Acline HR Focuses on Customer Service

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Acline HR Focuses on Customer Service

“Published in the Summer 2017 FAPEO Update Newsletter”

Richard Schaub, president and owner of Acline HR in Punta Gorda, has worn several hats over the course of an entrepreneurial and multifaceted career. Each experience added to Richard’s knowledge base of what business owners and managers need when it comes to running back office and HR functions. He even tried his hand at sales, but that’s getting ahead of Richard’s history in the business world, which goes all the way back to high school.

Richard Schaub enjoys spending time on his property in the mountains of north Georgia.

This story actually begins in Long Island, New York, which Richard called home until his family moved to Charlotte County, Florida, when he was just 8 years old. This “almost Florida native” with a strong work ethic has lived there ever since.

Surrounded by building contractors (his father was a contractor, and later Richard married the daughter of a contractor and worked with his father-in-law for several years), the young Schaub gained experience in all areas of construction as well as the subcontracting trades. It didn’t take him long to catch the entrepreneurial bug. Richard became a commercial cleaning contractor on new construction and started a commercial cleaning company, which he later sold.

While in high school, Richard worked in a fast oil change business. This would serve him well when an opportunity came along to purchase one of those businesses. He owned it for eight years before selling the company in 2001. This was the year of the PEO … and the month or two of sales. Richard explains:

“An acquaintance of mine owned an employee leasing brokerage, and he asked me to do sales for him,” Richard says. “I sold for a couple months, and then I fired myself because I realized I was not a salesperson. I was not a cold caller.”

About that same time, the office manager for the business left, and so Richard stepped into this position, which became his training ground for learning all things PEO.

“That’s where I was exposed to many different PEOs and learned about the different ‘appetites’ that PEOs have for particular types of businesses,” he says. “One PEO might want a construction company and another won’t, for example.”

Under Richard’s management, the brokerage grew to $400 million in payroll and five offices. Then the owner asked Richard to start a PEO. About two years into it, the recession of 2008-2009 hit.

“Unemployment rates went through the roof, and workers’ comp rates were cut by 64%,” Richard recalls. “It was the perfect storm for a PEO to fail. The owner of the PEO was not making the changes needed in order to deal with the rising unemployment costs and falling workers’ comp income. I saw the writing on the wall.”

Always the entrepreneur, Richard earlier had started a PEO consulting company with an eye toward obtaining licensure as a PEO. He started Acline HR in April 2010, received his PEO license in May 2010 and signed his first external payroll client the same month.

“That first client is still with me today. We are very proud of that,” Richard says.

Acline HR has enjoyed steady growth year over year. Seven years later, the boutique PEO is pressing in on $50 million in payroll.

“Our PEO is small,” Richard says. “I am positioning my company to be more of an invitation-only boutique PEO with a strong focus on customer service. I also own a payroll company, Compass Payroll. It’s a nice complement to owning a PEO. This way we can serve clients with only a few employees that need payroll only.”

Richard says that technology has leveled the playing field as far as the core services that any PEO can offer, and he sees a growth opportunity there.

“As more and more businesses lean toward automation, there is going to be a premium for excellent customer service,” he says. “Clients want to pick up the phone and talk to a real person. What will set a PEO apart will be the customer service.”

Richard is quick to credit his team at Acline HR for the success the PEO enjoys.

“The people who work for me make our organization, period. No ifs, ands or buts. They really are like a family to me,” he says. “We’re very communicative. We share info and knowledge, and we cross train so we can provide the service our clients need.”

Richard says that his team of seven employees takes excellent care of Acline’s clients, and he derives great satisfaction from being able to solve problems for small companies.

“The thing I like the most about the PEO business is that we really do provide a tangible service for our clients,” he says. “The guidance and the advice we provide on a daily basis is possible because of the open relationship we have with our clients. We see cases all the time that by answering one phone call or answering one question, we save our customers considerable amounts of time, money and aggravation. It’s very rewarding.”

Also rewarding is Richard’s membership in FAPEO. In fact, he says it is invaluable.

“Especially as a small PEO, I don’t have the time or the resources to stay up on all the issues that FAPEO keeps at the forefront,” he says. “I have been part of other associations where it was hard to see the actual benefit. With FAPEO it is easy to see the direct correlation between the association’s advocacy and the strength of our industry. I’m one of those quiet members, but I read all the materials and I sleep well knowing FAPEO is working on my behalf.”

Richard says he is cautiously optimistic that the new administration in Washington will dial back some of the anti-PEO regulations put into place over the last several years.

“We were headed in a bad direction,” he says, “but I think the new administration is going to afford us some growth opportunities. The PEO industry is sitting on a spring-loaded opportunity. If our clients start to grow, the PEO will grow, too. It will be a trickle-down positive effect.”

Looking to the future, Richard has begun writing business in Georgia, and he wants to expand his business there. In fact, he owns property in the mountains of north Georgia and recently closed on a house across the street from his mountain acreage.

Acline HR sponsors an annual fund-raising golf tournament for Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte County

Having land in the mountains plays right in to Richard’s favorite pastimes, all of which involve being outdoors.

“I love the mountains,” he says. “I hunt and fish, and I love working on my tractor clearing land and building things. My current prject is a bunkhouse on our property.”

Richard spends about a week to 10 days in Georgia each month, and having purchased a house, now his wife of 29 years, Wendy, and their two daughters and granddaughter can join him more often at the mountain retreat.

Acline HR is active in the Punta Gorda community. Richard serves on the Habitat for Humanity golf tournament committee, which puts on an annual fund-raising event, and the Acline team also assists local schools and the chamber of commerce.