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Danika and Monte Bischoff, with their daughter, Emma, own Payroll Specialties, Inc., of Medford. - Jamie Lusch

Home Grown

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? Monte Bischoff: We are a full-service payroll processing company, paying employees, paying taxes and filing all the payroll-related federal and state reports. We've been doing this since April 1994.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I moved here in June of 1993 from North Dakota.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? I went to college at Pacific Union College in the Napa Valley. I was entering my junior year of college and went to a job fair. As I was walking around I noticed this guy with a racing shirt and shorts. I was interested in racing so I talked with him and found out he had a payroll services company. I interned with him for two years while I was finishing college. Danika was from the Rogue Valley so I moved up here and went to work for First Interstate (later merged with Wells Fargo) Bank until I could get everything ready for the business.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I wouldn't wait so long to hire employees. I was kind of a control freak who wanted to do everything a certain way and didn't believe there were people out there who shared the same philosophy. It took until 1998 to do that.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? Going from leasing a building to building and owning my own building. It was a big a step and there were a lot of sleepless nights. It tripled what we were paying for in rent, but I'm happy with the result. We started out at 38 N. Central Ave., then went to Crater Lake Avenue and most recently we were on Aero Way behind Wal-Mart. We don't rely on drive-by traffic for business, but we need to be accessible.

Who are your competitors? Automatic Data Processing, a nationwide firm, and Pay Chex out of Beaverton. There are bookkeepers and CPAs, but they don't specifically do just payroll.

What are your goals? We have around 500 clients from Northern California, to Roseburg and Klamath Falls. We want to provide a high degree of customer service. We're starting to offer ancillary products: an online time and attendance system all done online that's inexpensive but comprehensive; and online human resources software, in which clients pay $12 a month.

We wanted to be a little more competitive within the industry standard, keeping up with what the Joneses are doing. There are 8,000 businesses in the valley and we have 500. What sets us apart is that we are local. If there is a problem we can get it resolved immediately, usually offering same-day service.

When employers fax or e-mail their payroll, they'll usually have it back the same day or first thing in the morning.

What training or education did you need? I've got a degree in management with a minor in accounting. I took an intro to payroll class from Rogue Community College when I got up here. Ed Lassman, the founder of Telecom West and my father-in-law, was my mentor. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot about the business world. He was my business partner in the beginning. Kathy Mitchell, my mother-in-law, also was instrumental in getting us off the ground. Other than that, it was pretty much trial by fire as we added on clients. If we don't know the answer to problems we find out and get right back to them.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Surround yourself with good knowledgeable employees. We've been blessed to have a staff that represents Payroll Specialties well. I was raised in a time when the customer was always right, no matter how much they get in your face. Take care of your customers, because if you don't someone else will.

To suggest an idea for this column, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com

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