For founders, picking a payroll system, and knowing how to compare the options, presents an important decision that will matter a lot over time.
Kruze Consulting has helped hundreds of startups set up their first payroll, so we’ve advised many founders on how to compare the two payroll systems we recommend most for early-stage companies: Gusto and Rippling.
FIRST, HOW DO I EVALUATE THE OPTIONS?
Startup founders have their own set of needs and priorities when it comes to choosing a payroll system. Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve seen matter most for our clients:
Saves Time. Startups want an option that requires little to no manual, non-strategic work each pay period/month/year.
Automates the Work. You’ll want a system that runs on autopilot, minimizing a founder’s time spent on data-entry and manual logins.
Easy-to-Use Interface. Few founders want to waste time navigating their payroll system website. It should be simple, intuitive and easy to use, as both of these options are.
Always Reliable. Both Gusto and Rippling have been around for long enough to build solid reputations, and both can be trusted with your company’s highly sensitive info and processes.
Strong Customer Support. When you have questions or need help, or when your employees do (usually around payday or tax time), a great customer service team will save you hassle, time and energy.
Handles Payroll Taxes and Other Compliance. A payroll system that automates these important taxes for you and takes the work off your hands is a must. As an employer, these taxes are important - and your responsibility.
Provides Easy Company Onboarding. The process of onboarding your company into the system – filling out all the company info, getting bank accounts connected, registration in necessary states – should be smooth and easy, as should the process of adding new employees as you grow.
Easy Employee Onboarding. Once your startup starts growing, it can happen fast. Some of our clients add 10 to 30 employees each month. Adding new hires to the system and getting them onboarded needs to be easy or else you’ll wind up needing to hire someone just to handle data-entry and payroll system onboarding! Offer letters, background checks, benefits enrollment, direct deposit and more are features that a payroll system can offer.
Good Benefit Options/Integration. Good benefits packages are part of what allows startups to attract, hire and retain top talent. Once you are past the earliest stages, employees expect full benefits, and federal and state laws both govern what types of liability employers take on, so it’s crucial to get benefits right on both ends. Plus, you want heavy automation and integration so you aren’t stuck with data-entry every time an employee wants to make a change in their 401(k) deferral. Even if you aren’t going to offer benefits at first, choose a platform that makes it simple to add benefits because moving payroll is disruptive to you and your team.
Simple Accounting. As CPAs to many funded early-stage companies, we care deeply about getting the books right. These three options all API into your accounting software, meaning you won’t have to pay thousands of dollars to get your bookkeeping done or spend a day every month dealing with books and payroll.
CHOOSING THE PAYROLL SYSTEM THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
Ultimately, only you as a founder are in a position to know what’s most important in choosing your payroll system. Here’s our breakdown of the main differences between Gusto and Rippling.
WHAT IS GUSTO?
Gusto, formerly ZenPayroll, is a cloud-based payroll platform founded in 2011, offering services for payroll processing and payroll tax, benefits, and human resources features and tools. To date, it has raised $516.1M in funding.
PROS: It’s priced well, has a good mobile interface and has excellent integration with accounting and time-tracking software. Its Autopilot feature makes sure your employees are always paid…and happy. It also allows you to set up a customized pay schedule, and change it at any time. As far as compliance, it handles federal and state payroll taxes seamlessly and automatically. It also has an excellent support team if you encounter problems. We happen to think that we are the best Gusto accountant - talk to us to find out why!
CONS: Unlike Rippling, there is no easy IT systems management feature. Also there are no integrated background checks, and Gusto is not registered for benefits in all states. This means you have to register your company in each state in which you have employees, unlike some other payroll systems that register for you - though Gusto guides you through the process.
WHAT IS RIPPLING?
Rippling is a newer company, founded in 2016, and like Gusto it offers payroll, payroll tax, HR and benefits management services through cloud-based software. The company has raised $52M in funding.
PROS: Rippling has an intuitive interface and dashboard that’s very user-friendly, and it offers turnkey IT systems management so that when you hire a new employee, it’s easy to get them into the system and provide them with a computer and cloud software. Rippling’s sync into QBO is the best of the three companies listed (and makes Kruze accounting so much easier!). Also this platform is great at migrating you over from another payroll and benefits firm and works with a third-party benefits broker, which means you have a professional independent broker working to get you the best deal on your benefits. At first, Rippling had fewer integration options than Gusto. However, they have been hard at work adding in new integrations, and now surpass the number available with Gusto - plus, they have the standard (and solid) API connections with the big accounting systems like Expensify and Quickbooks.
CONS: Given that they’re a younger company and still investing in support, Rippling’s customer support is less quick and easy than Gusto’s and there are a few bugs in the software that they’re still working out. Plus Rippling is not a PEO, meaning that like Gusto, you’re on your own as far as registering in all the relevant states.
COMPARING THE TWO
There’s a lot to consider when choosing between the two, so we’ve broken it down into a side-by-side comparison:
|Basic Description||The OG cloud payroll and benefits for startups||Cloud payroll and benefits plus employee IT management|
|Pricing - Starting at||$45.00 per month||$35.00 per month|
|Pricing - How it scales||$6.00 per employee per month||$7.00 per employee per month|
|Free Trial||1-month free trial||No|
|Payroll Tax Compliance||Excellent||Excellent|
|Integrated Benefits||Guideline 401(k)|
Life & disability
|3rd Party Benefit Providers Integrations||Difficult||Easy|
|Employee IT/Systems Management||No||Yes|
|QuickBooks Online Integration||Yes||Yes|
REVIEWS OF GUSTO v. RIPPLING
We’ve worked with many, many startups using both of these platforms, and we’ve seen them both work wonders for early stage companies looking to set up payroll quickly and efficiently. Gusto has been around longer and our clients generally love it, though Rippling, while a newcomer, is continuing to strengthen its software and offer great features.
WHICH DO WE RECOMMEND MORE, GUSTO OR RIPPLING?
Whichever you wind up choosing, either one of these platforms will provide great service for your payroll services and taxes, benefits and HR management, and will set your company up to grow. More of our clients use Gusto and it has a longer track record, so it gets our recommendation. But Rippling’s IT systems management and other unique features are winning it lots of praise; if you are going to have a lot of remote workers where you will have to provision IT systems and computers, they could be a great choice.