The Back to Business Tour: Austin — Embracing Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Tools for Growth

According to the SBA, there are more than 28 million entrepreneurs serving as the economic engine of our country today. They employ half of the private sector, create two out of three net new jobs, and if our small business sector was a country, its output would rank number three above Germany and Japan.

But when a small business owner decides to expand business beyond themselveswhen they decide to grow, to hire employeesthat’s when things can get complicated. SCORE estimates that HR work consumes 25-35% of an owner’s time, and 7-25% of time is spent handling employee paperwork alone. Luckily, Zenefits is here to help.

On May 19th, we took to the streets of Austin, Texas–a city adding 550 new entrepreneurs every month for every 100,000 adults, and a hotbed for growth and innovation. Here we heard first-hand how entrepreneurs and leaders have been tackling challenges as they grow their businesses today. Below are just a few of the highlights from our first stop on the Back to Business Tour.

Want in on the action in your city? Reserve your spot on the tour here.

Getting Back to Business: Overcoming Challenges In Small Business Today 

Zenefits CEO, David Sacks, opened the event for us in Austin, diving into challenges and opportunities surrounding small businesses in America today. In his keynote address, David explained how many of our small business customers have shared a look at what life was like before Zenefits with us. In short, it was anything but easy. Many teams were using different, disconnected HR systems; sometimes they had no systems at all, but rather lived in spreadsheets or piles of paperwork. On top of this, with ever-changing compliance regulations, it was hard to keep up and manage through the complexity. The compounding effect of the increasing cost of benefits over the past several years, plus a general lack of visibility due to those antiquated tracking systems, meant persistent headaches. But not for long.

As our small business customer panel explained later in the evening, many of those HR headaches have since been eliminated and time has been refocused on more strategic aspects of running a business, from hiring to employee development and even new store growth.

Embracing Creative Solutions to Drive Growth

With each small business panelist came a unique growth story, yet each shared a common thread–the electric entrepreneurship energy of Austin. As Peter Yoder, COO and Co-Founder of Rocksauce Studios put it: 

“One of the greatest advantages of starting a company in Austin is the creative community that’s around. It’s a good place to find the right fit and get that culture that really drives the creativity that’s needed for tackling difficult problems, like HR.”

When given the opportunity to tackle this thorny HR problem at Umbel, VP of Operations Jonathan Spillman jumped at the chance to bring a new solution to the table:

“I wear the finance and the HR hat, so I saw how expensive the firm we were using was to the company. And so I was very excited at the potential cost savings for bringing on a tool like Zenefits that didn’t have a direct cost for us, as we were paying over $100 per employee per month through the PEO service we were using.”

It didn’t take long for Jonathan and his team to see the rewards of such a move. Spillman recounts how, while at first there was some apprehension in the switch from an in-person to an online broker experience, expectations ultimately were met and even exceeded. One specific example he pointed to was the online benefits enrollment process:

“There’s a webinar to get our open enrollment going; we’ve had a lot of great interaction between myself and our employees in that process. It’s been super easy to find the plans we want. We’ve actually saved money on our premiums. It’s been overall a really good experience.”

Over at Birds Barbershop, HR Director Hania Ostrowski has been busy celebrating impressive growth in Austin, with 8 stores now opened in the company’s 10-year history. Hania spoke during the panel about how employees really come first at Birds, because by putting them first, they put the customer first.

“I recently used the [Zenefits] Business Intelligence tool to figure out how many employees we have that have been with us for 4+ years so that we could do something special for them.”

As Birds looks to open in a new city (Houston) later this year, Hania said she’s leaving her HR worries at the door, knowing onboarding and insurance signup are easily taken care of.

Practical Advice for Businesses Struggling with HR

To close out the evening in Austin, our three small business panelists left the audience with a few parting words of advice, especially for those peers considering a more streamlined approach to HR administration. 

For Jonathan, it was all about finding smarter ways to work:

“If you came into a role or you have a role, just because you inherited a service provider or a process, you don’t have to keep it that way. Think about ways that you can work smarter and not harder. It’s great when you can make changes at the company that not only save money,  but make your life easier and also make it a better experience for your employees and everybody else that you work with on a day-to-day basis.” – Jonathan Spillman, VP of Operations @ Umbel

Peter championed for those who want to protect their mindspace and channel it towards a greater good:

“As a business starter and owner, it’s really important to be able to take things out of your mind and not have to worry about them. And Zenefits does that in a large part for us. That mindspace is so important to be spending on higher quality problems than paperwork. I’d say that’s one of the largest benefits; whether you’re at the top of the chain or passing it up the chain, it’s something that business owners can easily understand.” – Peter Yoder, COO & Co-Founder @ Rocksauce Studios

For Hania, at the end of the day, having a free tool that’s easy for her team to use has been key:

“I would really think about how simple and user-friendly [Zenefits] is from an admin standpoint and also from the employee standpoint. It works for our population; they’re not really interested in reading a whole bunch, they just want to get to doing their creative thing and cutting hair and all that. So it’s really flexible and user-friendly. And it’s free; that’s really great, too. There’s a lot of great programs out there that are really expensive, but they’re not even as clean or as simple or easy-to-use as I have found Zenefits to be.”  Hania Ostrowski, HR Director @ Birds Barbershop

Interested in exploring Zenefits for your business? Join us at the next event, or request a free demo today!

Join the Zenefits Back to Business Tour


Deanna is the Director of Content Marketing at Zenefits, where she enjoys bringing our mission to 'make entrepreneurship easier' to life through programs that champion the voice of small businesses and empower them to thrive in today's economy.

Category: Zenefits, Entrepreneurship, Small Business Success Stories

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