Forepoint - Training to Succeed

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Forepoint’s Kevin Cumley is adamant on the point: the majority of failed system implementations are typically the result of inadequate training. He and his partners are resolved not to make that mistake.

Forepoint

Seattle
Founded: 1999
Sales: $2 million
Employees: 20
Main Product: Accpac
Advantage and Pro
www.forepointusa.com

But first, a little background. Forepoint, with offices in Seattle; Chicago; Madison, Wisc.; and Santa Barbara, Calif., had comprised the U.S. operations of Plus International, a public company headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, which went on a buying spree a few years back. However, due to economic pressures, Plus was forced to dissolve, at which point “it made sense for us to make a clean break,” recounts Cumley.

He’s an equal owner of the reincarnated Forepoint, along with partners Jan Goodman in Chicago and Shirley Crocker in Madison. Based in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville, Cumley is responsible for sales and marketing, business development, and strategic planning.

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“Having multiple offices was a new thing for all three of us,” says Cumley. “Standardization and consistency became critical, as we all wanted to be on the same page.” This has included adopting practice management methodologies and structured training.

“We have a formal approach to training,” both internally for staff and externally for clients, he notes. For employees, this has meant classes to develop their “soft” skills such as communications, their general business skills such as project and time management, and of course their technical skills. The last is an ongoing process given the continuing expansion of the Accpac product line to include human resources, warehouse management, customer relationship management, e-commerce, and more.

“Once we feel we’ve done our job internally to have the knowledge and skills we need, we’re ready to bring that to our clients,” says Cumley. The objective is “consistent quality training,” whether on-site at the client’s business or through more general Lunch & Learn sessions.

The desire for consistent quality is also evident in Forepoint’s library of reusable software tools. “Every time we do something from scratch, we look at it and say, ‘Is this something we could re-use?’ so we’re not re-inventing the wheel all the time.” That kind of scrutiny has resulted in custom tools for running a bank balance, for state-specific sales and payroll tax reporting, customized forms, enhanced inventory reporting, and “a couple hundred” other enhancements.

Cumley, with a joint degree in accounting and information technology, was director of IT services for a small CPA firm before starting his own company, AccountNet, in the early ‘90s. AccountNet, which eventually merged into Plus International, was an Accpac reseller. Cumley remains an ardent Accpac loyalist.

“That loyalty helps us have real product depth and expertise,” he notes. He cites, for instance, the versatility of the Advantage Series with its four distinct accounting packages: Discovery, Small Business, Corporate, and Enterprise editions. “That allows [the customer] to start at the low end of the small-to-medium-sized business space and scale all the way upwards,” he points out. Forepoint is also authorized for the source-code Pro Series, although increasingly it’s partnering with Pro specialty houses on those installs.

Despite rough market conditions, Forepoint has shouldered on, with apparent success.

For one thing, the reseller’s multiple locations mean it’s protected to some degree when a particular industry or geography gets caught in an economic slump. If the aerospace industry in Seattle is hurting, say, that may be offset by a good business climate for nonprofits in Wisconsin or for service-oriented firms in Chicago, explains Cumley.

Forepoint also has benefited from the different professional strengths of its three partners. Cumley points out he has considerable experience in operations and marketing, whereas Crocker tends to be very technically oriented, and Goodman excels in vendor relationships as well as HR issues.

A member of the Accpac Presidents Club, the company is also an Information Technology Alliance member, and joined Pivotil Academy to stay up to speed on business methodologies, management guidelines, business tools and reports, and training.

Forepoint is also making a “big push” on selling Advantage Series with the IBM DB2 database with Linux. “We think there will be a lot of opportunities for us there,” predicts Cumley. There’s also “a lot of potential” with Accpac’s eTransact tool for Web commerce, and “We have definitely seen a steady increase in interest in eCRM.”

That’s a lot on the company’s plate, but Cumley’s positive Forepoint is up to the challenge. After all, “What I’m most proud of is the fact that we’ve never had a failed project.”

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