Cliff Hunter: Vertically Focused

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In the belief that you can’t be all things to all people, the Business Technology Solutions division of Gunnip and Co. is busily carving out niches for itself in not-for-profit accounting and disaster recovery services.

“All of our consultants possess an expertise in fund accounting, which is utilized in both NFP and governmental accounting. It is important to us that our consultants understand the accounting issues in addition to the software issues,” says Gunnip partner Cliff Hunter, who heads the technology unit, which operates in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.

Wilmington, Del.-based BTS offers nonprofits a product mix from Best Software’s Micro Information Products subsidiary: MIP Intro, NonProfit Series Pro, and SQL-based Advantage Series, a line that offers a broad range of price points. The firm has a strong client base in various fields such as religious, cultural, and community service-based organizations, and educational institutions. The unit also offers Intuit’s Master Builder construction software and Microsoft network consulting.

Partner Insights

BTS also markets Best’s fund-raising packages, Paradigm and Millennium, and, when it becomes available, will sell Best’s newest acquisition, GT Pro.

Gunnip began selling fund-raising software in October. “It is an entirely different approach since fund-raising is directed toward the development (marketing) side of the organization versus the financial (accountants, CFO, etc.) side for the accounting software,” says Hunter, who started at Gunnip in 1979 and became a partner in 1988. A CPA and a CVA, he has been responsible for technology at Gunnip since 1981.

This year, BTS also added governmental software when it became available as a MIP software product. The package, FAS-GOV, has seen a favorable response. In turn, BTS is developing specific marketing pieces for the governmental package. “We have always provided service to governmental units. However, with the release of the MIP governmental software, we are able to better provide solutions that are unique to governmental units such as built-in GASB 34 reporting. We can also provide FAS-GOV software, which is fixed-asset accounting software specifically developed for governmental organizations,” says Hunter.

Founded in 1998, BTS has seven full-time employees, including a dedicated salesperson and a business development coordinator responsible for marketing. The software consultants have either a CPA or a Masters degree in accounting. Most have worked as accountants, typically as controllers for nonprofit organizations.

As clients become more connected with the Internet and more issues arise, BTS has seen considerable interest from clients for disaster recovery planning. With DRP, Hunter recommends clients utilize fault-tolerant disks, off-site backup tape rotation, and good backup tape software. Hunter says, “However, there are times when a client experiences a complete disk or hardware failure that leaves them without an operating system from which to boot. To address these failures, we utilize Ultrabac backup and disaster recovery software.”

Marketing Master

Of course, these new specialty services don’t advertise themselves. Gunnip has established a record as a sharp marketing operation, summarized by the phrase, “We’re changing the way you think about accounting firms,” that appears on its Web site.

In October, the BTS team, led by Jennifer Sheridan, was awarded Marketing Master of the Year at the MIP Business Partner Conference, and more recently the firm received an award from the Delaware Ad Council for excellence in print advertisements.

Current marketing is targeted towards environmental/conservation NFPs, health and wellness NFPs (Cerebral Palsy, the Epilepsy Foundation, United Way organizations), and foundations, as well as governmental organizations.

What’s the secret? BTS tests various methods of marketing and keeps statistics on the results. “We started with direct mail supplemented with seminars, but found seminars are a more effective way to meet the clients we’re looking for,” says Hunter.

Although direct mail still has its value, mailings are now focused on the audience located around where the seminar is being held that month, and additional direct mail pieces are sent twice a year to every prospect in the BTS database.

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

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