Lisa Kianoff: Building Competencies

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By Carly Lombardo

After sixteen years in business, Lisa Kianoff knows the ups and downs of the accounting industry. And, in the last six months, Kianoff chose to review her company's infrastructure and address the current market.

"People tend to get lazy during the good times, and that's when we as CPAs really need to build our competencies," says Kianoff CITP, CPA, and founder and president of L. Kianoff & Associates.

Partner Insights

It is not as if the operation has been a laggard. Kianoff has been a president's club reseller for Great Plains from 1995 through 2000 and a presidential level reseller for Best (formerly Sage Software) in 1999 and 2000. But the eighteen-person Birmingham, Ala.-based company isn't standing still. It has expanded its sales and marketing department with the addition of three new employees, added Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and broadened its e-business capabilities in a push to stay ahead of "people who just dabble in the industry."

Founded in 1986, the company offers needs analysis, software sales, custom report writing, and system implementation services to clients in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Kianoff is a reseller for Microsoft Great Plains, including Dynamics and eEnterprise, and for MAS 90, MAS 200, and MAS 200 for SQL from Best Software. The company has 250 active clients.

Kianoff feels reaching out to the community and customers differentiates her company from other resellers. Those efforts include the company's CPA "lunch and learn" presentations and its speakers' bureau.

The quarterly "lunch and learn" presentations, now in their second year, provide area CPAs with a free lunch and two hours of CPE, and education in topics such as financial reporting and budgets, and human resources technology.

It also doesn't hurt that Kianoff's accomplishments have been recognized through numerous awards. Most recently, she was honored with the University of Alabama's Alumni UFOs (unique, first, and outstanding accomplishments) award because she was a recipient of the AICPA's Certified Information Technology Professional credential in Alabama.

Kianoff has been a part of Great Plains' Certified Account Executive program for the last three years, and this year she is CAE sales manager. Also, she has added onto her team a full-time Great Plains Sales Consultant, who is the CAE.

The program was designed to bring the Partners sales consultants in as part of the Microsoft Great Plains virtual sales team. "The goal is to build sales skills, have consistent approaches, share ideas, share challenges and as a group become better sales professionals, improve our skills at finding end users where our products are a good fit, and selling more product," says Kianoff.

Kianoff shares information, access to areas on the Web site, training and awards with Great Plains internal team members.

Keeping Up With the Market

A major thrust for the future is developing the firm's CRM business. Kianoff is in the middle of internally implementing SalesLogix, Best's CRM line.

Kianoff does not expect CRM to represent more than five to ten percent of the company's business in the near future. She has hired one person with experience implementing SalesLogix, and also one of her technical consultants has received training and certification for the installation and configuration of the software.

"It's scary going into the CRM market with so many negative stories, but if it's done well, businesses can be more effective and reap the benefits offered in the marketplace," she says.

As the first step, Kianoff is doing away with her internal GoldMine installation. "We are moving from Goldmine to SalesLogix because our needs have outgrown the version of GoldMine we were using," says Kianoff. The company is creating an implementation methodology for SalesLogix to help hold down implementation costs. Kianoff estimates a basic 10-user installation will be in the $25,000 range.

To avoid the downfalls associated with CRM, Kianoff wants to use as much of the existing features in the software. "With creative use of the existing features, we hope to deliver a high percent of a company's wish list for their CRM, while keeping them on track and on budget," she adds.

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