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Sunday, Apr 14, 2024

Craig Coleman Makes Coastal Coast Above Other Payroll Companies

FINANCE: CFO Enjoys Mix of Numbers, Storytelling and Strategic Planning

Craig Coleman has been named CFO of the Year, medium-sized private company, in the San Diego Business Journal’s annual awards. Coleman is CFO and President of Coastal Payroll, a San Diego-based provider of human capital management solutions serving clients from coast to coast.


“Craig focuses on building and maintaining a culture of operational excellence, world-class customer service, and consistently aggressive goal-setting,” said Jonathan Gallagher, CEO of Coastal Payroll, who co-founded the company with Coleman in 2007. “Craig has a deep understanding that payroll and human capital management services are integrated into the lives and families of every business owner served and their employees.”

Craig Coleman (Coastal Payroll) Photo courtesy of Coastal Payroll

Coleman manages an internal finance team of talented professionals, and also continues to actively contribute to new business development and the introduction of expanded service offerings in the best interest of clients.

In the 16 years that Coleman has co-led Coastal, the company has seen average revenue growth of 20% annually, even during the pandemic. It is now the largest independent payroll provider in the West, and one of the largest in the U.S.

“By putting Coastal in a position of value-led leadership, small businesses are empowered to make the best decisions possible for those they employ,” Gallagher said. “Helping businesses and families not only survive but also build regardless of the market conditions is a goal Craig envisions, and attains, for every client.”

Craig Coleman, Jonathan Gallagher and the Coastal Payroll team. Photo courtesy of Coastal Payroll

Beyond the Books

Coleman prioritizes Coastal’s people and culture. He regularly collaborates with the entire team – more than 150 employees working across 14 states.

He shares state-of-the-business updates to ensure the organization has an understanding of, and appreciation for, growth goals and progress – including how each person at the company contributes to that progress.

A graduate of James Madison University, Coleman has spent his career at the intersection of service and finance. He began his career at Ernst & Young in Washington D.C. and San Diego, before launching Coastal Payroll.

He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and served five years on the board of Independent Payroll Providers Association (IPPA).

Coleman is also an avid golfer and enjoys the great outdoors and spending time with his two children. He spends much of his free time in coaching youth sports.

The San Diego Business Journal caught up with Coleman after his win, and he answered the following questions.

Jonathan Gallagher and Craig Coleman. Photo courtesy of Coastal Payroll

Q: At what stage in your life did you set your sights on the CFO’s office?

A: I studied accounting in college and started my career as a CPA in Public Accounting. I was fortunate enough to spend more time on the Finance vs. Accounting side for my clients, and witnessed that CFOs focused more on storytelling and future strategic planning than accountants. I loved that part of the numbers game and started to shift my mindset in that direction.

Q: What put you on the path to getting there?

A: We started Coastal Payroll in 2007 and I wore many hats as co-founder for the first 10 years. Eventually our growth carried us to the point where I could relinquish the COO role and fully embrace the CFO position.

Q: Think back over your career. Up to this point, what is the accomplishment you are most proud of?

A: Building Coastal Payroll along with my business partner and friend Jonathan Gallagher has been the experience of a lifetime. Without any outside investment and strongly influenced by our commitment to our people and the San Diego community, we have become one of the most respected companies in our industry. We are very proud of what we have built at Coastal.

Q: Of all the economics and business issues in the news right now, what are you following with most interest and why? Which one most directly affects your organization?

A: Coastal Payroll is closely tied to small business and the overall health of the economy. I closely follow economic trends and employment trends to better understand how they may affect our clients. High employment tends to be a good gauge of our clients’ health. Interest rates have driven higher the past couple years and we’ve seen this impact small business borrowing costs.

Q: How big is your team?

A: We have 150 employees.

Q: How difficult is it to hire qualified team members in this employment environment?

A: We’ve witnessed improvements in our recruiting process post-pandemic and are encouraged by the talent we are finding in the market. On the flip side, hiring costs have increased and inflationary pressures have benefited employee wages.

Q: What is the next big step your company hopes to take?

A: We surpassed $25 million in annual revenue in 2023 and are shooting for $50 million by 2027. This is a big step up for us and we are excited about our leadership team and the opportunities for expansion throughout California and in the surrounding states.

Q: What challenges do you face getting there?

A: We’re in a competitive industry and finding great sales and service people is critical to our success. Finding and retaining talent will continue to be a challenge as we grow. Most importantly, we believe in having a strong company culture; maintaining that close-knit community as we grow becomes more challenging.




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