International Payroll Giant Celergo hit 10 Million in Revenue for 2009—Founder and CEO Michele Honomichl tells us how.
In 2004 Michele Honomichl founded Celergo, an International Payroll Consolidator that was recently listed Number 98 on the Inc500.
Since its inception Celergo has seen a 1,581.2% growth rate, been ranked the Number 9 Women-run Company Nationwide, named Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For, and taken a $150,000 line of credit and turned it 10 million dollars of revenue.
Celergo deals with the entire funding process for getting a company’s expatriate employees paid, as well as taking care of compliance issues overseas (the equivalence of our 941’s and W2’s), managing payroll for 90 plus countries from Germany to Kenya.
Alister & Paine: What motivated you to be an entrepreneur?
Michele Honomichl: Ten years ago someone said to me “How can you possibly take the risk and start your own company?” I said “How can you possibly take the risk and go work for a company that you don’t know will exist in five years?”.
Alister & Paine: Tell me about the growth of the marketplace.
Michele Honomichl: The industry itself is just a tiny dot on a huge wall of potential business out there. We’re making it the most efficient and easy process for our clients and growing into more countries, providing that infrastructure to our client base. Over time there are different areas where we can grow into, like HIS or benefits, but today we are focused on what we do best.
Alister & Paine: What made you get into this industry?
Michele Honomichl: I started a prior company to Celergo in the expatriate world that was a technology company. We realized there was a huge demand out there for this service and we morphed into Celergo. From there it’s kind of snowballed.
Alister & Paine: How did you raise capital?
Michele Honomichl: We bootstrapped the whole thing. We did everything off $150,000 line of credit. You have to balance your growth with your capital. Going from zero to ten million in a few years is very quick with no capital.
You need the gumption to go out and do it. It was a high growth market and there weren’t a lot of people doing it.
Alister & Paine: What was your marketing strategy?
Michele Honomichl: Most of our marketing is and will continue to be grass roots, speaking engagements, webinars, and payroll books. Building our web presence so people can access us and our knowledge base easily. For example, you can see online how many payroll cycles there are in Belgium. (13.92.)
We go to two trade shows yearly and we don’t do outbound sales or direct marketing. We have lots of inbound inquiries. We worked very hard at building our partner network— I also speak every year at the American Payroll Association Congress about international issues.
Alister & Paine: How have you become the best in the industry?
Michele Honomichl: We have the intellectual property so people can call us and say, “Hey, we’re divesting from a private equity company that just bought a company, tell me what we need to do.”
You can easily fall into payroll traps and compliance issues just because you don’t know what you don’t know.
Alister & Paine: What is on the horizon for Celergo?
Michele Honomichl: Ninety five percent of our clients are U.S. based corporations. Our next big push is to be international ourselves and actually bring more business in our Asia and our European locations.
Alister & Paine: What’s your take on the government’s treatment of entrepreneurs in America?
Michele Honomichl: I’m concerned that they are going to chokehold the entrepreneurial spirit in the US, especially when you look at some of the initiatives that are coming through related to taxation, and what is going to be required of small business.
The credit crunch is hurting small business more than anyone. Not having access to capital for companies that really could grow and be profitable, in turn hiring people and moving everything out of our current financial state, is damaging. It takes away a lot of incentives.
Alister & Paine: A few words for struggling entrepreneurs?
When you are in charge of your own company you create your own destiny.
It’s imperative that you listen to criticism and at the end of the day say “I can do this.” What’s the worst that can happen?