Clifton Gunderson was so impressed with what Alan Hardy was doing with MAS 500, they acquired his company.
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A CPA and CISA, Hardy founded Tempe, Ariz.-based Effective Systems Consulting in 1995. It gradually expanded to employ eighteen technology consultants, and became a leading reseller for Best as well as Navision software. Hardy himself was one of the masterminds behind the implementation methodology that now forms the core curriculum of Best “boot camps” held for resellers nationwide.
| Clifton Gunderson |
“We wrote the book on implementation,” states Hardy. A standardized methodology helps to set realistic expectations for both the client and the consultant, which translates into a smoother install and a happier customer, he explains. He continues to see that methodology updates keep pace with new Best product releases, available to VARs at www.mas90implementation.com.
This methodology is in keeping with the CG Way, a hallmark of which is to “Stay Close to Our Clients.” The objective is to build long-term relationships with clients so that the reseller can not only respond to, but even often anticipate, the clients’ technology needs and opportunities. Toward this end, CG deliberately pursues a best-of-breed approach to product selection. Besides Best and Navision, CG also handles Microsoft Great Plains Edition, Open Systems OSAS and Traverse, and Blackbaud for nonprofits.
Over the last year, Hardy’s played a key role in sustaining CG’s perennial position as a Top Five Best reseller out of a field that exceeds six thousand VARs. CG, ranked as the 12th largest CPA and consulting firm in the U.S. with offices in thirteen states and Washington, D.C., is authorized in every product and platform under the Best umbrella.
Hardy describes CG as similar to Effective in being “extremely aggressive” about representing the entire Best portfolio. “Clients really want to deal with one reseller,” he has found. No less important, “We didn’t want to be qualified out of any opportunity.”
He cites the case of Teva Sport Sandals, a MAS 90 customer that needed to expand beyond catalog sales and embrace e-commerce. “They really wanted to stay with us, but they wanted more of an Internet presence,” recalls Hardy. Effective was able to oblige with a 20-user, SQL-based MAS 500 install that includes a Web store, which allowed Teva to double its business in the first eight months of operation while simultaneously lowering labor costs.
Hardy, who first began handling MAS 90 fourteen years ago as an independent VAR, is keen on extensive product training, for both CG consultants and end users. Clifton Gunderson currently operates four Authorized Training Centers for Best. “We require new clients to come for training,” notes Hardy, who has discovered that “client satisfaction is much higher with training.”
At the training center, clients can learn all about the nitty-gritty features of the product they’ve purchased, so that when a consultant goes on-site, discussions can be focused on applying those features to their business. For example, having already learned about setting up an item in the Inventory Control module at the center, a client can follow that up back in the office with learning how to use inventory data to better regulate purchasing, production, and shipment schedules. This means consultants can truly function as consultants “and not just as field trainers,” says Hardy.
This past year, the technology practice accounted for $10 million in net fees (gross margins on software sales and services) out of a corporate total of $130 million. The technology arm employs roughly 10 percent of CG’s total 1,500 employees.
CG further differentiates itself from rivals by offering a range of network and data center services, with consultants certified in Microsoft, Novell, Citrix, and Cisco. Also, a ten-year alliance with Compaq has thus far resulted in the installation of over fifteen thousand desktops, notebooks, servers, network appliances, and personal digital assistants.
“Historically, I have not been a proponent of providing hardware/networking services to clients,” concedes Hardy. However, a survey of Tucson clients convinced him otherwise, when an “overwhelming” number of respondents said they would welcome the local office’s providing these services. “That [business] is growing for us by leaps and bounds in Arizona,” he notes, leading him to concur with those surveyed that “Knowing the applications and the networking combined is a value-added service we can provide them.”