Interview With Marty Mucci, CEO of Paychex

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Sitima Fowler: So excited today because I can honestly say I have not had anybody on my show that runs a $30B market cap company. I am here with Marty Mucci today, CEO and President of Paychex. Marty took over in 2010, and he has grown the company from $10 billion market cap to now 30 billion. We're so excited. We're going to find out all the juicy details. Welcome to the show Marty.

Marty Mucci: Thank you. It's great to be here.

Sitima Fowler: We all know who Tom Golisano is. I mean, that, he's bigger than life type of legendary person. What was it like taking the culture that Tom has created and then taking over from there?

Marty Mucci: Well, it was the line of responsibility. Tom made a huge imprint on the community and on this company, obviously building it from basically nothing from one employee up to about a $10 million market cap over 30 some years, and very impressive in the number of products that he added. I think while it was a lot of responsibility and legacy, we knew that we had to take it to the next level, and so it was very exciting to say, "I'm building off of something that was very strong, had a strong foundation, and how do we take it to the next level?" That was a lot about investing in technology and looking forward, seeing what we had to do to compete with others. It was a lot of responsibility, but I think the team looked at it as a lot of fun to say, "Okay, let's take this great legacy foundation and build it into the paychecks of the future."

Sitima Fowler: But you must have heard from people, "Well, Tom wouldn't do it this way."

Marty Mucci: Oh, heard that all the time. I heard it from Tom too, and he was fun that way, but he also knew, I think, the changes had to be made. But we're careful that we keep a lot of the basic foundation of the culture. The culture was high integrity, very transparent, trying to keep employees feeling like it's a small company. Even though we've grown to about 16,000 employees now, we still try to keep it feeling like a small company. We all know each other. We all share the same values, and we're looking to grow the business.

Sitima Fowler: I have my little small company. If I... What does a person who has a $30 billion company wake up in the morning and think they need to get done?

Marty Mucci: Get up early, and you always-

Sitima Fowler: How early?

Marty Mucci: ... have a list. About 5:30. Not super early, but I think 5:30's pretty early. I am a list person, so I always have lists of what the things that we want to get done, but also at this size company, I have a tremendous executive team and team of senior managers who you can count on to be doing their job, and mine is to make sure that I have the right team in place and that we're focused on the right things from a strategic standpoint. It's really my focus in the morning is, "Okay, are we meeting the strategy? Did we set a clear strategy that everyone understands what their roles are," how are we doing as check-in points to that strategy, hitting milestones as we move along the way. For a company of this size and the complication, you got to rely on your team, and we have a great one here.

Sitima Fowler: When you talk about a leadership team, these are obviously people who are highly functioning people. When there is conflict or disagreements, how do you guys come together?

Marty Mucci: Yeah, they are high functioning and they have strong opinions, which is what you want, and creative ideas. I think it's finding that common ground. If you have a common ground in strategy and goal as to where you're trying to take the company, and you have the right team, which we do, which are focused on the results of the company... We focus on are the things we're doing good for our clients, our employees and our owners, our share owners of the business? They have to be things that will satisfy all three of those. Then I think it works through the differences. Everyone has strong opinions, and I would never want them not to. You want healthy conflict, basically, I always think of it as, but in the end, if you find common ground on your goals, I think it comes together, and you can work through the opinions. By the way, you always recognize and listen to people. If you're listening to their opinion and give them respect for that opinion, I think they're okay moving to the middle.

Sitima Fowler: When you came in, and the fact that it was at... You've grown the company tremendously. When you came up with new ideas, was execution of those ideas, getting the buy-in for those ideas a tedious process?
Marty Mucci: No, well, I think to certain degree it is, but I think that when you, again, when you set clear goals, everyone knows that the ideas you're coming up with and the milestones to get there are really important that you all work together to do that. For us, it was a lot about technology. Paychex has always been a personal service business, very much tied to on-the-phone conversations or people conversations, and the people make all the difference, but we knew that technology had to be investment, so we brought in a new head of technology, we made a big investment, have continued to make big investments in innovation and focused on growth through innovation. Our mobility app today, a great number of our clients and their employees use our mobility app to get their pay stubs, sign up for 401(k) retirement plan, get their W-2s.

Marty Mucci: It's all about "did you see where we're going?" It's a technology-focused company now that is driving service through tech, and that makes it very important that once you're all on the same goal, then people kind of work through it, but that's been our big innovation in the last 10 years is constant technology increases through time and attendance, retirement, but everything being mobile and thinking about how does the client want to be served today and their employees. It's really they want to do things the way they want to do them, how they want to do it at that time, so mobile is the perfect way to do that.

Sitima Fowler: Would you say that investing in that technology is what has paid off and has led to your success?

Marty Mucci: Yeah, absolutely. The investments in technology have made a huge difference. Now, it's changed the way we market, the way we sell. Today, people don't wait necessarily for a field or sales rep to come visit them. Some do. We certainly satisfy that. But today, people want to go online, search your company, look at your product, demo your product, and even sometimes buy online without talking to anyone. You can do that today, and that's going to be the way of the future.

Marty Mucci: Service is critical, but paying attention to where and how service is delivered is really critical, meaning my service in the past was I called the payroll specialist, I gave them my payroll numbers or my HR or my 401(k) numbers, and they took care of things for me. Today, clients and their employees want to do it themselves on their phone when they're ready, whether that's first thing in the morning, 11:00 at night, on Thanksgiving. They want to do it, and we have to make that available to them. Those are the changes that innovation in constantly new products and making it simple for clients and their employees has been critical to our success.

Sitima Fowler: Good for you guys for predicting that. I see my daughter, she will not pick up the phone to talk to anybody. She wants to do it all... Some of it is so efficient. I'm like, "You got that done already?" and she's like, "Yeah, I didn't need to talk to anybody."

Marty Mucci: You reduce the paper. It's good for us as a business, but it's good for the client, and it's good for their employees. That's the way people want to do it. They don't want to necessarily pick up a phone, call someone, or set up an appointment and meet someone. Our generation today wants to do things online and have it immediately done and see that they have done it.

Marty Mucci: Now, on the other hand, we're still always have someone, live person available to talk to seven by 24 by 365 here at Paychex, and we're the only company in our space that does that. You can always reach a live person, but today, when you ask a question on the pay payroll or retirement app, 50-60% of the answers are given by a chat bot, an automated answer, today, and that works for clients. But have you ever need a live person, you can always get to them.

Sitima Fowler: That personal service, people still want that-

Marty Mucci: It is, it is.

Sitima Fowler: ... so-

Marty Mucci: But the definition of service has changed, so you got to able to do it on mobile, you got to be able to do it live, you got to be able to do it on their desktop. However they want it, we'll be ready to serve them.

Sitima Fowler: Yeah. I mean, we have an IT business, so 80% of what we do is behind the scenes, and we can do it from remotely, but that 10, 20%, people want to know that when they call, they want a live person to talk to, and they want somebody on site to come give them advice and all that. That personal touch is... you can't take that away.

Marty Mucci: That's right.

Sitima Fowler: That has to be there. With growth, it's all fueled the backend by people and the culture.

Marty Mucci: It is.

Sitima Fowler: Talk to me about, you have your office, this beautiful office here in Penfield, but Paychex is now nationwide. How do you bring all these employees into your culture and marching to the same drum?

Marty Mucci: Well, I think culture starts at the top. We set values, define values that we had as a business, and we agree with them from top to bottom across the entire organization in the way we're going to treat our clients and the way we're going to treat our colleagues, our fellow colleagues. We work in partnership, we're accountable, we have high integrity. That's the things that we all say, "These are the set values that we believe in and we support." That's whether that's me or a frontline person in Tulsa, Oklahoma that works for Paychex. We're all on the same, and we can hold each other accountable to it.

Marty Mucci: We also try to communicate a great deal. As we were talking earlier, we do quarterly calls where we talk about how the company is doing, what our results are, what we're trying to do next. We hold annual meetings and sometimes twice-a-year meetings, employee meetings where we get people together. We celebrate success. You have to always recognize and celebrate the success of our people because they do make the difference, but you always talk to them about where we're going as a company. It's very important I think that that our employees have a buy-in and understand where we're going as a company so that they can be part of it.

Marty Mucci: You also just in small things, small recognition, whether it's picking up the phone to congratulate and thank a 30-year employee or running into someone in the cafeteria and appreciating what they do. It's important that you have the right team of people and leaders and you communicate a lot, you communicate recognition, you communicate where you're going as a company, and you communicate when we miss something too. People have to feel like you're always being honest, and we don't hit on every goal. If we miss, we talk about that too and then how we're going to recover.

Sitima Fowler: Yeah. Sometimes you have to balance, like can people really handle all the bad news? But I think when you're raw and vulnerable like that, you get more loyalty and buy-in.

Marty Mucci: I agree. As long as you're not blaming, you're recognizing, "Hey, everybody's going to miss some goals," but what are you going to do about it? The first is showing that you recognize you missed it, and second is, "Okay, here's the plan to get back there." That way, you're showing that if the leadership is honest and transparent in that way that we expect every employee to be that way, and that opens up great channels of communication for them to say, "Hey, I'm on the frontline, and here's something I think we could do better for our clients, and therefore... " and then act on that.

Marty Mucci: We do visits to our branches, our sales offices, and when we go around and talk to people individually in a cube, and you ask them, "How can we do things better?" you got to take that in. You got to listen to them, and then you got to act on it. Even if you can't do it, you get back to them and say, "I can't do that right now," change the product or something, "but I'll do it in the future." That builds great rapport and trust that someone listened to them, respected them, and then you'll get there moving forward.

Sitima Fowler: That's awesome. I wish you continued success-

Marty Mucci: Thank you.

Sitima Fowler: ... and you're such a nice person. When I met you, I was like, "Wow." You wouldn't... If I had known what you do for your day job, you're such a-

Marty Mucci: Well, good. It's a wonderful-

Sitima Fowler: ... kind, nice person.

Marty Mucci: ... job, and it's a great company, so.

Sitima Fowler: Well, thank you, and thank you for sharing with us your insights. Do you have any last words of advice for other entrepreneurs out there who might be struggling, and it's like, "I can't meet payroll. My employees are quitting." What would you say to somebody like that who is trying to kind of get into a better place?

Marty Mucci: I think, entrepreneurs are... It's such a critical skillset to be able to have a creative idea and put it into motion. I think it's having the right people around you, whether it's mentors, your own team, but I think it's always important to know your business well, you work hard, which all do, and be open to change and other ideas, and gain as much of... most entrepreneurs are very much learning-people, and I think the more you can learn about everything around you, whether it's your customers, your prospects, your fellow colleagues, that's really important to be a learning person. Always be open because that will make you successful because things are changing so rapidly. You got to be always listening to everybody around you. I think you certainly know that in your business because things change, and it makes you successful.

Sitima Fowler: Yeah, you can't get left behind-

Marty Mucci: No.

Sitima Fowler: ... and you got to-

Marty Mucci: No.

Sitima Fowler: ... keep an open mind. I agree. Change is not always easy for-

Marty Mucci: No.

Sitima Fowler: ... people, but I think there is ways you could go about it that is less risky.

Marty Mucci: Yeah. You make them part of it. They have to be part of the change as much as possible so that... and they have to see what you're trying to get to, what's the goal you're trying to get to. You don't want to just tell someone you're changing for change sake. "We're changing because there's going to be more opportunity for you." When we were growing Paychex, and continuing to do so, but when we say, "Hey, we're trying to get from 2 billion to 3 billion in revenue," at first people said, "Well, is it just about the money?" No, it's about what does the company look like at 3 billion in revenue? More opportunities for you, more products and better service for our clients, and a better investment for those who invest in the company. If you put it in those terms, now they know why you're trying to get to that goal, and then change comes a little bit easier.

Sitima Fowler: Nicely put. Thank you so much-

Marty Mucci: All right, you're welcome.

Sitima Fowler: ... and thank you guys for listening. If you got inspired by this and you want to look at other videos, you can go to If you want to get interviewed for a future episode, go ahead and fill out the form, and I hope to meet you soon.

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