Chris Cumo the co-founder and principal of PROXUS, a payroll, human resources, and benefits outsourcing and consulting firm based in Washington, PA. Founded in 2006, PROXUS started as a strategic alliance between Granatt HR and Chris’ payroll technology company Professional Payroll Solutions. In the decade since, PROXUS has grown into a leader in the workforce management space, serving clients in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey with employees throughout the United States. Chris spoke with citybizlist about founding PROXUS, keeping up with federal regulatory changes, and the future of the company.
EDWIN WARFIELD: When did you get into the HR industry, and what led you to start your own firm?
CHRIS CUMO: I got recruited out of college by ADP. I was one of the first right-off-of-college-campus folks that they hired into, what they called at that time, their sales intern program. For the first nine months in my career at ADP, I didn’t go near a sales territory or selling. I worked basically every job in that business, including working from midnight to 8am in the third shift in the computer room; getting checks, loading tapes on machines back then. So, I learned the business really from the ground up. I spent a week driving and delivering payrolls to clients, spent a good portion of that time in client support—learning how to support a client, what their questions were—and then my last couple of months of that internship program, I was actually out doing conversions of new business, so as salespeople would sell a new client, an account executive would go out and actually set the new client up.
So, I did that for a while, and then once I finished that up, then I went into the sales process, so I went into a sales territory. I was fairly successful in DC—I was outside of Washington, DC, in Rockville, Maryland. I moved up to their headquarters building in Roseland, New Jersey, worked there for a few years, and then came here to Philadelphia to run a sales team.
My direct supervisor here in Philadelphia was a very, very good friend of mine and he had left ADP about six months after I did, and he had gone to Paychex. I left and was out of the industry for a little bit, and he kept calling me saying, “Hey Chris, you’ve got to check this out. It ‘s kind of like ADP was when we joined 10 years ago—stocks going crazy, write your own ticket.” I kept telling him, “Paul, you know, I love you, but I’m really not interested in doing that again.” And he kept after me, kept after me, and finally he said, “No, you really need to take a look at this,” so I got convinced, came over. Paychex had just purchased a software product to get them into the middle market, because they were traditionally the small market—1 to 30 employees—that was their market, and I wasn’t interested in that at all. I wanted to do the middle market stuff. They had literally just purchased this application and they were going to roll it out to select cities, Philly being one of them. That took a lot longer than I had hoped, but my last year there, I opened up the middle market for Paychex here in Philadelphia.
And then I decided that Paychex wasn’t a good cultural fit for me, so I left, did the internet thing, and then one day came home from a long business trip across the country and said to my wife, “Hey, listen, I could keep doing this, and hopefully this thing will take off—I don’t know that it will, and even if it does, we didn’t get enough equity on the way in for go-to-the-beach money, so if I’m going to work this hard, how about if we just do something on our own?” And she looked at me and said, “go.” I said, “all right,” so I left Deduction, I spent that summer writing my business plan, leased some space, got some computers, started on our way. And then I met [cofounder] John [Israel] and here we are.
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