Miss Payroll: Not Even Once!

Making Payroll Every Time

It’s coming. Insert Jaws music and a feeling of doom. Payday is just around the corner, and if you are like any other business or firm created since the dawn of time, you’ve felt the stresses and pressure of payday more than once.

It is not always easy to face payday, which can be especially true for solo or small law firms. While going solo or running a small firm has a myriad of advantages, being part of an already-established infrastructure is not one of them. You are building your practice from the ground up, and that means making payroll is not a stress-free operation.

So when the inevitable day arrives to make payroll, resist the excuses that may seem perfectly legitimate, such as “We will be just a few days late,” or “As part of the team, we all have to make sacrifices.” Instead of developing a habit of excuses that you tell both you and your employees, develop a habit of always making payroll on time, every time. Here’s how to do it.

Be Proactive

Don’t ever wait for problems to get out of control. Act in advance of rising issues and resist the urge to procrastinate in order to save feelings or avoid conflict. If your budget is getting tight, cut back on expenses. Explore ways to bring in more money through marketing, your website, and/or networking. You might even have to make the hardest decision of all: firing employees. Consider who is absolutely essential to the running of the firm and who you can do without, then make the cuts. It’s not personal; it’s business.

Cushion the Bank

One way to ensure that you can make payroll without fail every time is to build up a reserve of money in your bank account. Determine what you think the lowest amount in your account can possibly be and never go below that amount. This number will vary from person-to-person and firm-to-firm. You have to determine what works for you, but a good rule of thumb is that you should have enough in your account to make payroll several months in advance.

Hire on a Needs-Only Base

Hire new staff only when the current staff you employ are physically and mentally unable to carry the workload alone any longer. Keep your staff small and busy. Your employees should never really have leisure time at work, and they will complain less about work-stress if they are getting paid every month then if they had to miss payroll because they share the workload with more people than you can pay. In short, hire as slowly as possible and only when you absolutely need to.

Get Creative with Payroll

Get creative with how you pay your employees. Instead of hiring new employees and stressing your payroll load, consider offering bonuses at various times of the year or as rewards for surviving particularly hard cases and stressful time periods. Be willing to consider offering raises in pay as your firm earns more income. Finally, consider hiring temporary workers who you can easily let go when you can no longer justify the usefulness of their work rather than hiring permanent employees that you have to consistently pay.

Payroll Plan

So what’s the take-away? Don’t wait until things have gotten so tight that you can’t make payroll to take action. Take action now. Make cuts to your existing staff if needs be, or resist the idea of hiring when you haven’t quite built the revenue base that you need. Don’t deplete your bank account and get creative with delegating work and creating pay. Whatever route you choose to take, be decisive; even be ruthless if you have to. Remember this is your business and success depends in large part on how successful you are at running it;making payroll being key to this success.


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Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h


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