Small businesses can be competitive employers and provide their people with security and a good living. However, jobs at large companies are normally sought-after and openings are competitive. One major reason is perceived security and quality benefits. Startups and small businesses often find themselves competing against governments and large corporations for talent.

But, the thinking goes, those large employers offer prestige and great benefits.

You can too, even as a startup or small business. You don’t need a complete in-house Human Resources (HR) department to find and administer medical, dental, vision and workers’ compensation insurance. You don’t need to maintain an in-house HR department to handle payroll and to keep you legally compliant.

Like so much in our online age, there are simple platforms available for all of this and more.

Health insurance simplified

Get health insurance for employees, and yes, you are an employee too. You may dread the task of shopping for benefits. For example, there are many options for small business health insurance. Your cost as an employer will depend on many variables. For example, you may choose to pay a greater or lesser share of monthly premiums. It also depends on quality of the plan you select. The average age of your workforce matters, as younger workers are healthier and will likely result in a lower claim load for the insurer, resulting in lower premiums. Get a health insurance quote here.

401(k) plans simplified

401(k) retirement plans also intimidate many small business owners. They are highly regulated and nobody likes being wrapped in red tape. Smaller employers may also be reluctant to commit to the employer match. Overall, many small business owners may simply not understand these plans. But in order to remain competitive with the big guys, as well as retain good talent, you should seriously consider offering them.

Additionally, you as a business owner will want to retire someday. So take advantage of this personal tax deduction opportunity while setting aside regular funds for retirement. Even better, your matching contribution to your employees’ accounts are deductible to the business. As an employee of your business, that means contributions to your personal 401(k) account are deductible to the business too.

There are countless plans and investment allocations to choose from, all offering age-appropriate risk/return profiles.

Whether selecting a retirement plan, medical insurance or other benefits, there are specialists available to help with such tasks. Gusto provides payroll processing, a choice of benefit providers, time tracking, and computation of payroll and withholding taxes.

HR services you can use

Gusto can provide or administer:

-Full service payroll

-Medical, dental, and vision insurance

-Retirement benefits

-Certified HR expertise

-Compliance assistance

-Time tracking, vacation and paid time off (PTO)

-Workers’ compensation

Base monthly cost

The level of service necessary varies with cost. More valuable plans offer services such as access to certified professionals and PTO tracking. There are three plans. Other services and benefits are offered separately.

Core                      $6 per user per month                   $39 base fee

Complete            $12 per user per month                $39 base fee

Concierge            $12 per user per month                $149 base fee

Gusto offers a 30-day free trial.

Average customer reviews

In major review sites, Gusto receives average ratings from thousands of reviewers ranging from 4.3 to 4.6 out of five stars. While we have paraphrased them below based on trends, that is no substitute for further due diligence.

First, the bad news.

One customer complained in a one-star review that he had all of his employee data loaded, making it very difficult to switch, and then Gusto tripled his monthly fees. He went on to say that his e-mails to support went unanswered. Others complained about inflexible settings, meaning if you missed a deadline to submit hours, a payroll could be delayed or missed.

There were plenty of complaints about slow or unresponsive customer support staff. There were also several complaints regarding tax computation problems that left employees and owners at the mercy of the IRS and state taxing authorities.

Now the good news.

Customers across the board enjoyed the simple UI/UX (user interface and user experience). There were countless positive comments about the ease of the platform and capabilities of the company. Many times, Gusto was praised for providing so much HR capability that the business was spared from having to hire full time HR staffing. One reviewer said, “Employee self-onboarding saves me hours of work each month. I love having all of my payroll expenses organized and synced to upload to my accounting software (FreshBooks) automatically each week. And having my workers comp calculated and automatically paid weekly is a huge help!”

Additionally, onboarding is easy, although that is only available with the Complete or Concierge plans. It can be customized and employees can onboard themselves.

The vast majority of reviews were positive. Of over 1504 verified customers on sites we reviewed, over 90 percent were 4 or more stars.

Major competitors

Gusto’s major competitors include but are not limited to Kronos, ADP, Paychex, QuickBooks and Zenefits.


It is easier than you might think to compete with large employers to properly compensate your best talent, without requiring full time HR staffing. Gusto, and other similar platforms can provide you as a small business owner with a great HR capabilities and online partners and specialists.

Make HR as painless as possible for you and your people.

Comment (1)

  • Leo Harry| August 12, 2020

    Hello this is Leo harry. Starting my own business – Cleaning Services?