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Meet the MD: Carl Boulton of Optimum Pay Group

Carl Boulton talks to UMi about being a grafter, overcoming prejudices in his industry and valuing honesty in his business, Optimum Pay Group.

What is it the company does?

Optimum Pay Group was formed to provide a fully compliant and unrivalled payroll service. We specialise in working with recruitment agencies and contractors. At Optimum Pay Group we aim to give workers the freedom to get on with the job in hand while we take care of essential functions such as PAYE, HMRC registrations and advising on how to meet legislative commitments.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

I oversee operations, ranging from identifying new models and services, to supporting line managers and ensuring budgets are kept. Together this helps to ensure Optimum Pay Group meets its core goals. We aim to stay ahead of the curve, keeping up to date with best practice, changes to legislation and other issues, such as Brexit, which might have an effect on our clients. It’s my job to communicate those goals and ensure everyone in the company is working for the same outcome. 

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

After school, I joined the Royal Signals as a radio operator and physical training instructor (PTI). When I left I joined British Gas in a sales role and from there I went into recruitment for trades and labour jobs. Using the money I made in these jobs I set up my own recruitment company, which I then sold before setting up a retail support company. I also went out on the tools to gain knowledge of contracting before establishing the payroll company. Every job I have done I have used to gain knowledge and experience to benefit me in setting up my own businesses.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

I don’t believe in micro-managing. I believe in giving people the tools they need to achieve their best. Instead of telling people what to do, a leader shows by example and also puts their belief in their team. A leader has to ensure everyone is working together for the same outcome, but also needs to let individuals flourish. It’s a fine balancing act. 

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Overcoming prejudices. We are trying to stand out in an industry with a poor reputation. There are payroll companies out there which promise the earth but are not ensuring their customers are operating within the law when it comes to tax. They have tarnished the industry and it means we have to prove why we are better than them before we even get a foot in the door, before we can even start to discuss our services. We are continually trying to overcome a misconception from the off, no matter how good or different we know we are.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I love spending time with my family – they just take me away from it all. When I’m with my wife and kids then I’m thinking about my wife and kids. It is the best way to switch off, to concentrate on other people. I also like to go to the gym and I think there is a lot to be said about taking a holiday. To get away from the stress I try to get away from the work environment.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A footballer! At school, I wasn’t very academic. In the Army I loved the PTI side of things and although I played football I wasn’t good enough to go professional. At school, the focus always seemed to be on IQ and hitting targets. I wasn’t ever really business-minded at that age either. Everything I have learned has come from experience.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

Dishonesty. I don’t want to hear excuses, I don’t want to see cover-ups. If someone has made a mistake then just come clean, and together everyone can learn and move on. When you see deception and manipulation creep in then you know it is going to have a ripple effect and impact on the whole team. I won’t stand for it and I will call people out on it. 

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

In five years’ time, Optimum Pay Group will still be here as the leading, compliant payroll company. We want to go beyond the bare minimum in terms of compliance and because of that, we will still be operating when many others will fail. Not only that, we want to be the experts influencing leaders and future legislation. We aim to be engaging with ministers and governments here and overseas to help formulate future policy.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Be true to yourself and work hard. Cutting corners will not bring benefits. People will be able to see through a veneer and they won’t stand for it. If you can say you have genuinely put the graft in, then success will eventually come with it. 

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

Don’t take everyone at face value. Just because they appear to have made it with the flash car or the smart suit doesn’t mean they are giving good advice. Take the time to scratch the surface and find out about people – question why they are interested in you and your business in the first place. Not everyone is who they seem

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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