based VC MiddleGame Ventures, with participation from Mouro Capital, Frontline Ventures and Tribal.vc.
‘Multinational companies grow much faster than before and need to be nimble and agile to enable further growth’
– FIDELMA MCGUIRK
Describe your role and what you do.
As founder and CEO, my role is to lead the vision for Payslip’s payroll control platform in the global market and to build and grow the organisation effectively to deliver it.
How do you prioritise and organise your working life?
We believe strongly in attracting and hiring the best people into team Payslip, having clear structures and systems with which they can work, and then giving them the licence to do great work.
When you do this, it automatically empowers each person to own their own area. This helps me prioritise my work as I can focus on the strategic work and enabling my team on key projects and initiatives.
What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?
We see multinational companies grow much faster than before and need to be nimble and agile to enable further growth. The biggest challenge to global payroll leaders is how to lead the growth from the front, and not lag with a legacy driven service.
Global payroll management has been dominated for 50 years by one solution – a services aggregator model. We see in Payslip that the progressive outperformers and disrupters come to us because they think bigger and want to create a scale-up advantage and be growth efficient.
What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?
Payslip customers are ambitious, market disruptive and experiencing phenomenal growth. For them, talent is their scale-up currency.
They know that getting global payroll operations right is foundational for executing their growth agenda. They don’t want to allow global payroll complexities to be a chokepoint for their growth efficiency – complexities such as flexible work models, expansion of tax laws, explosion of compensation packages.
Payslip can capitalise on our customers’ ambition and digital-first mindset. They have automated other important operational functions and see that Payslip delivers similar automation benefits and control for global payroll operations. With Payslip they can fully automate and seamlessly integrate global payroll operations, achieving a unified and standardised system that unlocks data and delivers high growth readiness.
What set you on the road to where you are now?
I could see that the legacy solution, the payroll services aggregator solution, had not changed in 50 years. I talked to the best leaders in disruptive, outperforming companies. They had payroll services in place, just like they had lawyers and accountants in place. They had already automated their sales, customer care and other important operational functions and were seeking a way to automate and standardise global payroll operations.
There was no technology or tooling solutions available to them. So I founded Payslip. We know from our customer base, super leaders like Cloudera, LogMeIn, GetYourGuide and AMCS Group, that they use Payslip every month to make strategic decisions and grow quickly.
How do you get the best out of your team?
Two things. Relevance and licence.
Everyone needs to know and believe how their work can impact the customer every day. If it’s clear how their work connects back to the customer and this is in the tapestry of everyday working conversation, we are all energised better to do great things and have real impact.
Secondly, people need a licence to create and to break things. Build enough structures and process definition to enable good training and clarity, and then give them a licence to improve it and change it.
We tell all our people that the first two months is time to be a sponge, then two months and a day later, we want to know how they would improve things. This licence has a phenomenal effect and we see very quickly how creative everyone is individually. Then we collaborate to bring it together.
Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?
Global payroll has a naturally strong cultural diversity as teams are geographically distributed. But cognitive diversity can require some conscious planning.
As payroll usually belongs in the finance function, the career path is quite linear and not many come from other functions or other backgrounds. This is, in one sense, natural as payroll professionals invest so much time to become in-country experts and they are phenomenal people in their dedication to deliver on-time and 100pc accurate payroll.
As we consider cognitive diversity, it’s difficult to generate when the professional requirements raise barriers for cross-functional movement. The global roles offer more opportunity as the skills are more transferable in terms of project management, international operational management and an analytical mindset. So offering in-country payroll people the opportunity to be involved in global projects can support cognitive diversity development.
Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?
Many people. I listen a lot and believe strongly in cognitive diversity, so like to learn from people who already wore the T-shirt or have different perspectives. I have found some of the founder networks and investors very useful, such as Frontline Ventures, Tribal.vc founders and HBAN investors.
What books have you read that you would recommend?
- The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell – makes you really think about what drives change and momentum
- Survival to Thrival by Bob Tinker and Tae Hea Nahm – frames the B2B SaaS growth path very well
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?
A good run in the mornings and lentil soup at lunchtime. Tech-wise? My iPhone and Microsoft Teams.
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