Best Brings It All Together

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Best Software seemed to have as many channel and accountant programs as it had product lines. Its Peachtree operations had AccountCare. The Mid-Market Division, which markets the MAS line, had the Best (formerly Sage) Accountant Alliance.

That’s come to an end now as the company has placed all of its referral programs under one umbrella by creating the Best Software Accountants Network. “We changed our focus because we wanted a more unified approach and we wanted to be able to offer our accountants a multitude of products,” says Ed Cheeseman, director of BSAN.

Introduced in October, BSAN is the result of the consolidation of the Peachtree and Mid-Market SAA programs, along with less formal offerings for the company’s FAS fixed asset line and the not-for-profit operations of the former MIP.

Partner Insights

The numbers of participants reported by the company has been somewhat confusing. Best says AccountCare and SAA had 12,000 members who will automatically become Premier Advisors. Irvine, Calif.-based Best is hoping the new system will make life simpler and cheaper for their CPAs who might be interested in multiple software lines. In the summer of 2002, Peachtree claimed it had 10,000 accountants enrolled in AccountCare and the Mid-Market division reported 6,000 for  SAA.

However, Cheeseman says the renewal rates for the members of the old SAA program have been better than expected, and the BSAN program is rapidly approaching 13,000 members. Cheeseman is confident that the program will add about 5,000 members this year.

“We are looking for accounting practitioners who want to increase their technology competency by having access to information and low-cost education to better understand their client’s accounting and business solutions,” says Cheeseman.

Susan Bradley, CPA, at Fresno, Calif.-based Tamiyasu, Smith, Horn and Braun, says, “The new program is much more flexible, as it includes more of the Best products. Also included is more training and demo versions to give clients thinking about migrating up.”

Another change is the number of products available to participants. The SAA program offered accountants only MAS 90 and BusinessWorks. They can now get the full line, including fixed assets, payroll, and Peachtree.

“Many firms are likely to have clients using these popular accounting software products or may be using them internally. If they can own and be proficient in these products, they can assist their clients to use them properly, and the resulting accounting financial information will be more accurate,” says Michelle Geyer, CPA, of Highlands, Colo.-based MG Data. Geyer also likes the program because marketing and practice development support are now offered as well.

The Power of One
Accountants who were not already part of Peachtree’s AccountCare or SAA programs, can choose to enter the program as either Advisors or Premier Advisors.

The Advisor program is designed for accountants who want to stay current on trends in accounting and business management by receiving regular communications from Best, while gaining access to practice management resources and tools.

“We want our Advisors to be familiar with what’s going on at Best and in the accounting industry. Clients rely on their accountants for their knowledge. If our accountants are informed for their customers, their businesses benefit,” says Cheeseman.

As a BSAN Advisor, accountants will receive information regarding the latest trends in the industry. Access to this information is available via Best’s quarterly Network News, regular e-mail communications, and a dedicated Web site that will keep advisors updated on Best Software upgrades and news. The program also provides access to training, discounts on software and services, and support. Advisors can choose to receive services from both Best Software and a local Best-authorized software specialist. BSAN helps develop these relationships to assist advisors and their clients who need software expertise and technical assistance. Member fees are $100 per year per accountant for advisor membership.

The fee structure is a big change. Basic AccountCare had an annual fee of $299, while SAA had a $395 fee. Under BSAN, the Peachtree library is $295 the first year with a $195 renewal while the MAS 90 library has a $395 entry fee and $295 annual renewal.

Geyer likes the product pricing. “BSAN membership provides me with current copies of the software and all upgrades at a special price for CPAs. I use it internally as my accounting software in addition to helping my clients who use it. The BSAN program also provides me access to their excellent Customer Support Services program. Training is available to me as well as attendance at conferences, which also allows me to get CPE in my field of specialty,” says Geyer.

Advisors may want to access specific software, information, and services within the Best Software family of products to reference when assisting clients or to use internally with their firms. BSAN enables accountants to do so by including all of the benefits of the Advisor level, plus access to product libraries to form the BSAN Premier Advisor Program.

Premier Advisors have access to full working not-for-resale copies of the software. Product libraries that are available to Premier Advisors include Peachtree Accounting, MAS 90, MIP, FAS, Abra, Timeslips, and Act. CPASoftware applications are also  available at 20 percent off list price to BSAN members. “We want to get our software in the hands of our accountants, inexpensively. If they can run the programs internally in their firms and see the benefits, then they are more confident with clients’ questions and needs,” says Cheeseman.

Cheeseman feels the CPASoftware product library is particularly beneficial to advisors because it is the flip side to Best’s other offerings. The CPASoftware suite offers management tools and productivity solutions for CPAs firms. Visual Practice Management, includes time and billing, contact management, accounts receivable, project management, tax tracking, marketing and reporting modules. Also included are Visual Client Write-up, Visual Payroll, Visual 1040 Tax, and Visual Business Tax. He says, “The CPASoftware suite offers both accounting and tax preparation, and we have already added 300 new customers to it.”

Furthermore, Premier Advisors have access to Web-based support services that provide online self-help, technical product information, and updates to members and customers, and while the BSAN Web site provides additional tools.

Bradley, a Premier Advisor, feels whether assisting clients with Peachtree or MAS 90, the BSAN program allows her to do two things. “First, it assures me that I am ‘legal’ and using the appropriate software in my firm,” she says. “And secondly, I’ve got a live version of what my client has and it’s not a demo, or ‘time bombed’ edition. You can not properly support a client on accounting software without being able to physically use the same software in your firm.”

Bradley also uses it at year-end to assist in preparing tax returns. “Rather than have the client print out the reports that they think we need to prepare the tax return, I can print out the reports that are needed in our office. It also allows us to better track transactions, assist in tricky postings-in general, be much more responsive to our clients’ needs.” 

 

Carly Lombardo is Associate Editor of
Accounting Technology and can be reached at
carly.lombardo@amgpubs.com.

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