Alternative Business Systems - Catering to the Customer

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Norman Wine, senior partner of Alternative Business Systems, is the first to admit it’s a rough-and-tumble marketplace out there. “Quite frankly, it’s been a tough economic climate for the past couple years,” he points out.

Alternative Business Systems

Columbus, Ohio
Founded: 1985
Sales: $1.5 million
Employees: 14
Main Product: Open Systems
OSAS and Traverse
www.altbussys.com

Yet when other resellers were laying off personnel, ABS was expanding its technical services staff. Wine explains, “For many of our clients, we are their IT department. When they need our help, they need it now, not tomorrow or next week. It’s our policy to bend over backwards to make sure they get the help they need in a timely fashion.”

After all, “Our continued success can only be guaranteed by their success,” he says.

Partner Insights

This is the sort of customer-centric approach that has led ABS to climb the ranks and become Open Systems’ second highest revenue generator last year. But Wine isn’t resting on his laurels.

ABS regularly sends out surveys requesting client input on what can be done better, or what additional products and services they would welcome. There are no-charge, on-site customer visits “so we can discuss their business challenges and issues,” reports Wine. There are also the periodic newsletters, and the day-long Client Appreciation seminars for educational presentations that, at Wine’s insistence, contain “no sales pitches.” Additionally, to meet clients’ attest and tax needs, there’s “a close working relationship” with Payne & Company, CPAs.

All this reflects the ABS business philosophy: “When a client calls in with a problem or an issue, it becomes our problem or issue-a very important problem or issue that must be resolved in as timely a manner as reasonably possible,” according to Wine.

Armed with a dual degree in accounting and computer science, Wine got into the VAR arena eighteen years ago when he hooked up with a good friend who had a brand new IBM XT computer and a “boat-load” of Open Systems Accounting Software. He has stuck with OSAS and the SQL-based Traverse product lines ever since.

A major reason for adding technical staff was “to help our clients more fully take advantage of server apps contained in Microsoft Small Business Server so they can better utilize the Internet,” notes Wine. Such applications include e-mail, calendaring, file and print sharing, and remote network administration.

A certified Open Systems eBusiness Partner, ABS works hand-in-hand with the vendor’s own professional services team to ensure that clients who require electronic business functionality-as represented by Traverse eManager, eCustomer Order and Inquiry, and eSales Rep-can get it. Wine acknowledges that e-business is still emerging. “It’s very important to a few of our clients today, but becoming more important to others every day,” he observes.

He describes the Open Systems line as “robust and mature,” yet at a “very competitive” price point. Customers welcome the platform portability (Windows, Unix, Linux, and Novell) and the open source code. Wine notes, “With the source code, our clients can take advantage of minor or major enhancements today or in the future as their business requirements may dictate.”

ABS services a broad mixture of manufacturers, distributors, construction firms, retail, and nonprofits primarily located in Ohio and southern Michigan. Services encompass systems consulting, training, programming, hardware maintenance, and automated checks and forms. Authorized product lines include HP/Compaq file servers and workstations.

The reseller prides itself for being a single-source vendor. Wine explains, “It has been our experience that a qualified single-source vendor can normally reduce the client’s cost of ownership and eliminate most of the finger-pointing” that arises when an implementation goes bad. However, “For this concept to work, the key word here is ‘qualified.’” He points out that ABS has a mixture of systems analysts, programmers, and implementers on staff, many of them also holding accounting degrees.

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