We catch up with Catherine Pinkney, co-founder of online payroll and workplace pension platform, Paycircle.co.uk.

Catherine Pinkney is a communicator who is fascinated by human behaviour and everything that’s well designed. After she left Art College in the early 90s, she initially worked in all sorts of sales and marketing roles before, somehow (God only knows), moving into the field of tax and compliance technology, where she has spent the past fifteen years. She didn’t pick up her pencils again until recently, when she started working with the UX and UI team to bring the idea for Paycircle to life.

Paycircle is a new payroll software product that prides itself on being ‘Payroll software that anyone can use’. It’s aimed at the SME market and enables small and micro businesses to run their own payroll and auto-enrolment pensions in the most hassle-free, intuitive and cost-effective way possible. Catherine tells us more...

We came up with the idea when... people asked us if we could help them with their workplace pension needs. By way of background, we have a separate consultancy business, which helps small businesses with business structuring, employee remuneration, reward structures and general financial compliance. In recent years, we built our own internal software to support our consultancy clients, which included a payroll software engine. When our clients then started to ask us about ‘Auto-Enrolment’, we decided to automate that, too. This was when we realised that there was a real need in the SME sector for a straightforward, low-cost and hassle-free way for business owners to pay their staff and make pension payments.

The biggest challenge is... staying focused. When you have a product that can help a lot of people in a lot of different ways, it’s easy to try to do too much, and be all things to all people. It takes a lot of discipline to stick to the plan and do the core thing well.

The average day is spent... talking to people, mainly about how we can improve our product to meet their needs. Demonstrating our product to small and micro business owners is also a big part of our day.

The team consists of... fifteen people. Roughly half of the team work directly with our consultancy clients and provide the technical (tax and compliance) expertise to the product team, which is the other half. This comprises four developers and two marketing people. The three founders are myself, Jamie (Development lead) and David (Founding Partner and lead inventor).

My favourite quote... 'Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.' - Mark Twain

I am where I am today because of... a sense of curiosity that can drive others crazy. I will ask ‘why’ over and over again until I get to the heart of what’s going on. I question everything, all of the time. Let’s just say I’m a perfectionist.

I am who I am because of... Lord, I have no idea. Wasn’t it Descartes who said that?

The best advice I've been given... Recently, a good friend and ex-colleague told me to ‘Slow down, speed up’ – it was just what I needed to hear.

In five years I'd like to be... helping thousands of normal people grapple with complex or burdensome business compliance using simple and, dare I say it, fun-to-use software products. I’d also like other software providers in our sector to take notice of what we are doing and work harder to help business owners with cheap and intuitive software.

The thing no one ever tells you about running your own business online... The never-ending ups-and-downs but, despite that, the constant exhilaration and excitement. Dear, what a platitude!

Our biggest mistake and what it taught us... In our previous company we (David and I) hired and worked with senior corporate types, highly paid people with a rigid corporate style. Let’s just say, it was hard work and we hated it. We now have a team of passionate and creative entrepreneurs.

The most rewarding experience we've had to date... Seeing small businesses, including our own survive, thrive and grow and get through the difficult times — especially in the uncertain climate over the past seven or eight years. Working with small businesses is very rewarding because there’s so much passion and emotion in them.

June 2016