Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart
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How “IBEX” built Canada’s most advanced online payroll system

In the depths of the Winnipeg winter of 2009, the Grumpy Goats at IBEX were confronting a big problem. It had to do with dreams and reality.

Our dream was to provide a world class payroll system that rewarded our customer’s faith in us, and inspired others with our results.

The reality was we knew that every online payroll system in Canada, including our own, was not meeting people’s increasing expectations. Big companies like Google, Amazon and Salesforce.com and smaller ones like 37Signals and Freshbooks were setting new standards for online systems that the Canadian payroll world was not even close to meeting.

Our bootstrapping culture had always dictated to us that we live within our means and only build what we could afford to, but at that point in our history, our ability to inspire customers to work with us had exceeded our ability to deliver our service. We were growing too fast for the systems we had. We understood that a brand new online Canadian payroll system, up to the standards we wanted, was way beyond our means. How could we do it without having outside investors redefine who we are and institute short-term return on investment thinking versus the long term value focus that defines us?

One answer was to find a partner who shared our values and who could gain as much as we could by making the dream a reality. That seemed unlikely and we were politely laughed away by many.

However, when we talked to Protegra, there was interest. They had a similar, perhaps more advanced, culture. In fact, they had been named as Canada’s best small and medium employer just weeks earlier.

Since Protegra and IBEX shared the same goals of self-determination, sustainability and employee ownership, figuring out how to work together was pretty easy.

In March of 2009 design meetings began and shortly thereafter the Protegra team set to work.

The goal was to build the best online payroll system in Canada. As the launch date came closer, the Protegra team actually moved in to the IBEX offices to speed up communications and testing.

In the time since, the IBEX programming team and the Protegra team have come together as one team affectionately called Mountain Do, because they get it done.

After more than two years and 40,000 hours of analysis and development, our new online payroll system – code named Everest – produced its first live payroll in April of 2010. Development continues in response to the immediate needs of the diverse IBEX customer base, and the long term growth goals of both IBEX and Protegra.