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Spruce Valley Payroll and Services has been growing in Farmington

Terry Johnson and Bernie Schwab opened Spruce Valley Payroll & Services in 2007, just a few months after they met. The business' phone number is 952-894-6282.

If Bernie Schwab and Terry Johnson were more superstitious people, they might not have started their business when they did. They might have waited a day, or a week. How can you expect people to take you seriously, after all, when you open your doors for the first time on April 1?

Schwab and Johnson aren't particularly superstitious, though, and it all seems to have worked out for them just fine. Since they opened on April Fools Day in 2007 their business, Spruce Valley Payroll & Services, has grown steadily. Last December it grew from a largely home-based operation to an office space in downtown Farmington. Starting from nothing, they now serve about 260 clients, the kind of small businesses that don't have the time, the knowledge or the inclination to handle their own payroll duties. They can help small businesses -- their biggest customer has about 150 employees and most have 10 or 12 -- navigate an area that can be complicated, and where small mistakes can have serious consequences. Payroll tax, in particular, is a big issue for small businesses, Schwab said.

"It's one of those areas you don't want to make a mistake," Schwab said.

Schwab and Johnson are equal partners in Spruce Valley, and they were strangers until just a few months before the business opened.

Schwab spent 20 years working in sales and marketing in the IT industry. Johnson helped build a small-business division of a larger payroll company from nothing to 8,500 clients. They were introduced by a mutual friend with the idea they might like to go into business together.

Things moved quickly from there.

"Terry was open a little bit I was open a little bit. When we started our discussion, it just clicked," Schwab said.

The pair spent about three months putting together a business plan, and everything came together smoothly.

"We're very complementary," Schwab said. "She's excellent at what she does. I'm OK at what I do. At the core of who we are, we have some very common values. Because of that it's easy to work together.... That complementary nature really has helped us."

Spruce Valley currently has five employees, all of whom are from the Farmington area. Their new space across the parking lot from Family Fresh Market has room for growth.

That growth seems to be happening. Last year the company grew 26 percent, and Schwab said the expectation is that it will grow by about the same amount this year.

He might knock on wood, if he were more superstitious.

For more information about Spruce Valley Payroll and Services call the office at 952-894-6282 or visit

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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