Editor’s note: Charlotte Beat is a regular feature on Wednesdays in Local Tech Wire.PayService.com signed Bellevue, Washington-based ChemPoint, an e-distributor of chemicals, this week as the latest customer for its expense management software.

Fred Germuth, president of PayService.com tells Local Tech Wire he originally founded the company in 1999 with the idea of providing an online payroll service.

“We looked at that hard in the late 1990s,” says Germuth, who funded the company privately for roughly $500,000. “But it became clear there were major players competing and it would take dollars we didn’t have to make a significant impact in that market.”

Germuth says he’s nevertheless grateful the company acquired a “good Internet address,” something not as available now, and shifted the company’s focus.

“People came to us asking if we had an affordable expense reporting product,” Germuth explains. So PayService.com shifted to developing a Web-based expense management product called ExpenseVisor.

After two years of work, the company introduced ExpenseVisor on Thanksgiving 2001. With the exception of the two years of development, Germuth says PayService.com has been profitable since. “It’s my money, so we’re focused on cost control,” he says.

“During the Internet bubble, we witnessed companies getting $5 million take offices in the most expensive part of town without even having a customer. We created this company to be a long-term enterprise. We believe in the way of paying as you go.”

Germuth, 57, has a 30-year career in information technology. He worked in various positions for Prime Computer, a onetime DEC competitor in Massachusetts and for Unisys, Burroughs, and others. “I decided I wanted to take control of my life and run my own farm,” he says.

Web-based service

“In a nutshell,” says Germuth, “ExpenseVisor is Web-based expense reporting.” A user goes online and creates an expense report, which can be done in multiple sessions. When it’s complete, it is submitted to one or managers for approval.”

Because everything is done electronically, the process is more cost effective than paper-based or spreadsheet-based expense reporting in which all the information will have to be keyed into a database. “In our system, creating a report is creating a database.”

That increases productivity because the end-user is doing all of the data capture.

Among other things, that means managers can “get all sorts of information,” such as how much a company spends on car rentals annually. “If you spent $20,000 a year renting cars with Avis, you could go to Hertz and say, we’ll guarantee that if you give us a 20 percent discount. Armed with specific data, you can get a better contract.”

Germuth says clients “want to bring organization and discipline to the expense reporting process and a quicker turnaround time for their employees.” The Web-based system has a higher level of accuracy than others because the software returns it to the end-user to fix if there is a problem, he adds.

ExpenseVisor, unlike competing products, is aimed at small and mid-level clients and priced accordingly, says Germuth. Setup fees for the product range from $1,000 to $1,500 and monthly fees from $6 to $7.50 per user.

The software includes features users can turn on or off as needed, such as currency conversion, but doesn’t junk up the interface with unneeded bells and whistles, says Germuth.

A wide range of clients has embraced the product, ranging from pharmaceutical firms to stock brokerages and Tiffany Jewelers.

PayService.com has five employees in a 2,000 square foot office and Germuth says the company plans to grow this year.

“We have a list of clients who would come on board tomorrow if the funding were there today,” Germuth says. “But as the economy got better, we’ve seen more interest in the product as more funding becomes available.”

Since September, the company signed Canaccord Capital Corp., Canada’s largest independent investment firm, and H&H Systems and Design Inc., of Indiana, which constructs specialty medical facilities such as MRI rooms.

Mariner goes gold

Mariner, a business intelligence consulting company, has been certified as a Microsoft Gold Partner.

“This is a strategic achievement for Mariner and something we diligently worked toward,” says Joseph Guy, Mariner founding partner.

Microsoft Gold Partners are required to meet rigorous requirements for certification and expertise, including submitting customer reference projects verified by Microsoft. Winning the designation gives a company access to exclusive Microsoft resources.

Mariner specializes in applying industry best practices and project management to solve complex problems.

Mariner clients include the Lash Group, National Gypsum, US Bioservices, Novant Health and SunAlliance, Rexam, Transamerica, Siemens of America, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, Russell Corp., and Mecklenburg County.

PayService.com: www.payservice.com

Mariner: www.mariner-usa.com