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I thought that the events of the past week that were worth noting, starting with a couple of key acquisitions in the VAR (or professional service provider, if you prefer) world.
News: Top Sage North America partner Net@Work has expanded its nonprofit accounting software business through the purchase of Blytheco’s Abila practice. Net@Work takes on an additional 100 clients using the nonprofit accounting software that were served by Blytheco, as well as Mary Esslinger -- a key member of the Blytheco nonprofit practice who will help transition over nonprofit clients to Net@Work.
My Take: So it should come as little surprise for those that know Net@Work that they don’t do things in a small way. They’ve wanted to better serve nonprofit customers for a while, but as the co-presidents of Net@Work, Alex and Ed Solomon, and even Abila president Krista Endlsey have pointed out, “You don’t just dabble in nonprofit.” So what did they do? Well, back in the spring they purchased one of the most successful nonprofit accounting partners in the former Sage family, Huckstep & Associates, and essentially retrofitted a nonprofit accounting practice into their growing stable of service offerings. Now, with the purchase of Blytheco’s Abila practice they add another 100 customers and help a long-time strategic partner out with their own consolidation plans in the process. Blytheco, admittedly, hadn’t been growing this part of their business over the past couple of years and realized they need to be in more dedicated hands. Kind of a win-win here, if you will excuse the cliché. One thing I find somewhat humorous is that it took Sage selling off its nonprofit accounting division for their largest partner to move into selling nonprofit accounting software. Just timing I guess.
News: Top NetSuite partner ERP Guru has merged in Enabled Success Inc., another leading NetSuite VAR with offices in Canada and the U.S. ERP Guru plans to retain all Enabled Success staff and offices, as well as its base of 100 customers, bringing its total to over 600. Enabled Success chief partners Walter Merkas and Paul Doucet are also planning to stay on for the foreseeable future.
My Take: I guess first off I find it interesting that we’re starting to see consolidation in the NetSuite channel, but these are two firms that really have been at it for the better part of the publisher’s existence -- or at least the existence of their channel program. They have also represented very little else other than NetSuite in that time, so it stands to reason that the natural course of a partner lifecycle would take hold. Plus, you have a firm like ERP Guru -- a virtual rising star not only in the NetSuite channel but in the VAR world in general, as they just made the VAR 100 for the first time. At the same time, Enabled Success, who had been doing very well and earned accolades and awards from NetSuite, was simply not growing at the same pace. They also have both a strong Canadian customer base, as well as some U.S. offices, which will help further expand ERP Guru’s presence here. In addition, ERP Guru is positioning itself as one of the “go-to” firms for new and newish NetSuite partners who need guidance and expertise in establishing their own NetSuite practice. The firm has even gone so far as to form its own partner program geared towards this purpose -- something many other top VARs haven’t done but we could see in the future. More partnering equals more growth potential in this space.
News: Cloud accounting software provider AccountantsWorld has appointed the former head of CCH Small Firm Services, Jeff Gramlich, as president. Gramlich has served the accounting profession for over 30 years in a number of capacities. Most recently, he was president of CCH SFS, and was instrumental in creating and developing the $130 million unit via both external acquisition and organic growth. He will be reporting to AccountantsWorld founder and chief executive, Dr. Chandra Bhansali.
My Take: This to me was pretty big news. We had internally been waiting for Gramlich to appear in a new capacity soon, much like his former CCH colleague Mike Sabbatis has done by staying in the accountant-focused technology world. The difference, or one of the differences anyway, is that Sabbatis is serving in more of an advisory capacity, being a board member of Doc.IT and XCM, while Gramlich is charged with running the day to day of an established company.
Other similarities: Both left CCH after experiencing some challenging times -- Gramlich most notably resigned from CCH’s SFS business unit in February after problems arose with the company’s upgrade of its ATX tax software to a new technology platform. One may think that running a company may not be the next move, but I think it’s an opportunity for both Gramlich and AccountantsWorld to see how each can help each other. Here you have a company that could use a boost in its awareness and reach in the accounting community, especially after being one of the first to market when it comes to cloud accounting.
Accountants, particularly smaller firms, are considering more options to better serve their clients and be a more efficient practice every day and AccountantsWorld is a very viable option for many of those smaller firms. They’re established and now they do have a leader who has experience in the world of tax and accounting. Hopefully he will also be a guide and partner to Bhansali who has been the company’s leader since day one. As firms are increasingly embracing change, perhaps they will be even more ready to give AccountantsWorld a real look.