ATX is hoping to solve what it considers the twenty-first century accounting practice problem. "Competition, combined with new computer technologies, has accelerated the completion of compliance projects such as tax reporting, auditing, reviews, and compilations. This increased efficiency has resulted in reduced billing hours for accounting professionals," says David Olsen, executive director of accounting products.
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The Caribou, Maine-based company, best known for its low-cost 1040 tax preparation software, feels it can help its accounting professionals retain more clients while boosting revenue with its Professional Partner Program (P3).
ATX started the channel program in the fall by targeting accounting professionals, and will go after traditional VARs in the first quarter. There are already 40 accountants signed up, and Olsen's goal for the next year is to have 300 accountants and 100 traditional VARs.
Upon joining, partners must purchase Total Accounting Office for an annual subscription fee of $700, the only fee associated with the program. TAO, which uses the AccTrak21 system as an engine, provides accountants with standard accounting software functions, including general ledger, AR, AP, payroll, online banking, CRM, time and billing, and practice management.
However, the key to ATX's program is that once accountants purchase TAO and learn how to use it in their offices, they can offer their clients the business-user versions of TAO called Total Command and Cash Command. "We're providing a mirror version of TAO actually tailored for accountants so it enhances their tax and write-up services," says Olsen.
"We think our approach sets us ahead of the competition. We created TAO first to meet accountants' needs before we created the Partner program. It's a two-in-one deal. They use it in their office, and now they can sell it to their clients. We're providing P3 as a revenue and service opportunity."
Partners can offer both products, enabling clients to send data directly to them for professional assistance, and partners and their clients stay as current as they need to be. Total Command has an integrated series of financial modules that include general ledger, AR, AP, payroll, cash management, CRM, document management, and BusinessSmarts analytics components. It is geared toward single users, small businesses, and middle-market enterprises.
This package includes all the benefits of TAO and allows accountants to implement controls and perform key services. For example, the accountant can remotely review checks and reconcile the checking account, which helps stop embezzlements.
Olsen believes there is an abundance of low-end software for small businesses in the $1,000-to-$10,000 price range. However, once small businesses want to upgrade to mid-range software, the price range jumps into the $10,000-to-$50,000 range. "We're targeting the small businesses looking to upgrade with Total Command, and we're offering the software at the $3,000-to-$8,000 range," says Olsen.
Cash Command has tools to help the small businessperson keep daily receipts and disbursement transactions running. They can organize and manage their daily finances while keeping records up to date. "It gives accountants a simple checks and balances program they can provide to their clients that will simplify their monthly data migration process," says Olsen. "Upon importing data into TAO, the accountant can generate various analysis reports, giving them more advanced CFO capabilities." Cash Command is $200 for a single user and $300 for multiple users.
In addition to putting Olsen in charge of the channel, ATX hired half a dozen new employees in various sales, administrative, marketing, and support roles, including accounting technology professionals to provide expertise in system implementation and to support field efforts.
ATX provides partners with two options when it comes to selling the software.
The software leasing plan option is geared toward the business that is stepping up from low-end software and wants to minimize up-front cash commitment and have a level cost of maintaining the software. For example, Total Command's accounting management suite starts at $2,000, but for those choosing the leasing option it starts at $1,000.
Meanwhile, the software purchase plan option offers margins on the initial sale and follow-up service opportunities. "We wanted to recognize the price sensitivity of small businesses. For now, we're going to provide both options and see how it goes. However, so far more partners are choosing the purchasing option," says Olsen.
The program is broken into four partner levels: Consultant, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
* Consultant Partners purchase up to $5,000 in software and receive a 10 percent margin.
* Silver Partners purchase from $5,001 up to $10,000 in software and receive a 25 percent margin.
* Gold Partners purchase from $10,001 up to $100,000 and receive 30 percent margins.
* Platinum Partners must purchase over $100,000 and receive a 40 percent margin.
Most new partners start at the Silver level. All participants must maintain a current license of TAO for their own businesses. They also receive a demonstration copy of Total Command and related modules for sales and training efforts.
The initial software purchase entitles users to three support incidents in the first 90 days from purchase. Additional annual support may be purchased in units of four for $250 or 10 incidents for $500.
William Earley, a sole practitioner and owner of Racine, Wis.-based William Earley & Co., has moved from Creative Solutions' Ultra Tax and Client Write-up to ATX's TAO, and finds TAO's relational database and reporting features are just what he needs to assist his clients. "I'm moving toward helping my clients build a better business, instead of just making sure they're compliant," he adds.
Although Earley has just started with the program, he seeks to have at least 20 clients using Cash Command in the next year. "Cash Command allows me to help my clients with cash flow. I can record deposits, withdrawals, bills, transfers, credit card charges, and payments. Once I set things up for my clients, I can also easily export and send financial transactions to my office," says Earley.
During his first installation, he charged one price, $200, for software installation, and
HQ: Caribou, Maine
Many of the program's benefits are still being selected. Resellers and consultants can download logos and other sales collateral from the program Web site for marketing purposes. ATX encourages partners to use these tools on their Web sites, business cards, presentations, proposals, and sales and marketing materials.
Currently, partners receive training as part of TAO at no additional cost. "We train the accountants at their offices on how to use the software, and it lays the groundwork. We're planning to provide additional advanced training for partners and end users on topics such as advanced reporting, document management, and analysis tools," says Olsen.
Also under development is a P3 Directory, which will be available on the ATX Web site. The directory will contain information on the partner, area of expertise, and membership level.
Carly Lombardo is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at carly.bohach@