NO PAIN, NO SPAIN
By Matt Benedetti ERS Personal Journalist
“You can have excuses or results but you can’t have both,” said Kevin Hennessey, President of BRABO Payroll on a brilliant October morning in his downtown Plymouth, Massachusetts office.
Roaming seagulls and a gentle surf can be heard from the beach a block south in what was likely the final nod toward a fading Indian Summer.
Kevin flashes a wide smile and bounds about the bright two-story Court Street headquarters brimming with an enthusiasm borne from realized ambition.
Two years ago, Kevin created Brabo Payroll, a full-service comprehensive payroll and human resources firm that provides payroll solutions to businesses throughout southeastern New England.
Since its inception, Brabo has experienced robust growth and is positioned to expand in the near term. Powered by the most secure, and comprehensive software in the industry, Brabo is considered an elite firm.
Always indefatigable, Hennessey is laser-focused on meeting customer needs and keeps a hectic schedule. Although nearing lunchtime, his day is hours from the midway point. Workdays often consume his waking hours but the time demands do not bother him at all.
“I love what I do and care deeply about our clients,” he said. “Nobody will outwork me.”
Do checks need to be in Martha’s Vineyard by 5:00? No problem, book the ferry.
A client has a time-sensitive issue that requires immediate attention? Got it.
Hands-on expert guidance is needed for a client regarding a complex payroll matter? No problem, he is on it.
“People hire me because they know I will always have their back,” he explained. “Our clients enjoy peace of mind knowing that we are an active partner in their success,” he said.
The energetic 31-year-old has navigated a hardscrabble youth, confronted academic hardships as well as surmounted profound career setbacks that would challenge the resilience of the most stalwart individual.
A decade earlier, as a Marine Lance Corporal, his eyes scanned the pockmarked streets, dusty alleys and looming minarets of Al Anbar Province for lethal threats amid the cauldron of Fallujah, Iraq.
Kevin’s alert eyes reflect a reservoir of determination, emotional intelligence, and wisdom. A situational awareness honed through rugged experience has bolstered his resolve to not only survive perilous circumstances but to find his professional calling while achieving success in all aspects of life.
Nothing came easily.
Kevin worked in the insurance industry for several years and noticed an opportunity in the market. Confident he could provide a superior service in the payroll space, he sought advice, reflected and decided to launch his own enterprise, Brabo Payroll.
“Business owners are juggling a thousand things and often find that managing a payroll system is inefficient and time-consuming,” he said.
“Hiring Brabo allows clients to focus attention on generating revenue and business development. By assuming the responsibility of managing payroll and human resources duties, we ease that administrative burden as well as offer sound guidance,” Kevin added.
Scott Hokanson is the president and founder of Brabo Benefits which specializes in small group health insurance plans. Hokanson and his team help clients navigate the design, purchase and implementation of employee benefit plans.
Scott met Kevin several years ago when both were employed at ADP.
“After I started Brabo Benefits I recruited him to join. To his credit, he was reluctant to come over as an employee. So we found a way for him to start his own business under the Brabo branding,” Hokanson said.
“We are two companies under the same umbrella that offer similar services to the same people. I provide the benefits and Kevin, the payroll services,” he said. “Our clients are better served.”
Brabo enjoys steady success, averaging two new clients per week.
Hokanson attributed much of this growth to Kevin’s energy.
“He is an amazing technician at payroll but he is also relentless in getting in front of new people and that is a unique talent few people possess. Our skills compliment one another-this partnership is working out great for our clients and our families,” he said.
Kevin is married to Heather, Brabo vice president, and is the father to an 8-year-old named Aidan. On Saturdays, Kevin devotes the entire day to spending time with Aidan, who happens to love flag football.
Kevin lives in a beautiful home, drives a new red sports car and enjoys a quality of life that must have seemed beyond all possibility to the only child of a single mother struggling to find his way not so long ago.
By any measure, the odds were against Kevin Hennessey.
As the only child of a devoted single mother, love was always in abundance in his home but resources were often strained. As a Hingham grammar school student, he did well in younger grades often being selected to attend advanced upper-level math courses. Numbers had always come easy to the loquacious and friendly kid but other aspects of school proved to be elusive.
“I hated middle school. They said I talked too much and I had a hard time focusing my energies. Once homework was introduced, I fell off the radar,” he said with a laugh.
High school presented significant challenges to the smaller student struggling with maturity and anger. “I was suspended 27 times for fighting,” he recalled.
The wrestling team provided an outlet for Kevin to channel some of this intensity. He enjoyed the camaraderie as well as the individual responsibility of each team member.
Unfortunately, due to poor grades, he never completed a full season but learned valuable lessons that would serve him well.
“Wrestling appealed to me. I love the idea of the sport. I played football but the height disparity could be a challenge. Wrestling was a pound for pound matchup,” Kevin said.
Often he would lose several pounds from the initial weigh-in and be matched against opponents who carried substantially more weight by midseason. Kevin would often find a way to prevail by using his torque and low center of gravity.
During one high-pressure match, Kevin learned a lesson that has always remained with him.
“I was up against a top-ranked kid, he was among the best and it was a huge mismatch in his favor. No one was expecting much from me,” he said.
The coach advised Kevin to go right at him.
“High crotch, double leg and he was on his back. I couldn’t believe I slammed this kid,” he recalled with a smile.
Kevin was determined to take his opponent down and did so with authority. He ultimately lost the match after performing an illegal move but vowed to never again question his own ability.
“I learned to never doubt myself again,” Kevin said.
Kevin’s self-confidence allowed him to form friendships beyond team sports to all groups in high school.
“I had friends in every circle. Whether the jocks, dungeons and dragons crowd or the kids who skipped, I always made friends,” he said.
Despite academic challenges, Kevin knew he was loved at home.
“It was a hard road growing up but my Mom did a great job raising me. I always felt loved,” he recalled.
Similar to many young men approaching adulthood, Kevin felt drawn to the military and specifically, the Marine Corps. Of course, it was not only the sharp uniform and proud legacy that attracted Kevin to the esteemed branch, the reasons were more personal.
Paul Hennessey, Kevin’s grandfather, served 30 years in the Marines retiring as a sergeant major. The decorated veteran with the Clint Eastwood demeanor was a close friend of the iconic Marine legend Chesty Puller and fought in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War in 1950.
Kevin spent a great deal of time with his grandfather and concedes that he had a ‘big-time influence’ on his development. It was only matter of time before Kevin would enlist and find himself in the Darwinian environs of Parris Island for USMC basic training.
He was in his element during the rigorous training.
“I wasn’t afraid of much. After growing up poor, wrestling, football and fighting all the time, I was ready,” he said. “You can’t give in to the pain. By the time you reach the Crucible (final grueling exercise) you feel like a machine,” he recalled.
Kevin said his grandfather attend the prestigious graduation ceremony was a gratifying and emotional experience.
“It was everything you would expect it to be,” he said fondly.
After advanced infantry training at Camp Geiger at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, he was assigned as an infantryman with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment based in Londonderry N.H. His reserve unit soon received orders to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“That’s the reason I joined,” he said matter-of-factly.
While serving in Iraq as part of the Infantry, Kevin held a diverse range of duties while operating in arguably the most volatile area in the world.
On June 8, 2006, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al Qaida leader in Iraq who waged a bloody campaign of suicide bombings and beheadings, was killed by F-16 jets dropping two 500- pound bombs. It was a much sought-after victory for U.S. forces but created a power vacuum and chaos ensued in the subsequent aftermath.
A dangerous place got much worse.
As most Americans watched events unfold with mounting concern from the safety of their living rooms, Kevin found himself kinetically engaged in Fallujah and Ramadi as gunfights and fatal IED explosions became routine.
“You can’t be scared for that long,” he observed. “Death was imminent but you got to fight.”
During his tour, he frequently corresponded with his grandfather, a member of the “Frozen Chosin” by letter or sometimes via stat phone. Advice and encouragement from an old Marine were invaluable to the young Marine living minute to minute a world away.
“You find a version of yourself you didn’t know was possible. Everything that I thought was impossible is in reach,” he said of his combat experience.
Homecoming presented an obstacle for Kevin experienced by all too many veterans: Scant opportunity in a society in which less than one percent serve in uniform.
Despite his exemplary service, few worthwhile options emerged for the eager Marine poised for a civilian career.
Kevin worked at a deli while planning his next move.
“Going from a significant job to an insignificant job is a tough adjustment,” he said.
Undaunted, he set his sights on continuing his service as a firefighter in the City of Boston. In 2008, as a disabled veteran with a high score and Boston residency, he discovered that he occupied the top slot on the civil service list.
Poised to begin the academy, he prepared both mentally and physically.
However, like so many before him, dreams were dashed by City Hall intrigue and forces beyond his control.
The fire academy class was canceled due to budgetary constraints.
As an expectant father with adult obligations, things could not have appeared grimmer. Many would have cursed their luck but Kevin, a Marine was always faithful and determined to persevere. Semper Fi is a lifetime ethos for Marines.
After a stint at Santander Bank, Kevin worked at ADP and experienced success in sales. One year, ADP offered an expense-paid trip to Rome and Barcelona for the top salesperson. Despite strong numbers, he was not projected to meet his target.
Kevin attended chamber of commerce meetings, political events or any business gathering seeking contacts and advice that could help bridge the gap. He coined the slogan, “No Pain, No Spain” and referenced it during every conversation. In meeting rooms, his peers responded to his call of “No Pain” with a rousing “No Spain!”
Kevin won the contest and took his then fiancé Heather to Spain for a honeymoon.
Brabo Payroll continues to grow and Kevin is excited about the future.
“We have the right team with amazing skills. Our customers know they can count on us,” he said.
This is a sentiment echoed by Brabo customers.
“Working with Kevin has been amazing. Brabo has the experience and knowledge and treats us like family. I feel secure knowing Brabo is not only processing but double checking to ensure that every tax filing at both state and federal levels are done correctly and on time,” said Stephen Bowen, owner of Just One Bite Restaurant in Martha’s Vineyard.
“Brabo is different because they genuinely care,” he added.
Matt Bailey from LDL Consulting shares that view.
“Kevin’s style and approach makes you feel like you are working with a friend. It is very easy to explain what I am looking for and he is so smart that he understands and knows how to help,” said Brady. “Kevin deserves every success that comes his way.”
To learn more about Brabo Payroll, please visit their website.
Brabo Payroll offering includes:
- HR Suite including handbooks and job descriptions
- Time and Attendance Solutions to control time theft and overtime
- 24/7 Access to run payrolls
- Employee Mobile App
- Custom Reports
- Compliance Updates
- HR Help Desk Support
- Weekly, Bi Weekly or Monthly Payroll
- Tax Filing and Reporting
- Accrual Tracking
- Federal and State Compliance Assistance
- Section 125 Plan Documents
- Insurance “Pay as you go”
- Annual W2s
- 1094 and 1095 Reporting Assistance