Alison Sellar, Founder and CEO of activpayroll, launched the business in 2001, after becoming a partner in her family accountancy firm and running the payroll department. It was agreed Alison would launch a separate company, activpayroll, which began as a local Aberdeen firm specialising in payroll for the oil and gas industry. Nearly 20 years on and now operating in over 150 countries, activpayroll is filling a distinct gap in the market for global payroll, expatriate mobility solutions, HR services and online people management tools. An active philanthropist who has cycled and skied thousands of miles to raise funds for various charities, Alison was awarded an OBE in 2018.
With the business moving in the right direction, private equity was initially far from top of Alison’s agenda. But as international expansion continued and the opportunity to scale became clear, it was also evident that an external injection would be critical to take the business to its crucial next phase.
activpayroll’s model had proven so successful that it grabbed the attention of a number of private equity firms for over four years before the deal with Tenzing was signed. When Alison and her team felt it was the right time to make the jump, Tenzing stood out as “the right cultural fit for us. That was more important than the money.”
Together, “we haven’t even scratched the surface yet”, Alison adds, with lots more mileage still to be generated from the business’ potential.
“I would never have imagined this business would be what it is today. It’s been a lot of hard work but it has been amazing. We can see the potential of activpayroll more and more every day. Every day, more people are coming to us saying they want to work with us. It’s such an exciting place,” she says.
Known as the “best kept secret in global payroll”, Alison’s vision is for activpayroll to be the global market leader, with demand for its products and services skyrocketing this year as more businesses see the value of being able to outsource tax and payroll functions in over 150 countries, as needing to streamline costs. With that though comes the need for a trusted partner to help accelerate that process.
“We’d like to continue to build what we’ve got here,” she explains. “We’re not in all countries, because the challenge we have is not so much about winning the business, it’s in operations. So hiring more people, investing in technology, improving processes, bringing to life initiatives that we’ve got on our IT roadmap.”
Appointing a new Non-Executive Director and Chair, recruiting a new CFO, leading an acquisition strategy and supporting international expansion have all been part of the Tenzing value-add since coming on board.
“We’re currently in the middle of setting up an Irish office. So we’re making progress together with that and looking for someone to head up our Irish payroll operations,” Alison says.
“Acquisitions will be a big focus in future in terms of potential targets for growth.”
A new Global HR Services division has also been launched. The new comprehensive suite of global HR compliance, support and advisory services allows organisations with employees located anywhere in the world to have access to HR professionals who can ensure country-specific HR related onboarding requirements are met.