May 22, 2022
Back in April of 2020, as the consequences of COVID’s arrival in the U.S. sent financial markets reeling, Paychex CFO Efrain Rivera had the temptation “to say nothing.”
As the company’s quarterly earnings call with analysts quickly approached, Rivera explains, a number of executive team members had gathered in conference to debate the idea of halting any future guidance in light of things being just so uncertain.
“The problem was that we did have data!,” explains Rivera, referring to Paychex’s unique lines of sight into the payroll practices of thousands of middle-market businesses.
The subsequent earnings call was unusual for its length (2 hours) as well as the general nature of the discussion, recalls Rivera.
“Half of the analyst questions were really about the general economy and what we were seeing because they knew that we had unique insights into employees,” remarks Rivera, who notes that the prior debate ended with those lobbying for “more guidance” scoring the win.
Rivera adds that the prevailing point of view became, “We need to say what we know, and we need to say, ‘This is the limit of what we know.’”
Weeks later, when Paychex found it necessary to revise some of the guidance that it had provided on the Spring 2020 call, there was no double-guessing of the earlier debate’s outcome.
Says Rivera: “To this day, we still get credit for having said what we said and shared what we shared at a moment when people were very concerned about saying anything.” –Jack Sweeney