Selling for and Against PEOs and Payroll Companies

The landscape of commercial insurance is evolving, and one area that has garnered significant interest is the utilization of Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) and payroll companies. These entities offer different approaches to handling HR, payroll, and compliance tasks, which can significantly impact how businesses manage their insurance needs. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the nuances of selling for and against PEOs and payroll companies, providing you with the knowledge to navigate these conversations effectively with your clients. 

Defining PEOs and Payroll Companies 

Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs):

A PEO, often called an employee leasing company, enters into a co-employment relationship with a business. In this arrangement, the PEO becomes the employer of record for tax purposes and handles various administrative tasks such as payroll processing, HR management, benefits administration, and workers’ compensation. For example, companies like ADP TotalSource and Administaff are well-known PEOs. The primary advantage of a PEO is the comprehensive suite of services it offers, making it an attractive option for businesses looking to outsource their HR functions and gain access to bundled services. 

Payroll Companies:

In contrast, payroll companies focus mainly on processing payroll and ensuring compliance with tax regulations. While they may offer additional services such as benefits administration and HR support, these are typically not as integrated or comprehensive as those provided by PEOs. Examples include Paylocity and Heartland. Payroll companies are ideal for businesses that want to maintain more control over their HR functions while benefiting from efficient payroll processing and compliance support. 

PEOs and Payroll Companies

Advantages and Disadvantages of PEOs


  • Comprehensive Services: By bundling payroll, HR, benefits, and compliance, a PEO can simplify the administrative burden on businesses, allowing them to focus more on their core operations.
  • Cost Savings: PEOs can offer cost savings through economies of scale, particularly in areas like workers’ compensation and benefits, where they can negotiate better rates due to their larger pool of employees.
  • Enhanced Risk Management: PEOs offer enhanced risk management support, which can help businesses maintain compliance and reduce liability.


  • Higher Costs: PEOs typically charge higher administrative fees compared to payroll companies.
  • Loss of Control: Businesses may experience a loss of control, as the PEO becomes the employer of record, meaning all employee-related decisions must go through the PEO’s processes.
  • Complex Billing: The billing for PEO services is often complex and lacks transparency, which can lead to hidden fees and unexpected costs.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Payroll Companies


  • Cost-Effectiveness: Payroll companies are generally more cost-effective than PEOs, focusing primarily on payroll processing and tax compliance, which involves lower administrative fees.
  • Flexibility: They offer greater flexibility since businesses retain full control over their employees and are not bound by a co-employment relationship.
  • Simplified Administration: Payroll companies provide straightforward payroll processing and compliance support, simplifying the administrative workload.


  • Limited Services: Payroll companies do not offer as comprehensive a range of services as PEOs. Businesses may need to engage additional vendors for HR support, benefits administration, and risk management services, leading to potential fragmentation and increased administrative burden.
  • Limited Risk Management: Payroll companies may offer limited support in managing complex compliance and risk management issues, which can be a disadvantage for businesses operating in high-risk industries.

When to Use a PEO

PEOs are particularly beneficial for small businesses that have limited HR and administrative resources. They are also advantageous for high-risk industries, such as construction, where compliance and risk management are critical. Businesses experiencing rapid growth may find PEOs helpful due to their scalable HR solutions, allowing them to focus on expansion without getting bogged down by administrative tasks. Additionally, companies struggling with providing competitive benefits can benefit from the PEO’s ability to offer access to larger, more advantageous benefits pools. 

Case Study:

Consider a small plumbing business facing challenges in managing its HR functions and offering competitive benefits. By partnering with a PEO, the business can outsource these tasks, gaining access to comprehensive HR support, better benefits, and streamlined compliance management. This allows the business owner to focus on growing the company while ensuring that employees are well-managed and satisfied. 

When to Use a Payroll Company

Payroll companies are ideal for businesses that are cost-conscious and looking to minimize administrative expenses. They are well-suited for companies with straightforward payroll and compliance needs, where the focus is on efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Businesses that require more control over their employment practices, such as those with fluctuating staffing needs or those that want to retain full decision-making power over hiring and firing, will benefit from the flexibility offered by payroll companies. 

Case Study:

A medium-sized retail business with simple payroll needs can benefit from switching to a payroll company. The cost savings from lower administrative fees and the ability to maintain control over HR decisions can provide significant advantages, allowing the business to allocate more resources toward customer service and business expansion. 

Payroll Companies

How to Sell For and Against PEOs

Selling For PEOs

  • Comprehensive Services: Emphasize the comprehensive services PEOs offer, which can significantly reduce the administrative burden on businesses.
  • Cost Savings: Highlight the potential cost savings on workers’ compensation and benefits due to the PEO’s larger pool and better negotiating power.
  • Risk Management: Stress the enhanced risk management and compliance support provided by PEOs, which can help businesses avoid costly fines and legal issues.

Selling Against PEOs

  • Higher Costs: Focus on the higher costs and potential hidden fees associated with their services.
  • Loss of Control: Point out the loss of control and flexibility that comes with a co-employment relationship, which can be a significant drawback for businesses needing quick and autonomous decision-making capabilities.
  • Complexities of Bundled Services: Discuss the complexities and potential downsides of the bundled services, which can introduce additional administrative challenges and costs.

How to Sell For and Against Payroll Companies

Selling For Payroll Companies

  • Cost-Effectiveness: Emphasize their cost-effectiveness and the flexibility they offer.
  • Simplified Administration: Highlight the straightforward payroll processing and
    compliance support, which can simplify administrative tasks for businesses.
  • Control Over HR Functions: Showcase the ability to retain control over HR
    functions, allowing businesses to manage their employees more effectively.

Selling Against Payroll Companies

  • Limited Services: Discuss their limitations compared to PEOs, such as the less
    comprehensive range of services.
  • Need for Additional Vendors: Highlight the need for additional vendors to
    cover HR support and benefits administration, which can lead to
    fragmentation and increased administrative burden.
  • Gaps in Risk Management: Point out the potential gaps in risk management support, which can be a disadvantage for businesses operating in high-risk industries.
Payroll companies

Practical Tips for Producers

·       Double Agent Role: As a commercial insurance producer, you often need to navigate between selling for and against PEOs and payroll companies. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each option allows you to position yourself as a knowledgeable advisor who can offer the best solutions for your clients’ specific needs. 

·       Understanding Client Needs: It’s crucial to assess each client’s unique circumstances and business needs. This involves understanding their industry, size, growth stage, and specific HR and compliance challenges. By tailoring your recommendations based on these factors, you can provide more effective and targeted advice. 

·       Breaking Down Proposals: When comparing PEO and payroll company proposals, it’s essential to break down the costs and services included. This involves analyzing the billing statements, isolating pass-through expenses, and comparing administrative fees and workers’ compensation costs. By doing so, you can clearly demonstrate the cost differences and potential savings to your clients.

  • Case Examples: Using real-life scenarios can help illustrate the key points discussed. For example, if a client is overpaying for a PEO service, showing how a switch to a payroll company can result in significant cost savings can be very persuasive. Conversely, demonstrating how a PEO’s comprehensive services can alleviate administrative burdens for a small business can highlight the benefits of choosing a PEO. 


In conclusion, understanding the role of PEOs and payroll companies in commercial insurance is essential for producers looking to provide the best advice to their clients. By carefully assessing the advantages and disadvantages of each option, understanding when to use a PEO versus a payroll company, and effectively communicating these points, you can help your clients make informed decisions that benefit their businesses. Stay informed, keep your clients’ best interests in mind, and leverage the knowledge shared in this guide to enhance your consulting and sales strategies. 


Q1: What are the main differences between a PEO and a payroll company? 

A: A PEO offers comprehensive HR, payroll, benefits, and compliance services through a co-employment relationship, while a payroll company focuses primarily on payroll processing and compliance support. 

Q2: When should a business consider using a PEO? 

A: A business should consider a PEO if it has limited HR resources, operates in a high-risk industry, or needs comprehensive administrative support. 

Q3: What are the cost implications of using a PEO versus a payroll company? 

A: PEOs typically have higher administrative fees due to the comprehensive services they offer, while payroll companies are generally more cost-effective but provide fewer services 


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