Flex time

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

Brookfield-based The Flex Company of America Inc. has changed its name, moved to a larger office space and is planning to open offices in other markets. The company, which handles outsourced human resources functions such as Section 125 flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, COBRA administration, retiree billing and related plans, is now known as ProcessWorks Inc.
Owner Barbara Baade has moved her firm to a new office at 250 N. Patrick Blvd., Brookfield, just a couple of blocks away from its previous location. The new office is about 14,000 square feet, double the size of the former office.
"We don’t sell insurance, we work with it," Baade said.
Baade started her company in 1987 after she left the brokerage house of Blunt, Ellis & Lowei, where she worked as vice president of human resources. Baade said she saw large companies such as IBM and Kraft Foods being able to afford large HR departments to deal with complex issues such as flexible spending, retiree insurance billing and other functions, but smaller companies didn’t have access to such services.
At the time, she said, the term of outsourcing hadn’t been invented, and companies hadn’t thought that functions such as plan administration could be taken care of by an outside agency.
"We created the marketplace," Baade said. "It wasn’t called outsourcing then. But we thought we could share with employers to handle (plan administration) better and more cost-effectively than doing it in-house."
With her own company, Baade has been able to capitalize on her knowledge of the HR market – specifically of the fine points of Section 125 flexible spending accounts and how companies can manage them best.
Her company’s name change was needed because The Flex Company of America did much more than just work with flexible spending accounts, and Baade believed its name needed to reflect the depth of the company’s expertise.
"It was time to re-brand it," she said.
ProcessWorks became an obvious choice for the name because it spells out what the company does, Baade said.
"We process transactions every day," she said. "And our process works because of the systems, the technology and the people we have in place."
ProcessWorks has become a player on the national market for human resources outsourcing, posting double-digit revenue growth every year since the company was founded.
In 2003, the firm accrued about 50-percent revenue growth, followed by 2004’s 33-percent growth. ProcessWorks is projecting 45 percent growth for this year, Baade said.
The firm has 42 employees and will hire four more by the middle of the year, she said.
Two of the company’s vice presidents work out of home offices in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Omaha, Neb. Both of those vice presidents handle client services for some large clients in multi-state markets and also handle business development in multi-state markets, according to Susan Shimshak, director of marketing and communications for the company.
ProcessWorks is planning to add more offices in other states, Baade said.
Shimshak said ProcessWorks is now looking to hire the right person for the Atlanta market. Once the Atlanta office is up and running, ProcessWorks will work on adding remote offices in the New York area and the West Coast, Baade said.
"We make sure we’ve got our other people up and rolling and then move with the next one," she said. "It’s our business goal to have at least two or three more offices set up by the end of 2006."
Shimshak said she saw momentum building for the company when she was hired last year, and the firm has only gathered steam since.
"Barbara has applied sound business principles from the start, and there’s been steady growth," Shimshak said. "The momentum has just kicked in, and it’s all come together. We were positioned well to boom, to have explosive growth in a down economy."
One of the messages that Baade preaches to her customers – one that has worked well for ProcessWorks – is that their clients need to focus on their core businesses, where they make money.
"Our product is just as valuable when they have a human resources department (in-house)," Baade said, because of how many changes are made to benefits plans, including COBRA, every year.
"Most (clients) can’t afford to update and bring it all in-house," she said. "We thought we could do it and be their HR partner, it would not cause them more grief and more work. And 70 percent of companies that outsource don’t take it back."
That business model and the company’s high-tech call center that evolved to support clients have succeeded.
"Clients can’t handle it logistically in-house," Baade said. "And they know they could be spending more time and resources on their business, while helping improve their bottom line by outsourcing.
"We take away that liability," she said. "And programs like COBRA – they don’t call it the snake for nothing. If you’re not doing it right, you could make all of your plans ineligible for relief."
ProcessWorks has more than 2,500 clients nationwide, Baade said, including businesses with as few as two employees to as many as 80,000 or more.
The firm’s clients include Land’s End, Jefferson Wells, the Milwaukee Bucks and Sony.
The company has client retention of about 99 percent and regularly receives
high marks on client surveys,
Shimshak said.
That high customer satisfaction rate is largely due to the emphasis placed on the latest
technology at ProcessWorks, Shimshak and Baade said. The emphasis on technology isn’t reflected just in the company’s purchase of the latest and best in computer software and hardware, but also in the firm’s recent purchase of a new telephone system.
The high-tech tools enable the company to provide a more efficient and higher level of customer service, Shimshak said.
"I thought if we were going to be able to provide high-level services at an affordable price, the only way to do it was through technology," she said. "We want to be able to do it faster, cheaper and more accurately."
The company’s call center, where employees of client companies call with questions about outsourced services, is the center of ProcessWorks’ operations.
With the latest technology, the reduction of physical paperwork and documents enables the company’s employees to be faster and more efficient, and therefore better able to answer clients’ questions, Baade said.
"They want it to be perfect and they want it now," Baade said. "So with reinvesting in technology and the most up-to-date products, I tend to look at it as a business decision. And I always find more reasons to do it than not."
In 1998, the continual reinvestment in technology and having an in-house IT department to write custom-made software applications paid off, as ProcessWorks was able to double its business without adding any employees.
During the same time, competitors who had not invested in technology
were forced to hire a significant number of workers, who were then laid off a
few years later, Baade said.
Shimshak said competitors routinely tell her they are two to three years behind ProcessWorks, largely because of the software the company’s IT department has written. That software stays in-house, she and Baade said, and is not offered for sale.
The company’s Web site has been ramped up to deliver same-day reimbursement for heath care reimbursement programs, which has thousands of those transactions every day, Shimshak said.
A new program, which ties a debit card to flexible spending accounts, enables users to spend funds within those accounts directly on health-related products, instead of spending money out-of-pocket and waiting to be reimbursed, Shimshak said.
ProcessWorks has also partnered with employers and some insurance companies to put together informational packets on flexible spending accounts, benefit programs and other outsourced programs.
"We look for things that will compliment our services for the future," Baade said. "Companies do ask us
for other things. We have to look at them, but we also have to stick to our core competencies."

May 13, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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