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Rewarding enterprise

Payroll is one of the hardest areas to work in. Professionals need to be strong on

admin, finance, employment legislation, and have excellent people skills. But as

Lesley Meall found when she spoke to Pauline Sullivan, there are reward

When Pauline Sullivan attended the ceremony for the Business Enterprise Awards at the beginning of April, she expected another nominee for Payroll Professional of the Year to walk away with the prize. "Awards tend to go to large companies, not to little people like me," she says: "So I expected it to go to someone who runs a payroll for 600 people, or something. I was quite shocked when I won."

The award, sponsored by the IAB, recognises individuals who have used IT to improve the efficiency and control of the payroll operation: something the winner has certainly achieved. Pauline runs her own small business providing accounting, book-keeping and payroll services to 30 or so local small business clients in and around Godalming, Surrey . Her clients include a construction company, recruitment agencies, web design and biopharmaceutical research businesses.

Pauline has been running her own firm for 17 years. After starting her working life in a bank, she switched to book-keeping at the suggestion of her mum, who was starting her own small business and needed someone to help with the accounts, and she studied to become a member of the Association of Accounting Technicians. Her earliest experiences of computerised payroll were with Kalamazoo , and she's since worked on numerous accounting, book-keeping and payroll systems for companies and clients of various types and sizes.

The average payroll run at Pauline's firm may not be for 600 employees, but she has previously computerised the payroll operation for a client with 450 employees. "It was being done manually with hand-written pay slips," she says, and the task of installing and tailoring the payroll system was no small undertaking, and gave Pauline "quite a feeling of achievement". It also reduced the time taken to process and produce pay slips from days to hours. "I still handle this company's payroll, but it's down-sized since I installed the system," she adds.

From nightmare to day dream

Now, all of Pauline's payroll clients are computerised. "The difference from manual systems is enormous," she comments. "My PAYE year end takes about week with the computer; manually, it's a complete nightmare." Pauline can process the year end for single client in about a half hour using automation, even for client with 40 or 50 staff.

Although she uses version 9 of Sage Payroll to handle most of her client payrolls, some require more specialised systems. Pauline uses a package called Red Sky for her construction client, and an industry-specific package for recruitment called Aztech. "You can input timesheets and invoice out to clients, so it's a sort of sales ledger type system," she explains.

Winning ways

Pauline's involvement in payroll also extends into the classroom: she teaches students at Havant College in Hampshire studying part-time on a 20-week course for the IAB certificates in computerised and manual payroll. "A typical student is someone already working in payroll," she says, though quite a few are returning to work or retraining.

Last year, Pauline also taught at Alton College , where her students won top marks for the IAB Certificate in Computerised Payroll at the June 2002 sitting. So she's also helping others to win awards. •


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