John Borland and Maureen McCluggage of Payescape who have just bought the old Dunnes Stores building on Church Street, Ballymoney.
THE new owner of the former Dunnes Stores building on Church Street, Ballymoney has revealed exciting plans that could see up to 30 jobs created locally over the next two years.
The Managing Director of Payescape, currently based at the Acorn Centre, Mr John Borland recently took possession of the keys, and has outlined his vision for the building in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle.
Bushmills man Mr Borland said: “It is a long term plan, there is a lot of refurbishment work to be done but the team are very excited at the purchase of this property and at the prospect of moving down into the town. We have ambitious plans to create a great working environment.”
Payescape provide Cloud based Payroll System products and services to over a 1000 customers worldwide, who have payroll needs in the UK.
Services include an online portal where clients can access their account and key in employee details, hours worked, salary etc, from their own computer or phone.
John says that his current 40 employees could rise to 70 within two years.
Negotiations with Dunnes Stores got underway last summer.
Explaining the move, he said: “We were out growing our current premises and were looking about.
“There seemed nothing suitable in Ballymoney, then someone said 'look at Dunnes', which is what we did.”
The premises, empty for five years, is 17,000 sq feet in total, 7000 on the ground floor, 7000 on the first, and 3000 on the top floor.
He said: “The first floor has room for 50 staff at least, it’s a lovely big room, lovely light, giving good communication between all the people doing operations and implementation.”
“The top floor will be a kitchen area initially, with perhaps an outer balcony brought into use.
“We may eventually put accounts and IT staff up there, or the sales team.”
Colliers International Commercial Properties will be involved with the major refurbishment, which could take up to a year.
“We will probably re-roof the whole building, the flat roof is coming to the end of its life.”
He also hopes to make a new access entrance to the upper floors, with the current door remaining as the ground floor entrance.
“The stairs are nice, chrome, we have no plans to change those,” John said, “there is 6000 sq feet of retail space available to rent on the ground floor.”
John feels with the loss of much of Ballymoney's traditional industry, his type of business has great potential in the town.
He said: “In that situation what kind of business would thrive in Ballymoney? The answer is internet businesses, Christies Direct for example are doing very well.
“I have been in contact with BT in relation to fibre; if there is fibre someone in Vegas can access the portal and key in the hours their London based staff worked with staff in Ballymoney on hand to advise them.”
“I am very keen to help improve employment prospects in Ballymoney. We have no problem recruiting good staff locally.
“Sometimes we are looking for people with more advanced qualifications, but there are positions for people with a good basic education, good maths and good English.”
Payescape offer an online portal to allow their clients to process their payroll. In addition their CIPP (Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals) staff are on hand to advise on any PAYE issues. The firm also provides HR and Time& Attendance software.
“We are improving our technology to allow staff to look after more customers; that won't stop growth, but will improve efficiency.”
“We currently have around 40 people working for us but we are aiming to be a 60 to 70 person company in two years. The sky is the limit really.”
John is a Bushmills man and his brother still works on the family farm near the village.
He attended Greenmount Agricultural College intending to farm himself, but a change of heart saw him attend Liverpool and graduate in Computer Science in 1990.
He became a computer programmer for 16 years working for an IT firm travelling to businesses, working with Payroll Clerks on site.
In 2006 he started Payescape and has built his client base to its current height, revealing that his firm's client retention is an impressive 98%.
“If you look after your customers, they will stay with you forever,” John said, commending in particular the role of Operations Director Maureen McCluggage, who has he said “has been with me from day one.”
Payescape has now over 1000 customers, their biggest having 3000 employees and their smallest just a handful.
35% of clients are Northern Ireland based, and over 100 customers are American, but with payroll needs in the UK.
The average client size is 27 employees and include charities like the St Vincent de Paul, British Lung Foundation and Disability Action and many manufacturing firms.
Ballymoney business Basil Knipe Electrics is a client, as is Ultimate Fight Club, based in Las Vegas, but who organise events at the 02 arena.
People may have the perception that these services are only required for larger companies.
“I would like dentists, solicitors, farmers, doctors, small businesses of every sort to realize that Payescape is a company they could use and trust,” he concluded.