PEO vs Poprouser – Which Is Right for You?

Representing PEO and Poprouser with images

What brought you to this post?

You may be:

  • In the market for an alternative to hiring HR employees or per-hour HR consultants
  • Restructuring, and looking for HR industry experts to guide your organization
  • Expanding, and need a scalable HR solution
  • Exhausted, and sick of doing all the HR, Benefits, and Payroll work yourself
  • Overwhelmed, and don’t even want to be bothered with it

Or maybe you’re just curious.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between Poprouser and a PEO, so that when the time comes, you can make an informed decision.

What is a PEO?

A Professional Employer Organization (PEO) is an employee leasing organization that offers HR services to small and midsize businesses by acting as their legal employer or co-employer. The primary PEO service offerings are:

  • Employee benefits
  • Payroll processing
  • Payroll tax filings
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Compliance assistance

How and why do PEOs exist?

PEOs exist to help businesses outsource various HR functions including those listed above.

Essentially, PEOs act as co-employers with their clients, taking on various HR tasks and responsibilities. This allows business owners to focus on other aspects of their operations.

The legal foundation for PEOs in the United States is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974. ERISA established a framework for employee benefit plans, including health insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits. PEOs are considered multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs) under ERISA. This allows them to provide benefits to employees of their client companies as if they were a single large employer.

In addition, PEOs typically operate under a contractual arrangement with their clients, known as a professional employer services agreement (PESA). The PESA establishes the terms of the relationship between the PEO and the client. This includes the scope of services to be provided, the fees to be charged, and the responsibilities of each party.

What is Poprouser?

Let’s review who we are and what we do. Poprouser is a HR and People Operations consulting firm that provides customized solutions to businesses of all sizes. Rather than simply outsourcing your HR tasks, we work with you “in the business” to design and implement HR strategies that are tailored to your business needs. We bill clients on a monthly basis, in a flat subscription fee.

Our key service areas are:

  1. HR Strategy
  2. HR Administration and Core People Ops
  3. Talent Acquisition
  4. HR Compliance
  5. HR Technology
  6. People Analytics

Poprouser targets small and midsize enterprises of all industries, though some industries are a better fit than others. For example, companies in industries which are comfortable with digital systems and hybrid/remote work are already optimized to gain the most for working with Poprouser.

What are the differences between Poprouser and a PEO?

peo vs poprouser

The choice between a PEO and partnering with Poprouser may be confusing to tell apart if this is your first time procuring HR services. After all, both are considered HRO (Human Resources Outsourcing) operations. Both options provide immense value to businesses, but they have significant differences that are worth delving into.

  1. Employer relationship: One of the primary differences between Poprouser and a PEO is the employer relationship. When you work with a PEO, they become the employer of record (EOR) for your employees. This means that they don’t just handle payroll, benefits, and compliance on your behalf, they “own” it in the legal sense.

    In contrast, when you work with Poprouser, you remain the employer of record, and we provide consulting services to manage your HR functions entirely.
    When you work with Poprouser, it does not feel like HR outsourcing. It feels like you have a dedicated team of the same assistants, specialists, leaders, and project/program managers every day.
  2. Customization: Another key difference between Poprouser and a PEO is the level of tailored services. PEOs typically offer a standard package of HR services, and you may not have much control over which services you receive.

    In contrast, Poprouser works with you to design and implement HR strategies that are tailored to your specific business needs.
  3. Cost: Working with a PEO can be more expensive than working with Poprouser. PEOs typically charge a percentage of your payroll, which can add up quickly.

    Poprouser, on the other hand, charges a flat fee for our services. We only increasing prices when growth milestones are reached. It can be less expensive to start, and with greater long term return.
  4. Compliance: Both Poprouser and PEOs can provide compliance assistance, but the level of support may differ. PEOs typically have a separate compliance department that ensures that your business is compliant with labor regulations.

    Poprouser, on the other hand, provides compliance assistance as part of our consulting services, with a specialist leading the HR compliance program with supporting assistance. Poprouser scales your needs up or down based on the next compliance milestone. Poprouser regularly audits and develops your internal policies, including those outside labor compliance.
  5. Depth of Service: PEOs specialize in outsourcing administrative tasks in HR. They are not embedded in your organization and often do not have the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of your business.

    Poprouser specializes in taking over administrative tasks, optimizing/automating them, and tying it all together. We wrap it up into an HR leadership and a People Operations & HR maturity model that ensures that your HR organization becomes more valuable over time. Poprouser consultants know your employees. The leadership layer Poprouser provides ensures that you don’t need to directly be overseeing HR if that is not your intention.

Potential Benefits of a PEO

Access to External Trove of Resources

One of the key benefits of working with a PEO is access to a wide range of HR services and expertise. In addition to core HR functions like payroll and benefits administration, PEOs can also provide support with compliance, risk management, and other specialized areas. For businesses that do not have the resources or expertise to handle these functions in-house, working with a PEO can provide valuable support and guidance.

Benefits Management

For small businesses short on financial resources or employee headcount to go out to the benefits market and get competitive rates, PEOs have that as a feature in their service. PEOs either partner with specific benefit agencies or have entities legally set up as insurance agencies or fiduciaries. For this purpose, hiring a PEO is likely to be cheaper and less time consuming than finding your own benefit agents and collecting quotes, then managing enrollment by yourself. These tasks are always a pain when you are first starting out.

Integration Time Savings

PEOs gain their market strength from the ability to bring a series of very time intensive tasks and specialized functions under one roof. They become the EOR to eliminate the need for you to be involved. PEOs can handle legal, compliance, and benefit tasks for you without needing your approval. This saves time and headache in trying to understand whatever it is the government, agencies, or carriers want you to do.

They are the agent, the HRIS, the payroll provider, and the compliance officer. With these hats under one system, time to complete the tasks are minimized. This reduces the risk of missing deadlines, or goofing up important paperwork. When outside vendors are selected outside the PEO’s network (for example a retirement plan provider), the PEO may still be able to manage it in a unified platform via software integrations.

Smart PEOs have extensive technology partners with integrations generated via APIs as a natural part of doing business.

Potential Drawbacks of a PEO

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

While working with a PEO can provide valuable benefits (NAPEO estimates that PEOs save clients 27.3% per year), you should know the total costs associated with the partnership. In addition to regular PEO invoices, businesses may also be required to pay for additional services or incur other costs, such as expenses associated with transferring payroll services.

To get the most from the partnership, businesses should understand the full scope of these costs and negotiate with the PEO to ensure that they are receiving value for their investment. You must be a strong decision maker to say “no” to all the sales attempts you will get for unnecessary PEO products and services. You’ll also need the internal capability to oversee the services and software features for which you’re paying.

Internal Control over HR

One potential downside is the loss of control over HR functions. When partnering with a PEO, businesses typically delegate many HR functions to the PEO. This can result in a loss of direct control over these functions. Additionally, some businesses may experience increased costs when working with a PEO, as they may need to pay fees in addition to their regular payroll expenses.

Flexibility and Communication Protocols

Another potential downside of using a PEO to handle HR functions is the lack of flexibility in working with a PEO. Getting continuous improvements to recruitment, onboarding, and employee experience may prove difficult. Contracted consultants may be difficult to reach.

You are likely going to have to make a request to access your HR and Payroll data, as it is now owned by the PEO, not you. Regarding employee relations, employees do not respond well to long wait times to getting their issues resolved. They hate being forced to long phone wait times.

They also do not like having generic articles sent to them as a response to their very specific problems. This bulky communication protocol is a feature of many of the larger PEOs. Since different departments handle each area of HR, internal personnel routing at the PEO consumes excessive time. For business leaders used to responsiveness and having someone embedded in the organization who understands the business model and goals, this can be a difficult adjustment.

PEO Technology

Chances are, if you don’t like the user experience in the HR & Payroll system, you won’t like the PEO. PEOs are not technology agnostic, meaning, that they support a single set of HR and Payroll systems, which are adopted by the PEO. For example, many smaller PEOs use PrismHR, an HRIS that is built specifically for PEOs to use with their clients.

If your needs differ from what is offered in the PEO’s payroll software, the mismatch can cost a lot of time and money. Generally, custom changes to these HR systems are limited to integrations to select HR tech partners.


Both Poprouser and PEOs can provide valuable HR services to businesses.

However, there are significant differences between the two, particularly when it comes to:

  • Employee-Employer Relationship
  • Tailored Services
  • Method of Service Delivery
  • Fast, Dedicated Support
  • Technology Neutrality
  • Pricing and Billing

To be frank, we’re being modest about how Poprouser performs when compared to a typical PEO. We want to limit our bias in presenting the information clearly, honestly, and transparently. However, the best option for your business will ultimately depend on your specific needs.

There are certain conditions under which we find a prospective client is not an ideal match for working with Poprouser. In those instances, we refer them to firms which specialize in large enterprises. This includes PEOs which we can vouch for their quality and have decided to partner with.

To get the most out of Poprouser or a PEO, establish clear expectations and goals from the outset. This includes understanding the specific services that will be provided, as well as the timeline for implementation and ongoing support. Businesses should also ensure that they have access to regular reporting to track their progress and make informed strategic decisions. With Poprouser, this is a normal part of our service delivery, and we stay on top of these items relentlessly.

Ready to Make the Decision or Need More Info?
Let’s have a chat on where you want to take your business, and how we help you get there.

Are you struggling to keep up with the demands of managing your workforce? Tired of overpaying for “task management?” Our Core People Operations services build, streamline, and optimize your HR processes, so you can focus on growing your business. Don’t let HR headaches stall your growth any longer.

Cody Bess