Big Fish, The Beginning

Last Updated on September 1, 2020 by bigfish-admin

Justin Dignam founded Big Fish Employer Services in 2003, propelled by sheer grit and his desire to control his own destiny. After spending 17+ years working for ADP, Justin was determined to improve the quality of service he had experienced when working with other big names in payroll. He found a way to marry his love of all things water with his expertise in the HR, Payroll & HCM industry, and created an amazing organization with top-notch values and an unbeatable level of service. Let’s take a look back at how it all started.

So, where did the name ‘Big Fish’ come from? 

Wondering how Justin came up with his company name? It was born from his lifelong love for the water. Before his time at ADP, Justin was a four-year varsity scholarship athlete as both a swimmer and water polo player at the University of Richmond. After receiving a B.S in Business Administration, he continued to pursue his love for the water as head coach of Wesleyan University’s men’s Water Polo Team and assistant at Iona College. As he continued to compete in Master’s Water Polo and explore the ocean as an avid scuba diver into his adult life, Justin’s love for the water was no secret. 

After holding several sales positions within ADP, Justin was eventually relocated from Connecticut to sunny California – bringing himself and his family close to the golden coast all while satisfying his love for water. In 2003, after a short stint with KRONOS selling HRMS, Justin realized the future of HR was in outsourcing, and he incorporated Big Fish Payroll Services (which has since changed to Big Fish Employer Services). 

Justin said, “I knew I was going to be competing with the big guys. I didn’t want one of those sterile names, but one that would really stand out.” One day as he was driving down Pacific Coast Highway enjoying the beautiful scenery, Justin put ‘big’ and ‘fish’ together and it just stuck. When skeptics doubted the name he created, Justin would reply, “Can you tell me what a Google is?” 

Big Fish: The early days 

In January 2004, Justin began to process his first payrolls out of the spare bedroom in his family home. After about 6 months Big Fish was relocated to its first official office in Orange, California. Almost a year later, Justin hooked another big fish, Jeffrey Hill. The two hit the ground running, becoming an unbeatable pair. Jeff quickly rose through the ranks, and after earning his business and law degrees, and passing the CA state bar, Jeff became President at Big Fish. They continued to build the team, expanding in 2016 to include a Colorado office in addition to the California headquarters. Today, Justin’s daughter Taylor works for the company as a Business Development Consultant. She carries on the family legacy of putting clients as her top priority while offering the most effective customized solutions. 

Culture & values

Accompanying our mission of providing top HR, Payroll, & HCM services, we are also passionate about providing an unbeatable customer experience. At the heart of the Big Fish culture is its people. When growing his team, Justin would make it a point to look for two key values: empathy and honesty. “Do they care? What motivates them to perform at a high level? Our people are good people, not necessarily payroll people or tech people. Those are skills that can be taught. They are the type of people you would want as a friend. When we find them, we train them on our offerings and methodology, then get out of their way and let them do their thing,” Justin said. 

Big Fish is comprised of a close team who takes pride in supporting each other and celebrating all of life’s moments. Justin harnessed his compassion for people and translated that into his business, placing an emphasis on building relationships. The Big Fish culture is emulated by the staff. When you are part of the Big Fish team, you are truly part of the Big Fish family. Employees are happy to come into work every day, and this is something you notice when you call into our office. (Fun side note: Big Fish employees experience such an amazing culture at work that Big Fish has been voted one of OC’s Best Place to Work three years in a row!)

At Big Fish, we believe in hiring amazing people and want to provide them an amazing experience which includes access to great benefits. In addition to the healthcare, insurance, and PTO benefits, Big Fish also offers more unique perks that make for a fun environment, even when times can be intense and stressful. Some of those benefits include: 

  • Flexible Scheduling 
  • Open Door Policy 
  • Birthday Lunches 
  • Potlucks, Holiday parties, and other celebrations
  • 401(k) plan, company matched and 100% vested immediately
  • ‘Take a lap’ policy encourages staff to get up and walk off a difficult moment

Beyond benefits in the traditional sense, Justin constantly strived to provide his team the opportunity to give back to the community. This was of utmost importance to Justin, and he lead by example emulating this in both his personal and professional life. Justin donated to numerous charitable organizations, and beyond monetary donations, he would donate his time to organizations close to his heart. This spirit was ignited in the Big Fish culture, through several programs to give back to the community. Some of these programs include monthly charitable donations to various organizations of an employee’s choosing, and our Feed the Brave initiative, which is a way to thank first responders in the community with a Big Fish-sponsored lunch. Justin’s compassion had no off button. He would never give up on people, and he believed in the mantra ‘Be Good To People.’ Justin made an effort to help everywhere he traveled. (We will save the ‘Big Fish & Be Good To People’ story for another time 😉).

Differentiators: How we swim apart from the crowd

While the idea of having a payroll provider or using outsourced HR is not new, Big Fish provides an experience that is unique from any other provider out there. Our expertise is working with you to craft a specific, custom-tailored solution to accommodate all of your business requirements. We offer a robust and scalable technology, designed to be expandable, allowing your evolving requirements to be accommodated without having to settle for anything less. The Big Fish service methodology is process-driven, with the laser-focused goal of keeping you and your team both happy and worry-free. We help you manage your complete employee lifecycle, from recruitment to COBRA, with a single system of record. With us, you can pay your employees with accuracy and confidence and experience the peace of mind that thousands of other Big Fish clients have attained. At Big Fish, we are able to service clients end-to-end and scale their service package as their needs change.   

“All Big Fish employees are trained to understand and believe that it is much harder to sell a new client than to keep a current one. We do everything in our power to keep our clients happy. When the phones ring, it means someone on the other end needs help, giving Big Fish associates the opportunity to make and keep a client happy.” – Justin Dignam 

  • Live Customer Support: Gone are the days of waiting on an endless hold or being bounced between departments. At Big Fish, we understand how valuable your time is, and for that reason we always answer the phone before the 2nd ring concludes. Give us a call and experience this for yourself. 
  • HRMS: Does your organization need full-time HR representation or support for your current team? Big Fish offers a HRMS service to facilitate the HR compliance, consulting, and training that come with running a business. Whether you need a full time HR replacement, or just need someone to support your current HR team, Big Fish can customize this plan to benefit you. 
  • Technology Solutions:  Big Fish’s HCM technology platform, iSolved, accommodates the needs of the entire employee lifecycle from hiring to separation. Clients love the ability to have a single technology platform for applicant tracking, onboarding, time and attendance, benefits administration, talent and learning management, employee engagement, payroll, human resources, and reporting. Big Fish eliminates the need for third-party systems with clunky integrations and fragmented customer service that often lead to finger-pointing and unresolved issues. 

At Big Fish we strive to be more than just another client vendor—we want to be our clients’ favorite vendor. Big Fish will continue to embody Justin’s vivacious spirit by offering unique services, solutions, and unmatched service as the company continues to grow, hand in hand with our customers, for the years to come.

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