Chad Richison, founder of the Oklahoma City payroll company Paycom, learned a valuable lesson about success by narrowly losing a high school wrestling match that he probably should have won. "No excuses,” Richison said. A Tuttle native, Richison and his wife — his high school sweetheart — moved back to Oklahoma from Denver to found Paycom a decade ago. The Web-based company, which handles payrolls for businesses large and small, has repeatedly been recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. Richison sold a majority stake in the company to a private equity firm in 2007 but remains heavily invested in the business and plans to continue to head the operation even after the private equity group departs, most likely through a public offering. Richison, 38, recently discussed his company, his varied interests and his management style. This is an edited version of that conversation. Q: I understand you’re interested in mixed martial arts. Can you tell me about that? A: We started up a company a year ago, Big Dog Productions (I didn’t pick the name). We did our first fight at the Coca Cola Bricktown Events Center in May. We’re going to have six fights a year. Our third fight ever is going to be Friday, Dec. 11, and we have Jared Hess coming in to fight. He’s a local guy and was runner up in the Belatore Fighting Championships, and he’s probably one of the most well-known fighters here. Some friends and I have always gone out and watched the fights in Vegas. It’s one of those things the first time watching it — my wife said, "Turn that off; it’s terrible.” The second time you watch it, you kind of bear through it. After that get you kind of get hooked, once you have respect for the sport and know what’s going on and see how they treat each other after the fight. They’re real athletes. It’s one thing to wrestle for 3-minute periods. It’s a whole other thing when you’re going for 5-minute periods and someone can swing at you. Q: Paycom has received a lot of attention for its growth. Is it still growing? A: We’re still hiring 15, 20 people a month right now. We’re still in a growth mode. We grew about 60 percent this year, and we opened up (operations in) five cities in 2009. We have four (cities) planned for 2010. Q: And more clients, as well? A: We add between 400 and 500 customers a month — new customers. Our value propositions really kicks at about 25 employees or more. That said, 20 percent of our business has less than 25 employees. We do payrolls for companies of all sizes. Q: If the private equity group that bought a majority stake takes Paycom public, would you remain in charge? A: I never planned on getting out of Paycom. It’s what I do, and that hasn’t changed. We have a very good management group. With Paycom, everybody who’s there has worked their way up. We haven’t hired anybody from the outside ever to come in and be a manager. They all worked themselves up from the bottom, and that includes me. I worked the stuffing machine and ran payrolls and delivered payrolls and did it all. It’s really a part of who I am. I don’t plan on leaving. Q: What’s your biggest regret? A: The biggest thorn in my side is a wrestling match I had in high school — it is now and always has been that I never was a state champion in wrestling. ... There’s always that match you’d like to get back and wrestle again. It was my senior year. That’s a regret that I have. I didn’t do the right thing. It was against somebody I’d already beat. I got ahead like 5-0 right off the bat and then I just coasted and didn’t try to put away. I got taken down at the end of the match and got beaten by one point. I went up to my coach and said "There wasn’t any time on the clock. Why didn’t you say something to the ref?” I’ll never forget what he said, Coach Greg Hanning said, "You had several opportunities to win that match, and you’re the one who put it in the referee’s hands.” From that point on, I went with the "no excuses” viewpoint, and I do it today with my business. Q: What’s the best advice you ever got? A: My dad told me "You don’t manage the truck drivers lest you drove the truck.” From that day on, I changed our strategy at Paycom to be hire from within, and we don’t put managers over people if they haven’t been in the trenches and done that job. That means instant respect. They know you know what you’re doing. That was great advice and things started clicking for us at that time.
Personally speaking→Position: Chief Executive Officer, Paycom. →Age: 38. →Family: Wife, Nissa, and four children. →Education: Journalism degree from the University of Central Oklahoma. →On the iPod: Everything from show tunes to country to rap to teeny bopper. →Hobbies: Golf, snow skiing, racquetball, traveling with family. →Favorite golf course: Pebble Beach →Favorite ski resort: Breckenridge, Colo. →First daily Web visits: Wall Street Journal, NewsOK.com. →Pet peeve: Excuses. "I understand there are some. But you shouldn’t say them out loud.”