Jim Belanger followed his heart into the burrito business, but he followed his husband into the payroll business, so really, two wins for the heart there.
Today, Belanger and his partner Tom Gangewer are the owners of Local Economy, a payroll provider that, as the name suggests, caters to all things local, in a place where the idea is deeply rooted in the culture.
"In Portland, it's all about the 'buy local' movement," Belanger says. The company's clients, a mix of small and midsized businesses that includes a grocery chain, restaurants, law firms, engineering firms and even a collection of writers, are all either local or have a strong connection to the area.
A native of the Portland area, Belanger's local roots are homegrown. Gangewer is a transplant who went native and now sits on the board of the city's "Buy Local" chapter.
Restaurant Experience Leaves Payroll Providers Well-Seasoned in the Needs of Local Business
The couple's local business roots are just as deep. In 2005, the two took a break from decades in the accounting profession and opened a burrito restaurant in Westbrook, a suburb of Portland. "It was a labor of love," Belanger says. Several years later, it was doing so well they were thinking about a second location. But, says Belanger, who bartended, managed employees and did a little cooking, "we were both kind of exhausted."
So they sold. Gangewer went back to doing tax preparation and bookkeeping and within a short period of time, a payroll practice began to grow from his efforts. The demand for local payroll services continued to build. "The website had more hits for payroll than for any other service," Belanger said. There were few good alternatives to the pricey, giant payroll providers where nobody knows your name. Plus, Belanger and Gangewer's experience as restaurant owners gave them first-hand insight into what was needed.
"I would never have done this if we hadn't done our own business with the restaurant," Belanger says. "It opened my eyes as to what is out there. Everyone is willing to offer their services – but they're all very large and very expensive."
At Local Economy, he said, they frequently hear from clients grateful to be able to ditch their national providers.
"One of the things we hear most often from clients" about their experience with a big payroll provider is "there's always someone different they have to talk to," Belanger says. At Local Economy, "they're going to be able to get me when they need me. It's always me or my employee who answers the phone."
That makes a big difference, he says, especially when dealing with new business owners for whom having to handle a payroll "is completely foreign territory."
Third-Party Expertise Beats Bank for ACH Payroll Processing
When Local Economy needed to find a third-party company to process ACH direct payroll deposits, their local options were not good. "I could use a bank but the bank will only allow me to process so much per week and I hit that block a long time ago," Belanger said.
When his research led him to Cachet Financial Services nearly four years ago, Belanger says he knew he had found a partner with the same approach he offers to his clients. "I looked into other companies," he said. Cachet was "a little more nurturing," he said. "It was a much different approach, a more friendly approach."
Belanger says Cachet has gone out of its way to offer advice and troubleshoot. On one occasion, he said, the company noticed a file issue and contacted him immediately to correct what could have been a big problem. "They're on top of things," he said. "They are awesome people."
We <3 Our Clients
At Cachet Financial Services, we love hearing stories like this. Of course, this client had us at burrito, but it's especially gratifying to hear about it when our ACH payroll processing service and support enables our clients to focus on providing better service to their clients. Because that's our goal.