Brian Terrell: Building Relationships

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By Richard McCausland

Talk about customer-centric. Terrell & Terrell, CPAs--an Accpac reseller headquartered in Addison, Texas--issues its employees checks that bear the inscription: "This paycheck is brought to you by our client companies."

Principal Brian Terrell explains, "This is a reminder to our staff that client service is the basis of our existence." He elaborates, "Just like in any other business, we endure a lot of stress on occasion, and the temptation is to forget the fact that we need our clients as much as they need us. If we do not remember this, then our competition will."

Partner Insights

Founded in 1991 as a traditional tax and accounting firm, Terrell & Terrell has gradually shifted its focus to technology consulting--it calls itself a Technology CPA firm-- after concluding that, in Terrell's words, "accounting technology provides us more opportunity to expand and excel." It also allows the firm to better cater to clients' needs. Terrell points out, "There are not a lot of existing businesses out there waiting to be discovered for tax preparation work. However, there are many businesses that still use DOS accounting software, or that have not automated their customer relationship or human resources functions."

These days, a "typical" new customer has more than 25 employees and is looking for core accounting functionality, HR, and "maybe" CRM, according to Terrell, who adds, "They are definitely interested in talking about CRM." A five-user license for core Accpac Advantage Series modules, plus HR and CRM, ranges from $25,000 to $32,000. Implementation and training fees "would be at least as much."

Terrell & Terrell recently implemented Accpac CRM at a major client. This module "is essentially a development environment that can be adapted to any business's workflow," notes Terrell. The firm also has begun demonstrating the hosted Accpaccrm.com service to prospects. "We have encouraged our clients to sign up for the free 30-day trial," he says. "I think having this [hosted] option is critical because all we hear today is how successful Salesforce.com is, and how everyone is rushing to get a hosted solution to market."

The availability of options--in applications deployment, in operating systems, in database platforms--is what Terrell regards as one of Accpac's strengths. At the vendor's most recent Partnership conference, IBM recognized Terrell's firm for a 15-user install of Advantage Series on the DB2 Universal Database. The firm has done two such installs, one on Windows 2000 and the other on Red Hat Linux. More are in the offing. "Recently we were contacted by a prospect who was looking for alternatives to the Microsoft stack," reports Terrell. He adds, "I think competition in the marketplace is extremely important."

With $900,000 in annual revenue, the firm now has six employees including Terrell's wife Nancy, who manages the office. The client base primarily encompasses distribution and service companies.

Contract Controller Work
The firm continues to oversee two major contract controller engagements, which require at least four hours per day, every work day. These are fixed-fee arrangements, for which the firm provides the necessary personnel. "All services that can be provided on a part-time basis are provided," including GL, AP, AR, HR, payroll, financial statement preparation, and working with the client's tax preparers or auditors. "Sometimes, a contract controller will become a key advisor and assist in lease analysis, fixed asset purchasing, business planning, and other tasks," notes Terrell.

Terrell & Terrell promotes itself as a technology specialist in general and an Accpac specialist in particular. "We are fortunate to represent a software publisher who consistently delivers high-quality, full-featured products," says Terrell. He cautions, however, that "features rank third" when deciding on a software solution. More important is the "spirit of the [software] organization" as conveyed in its mission statement and marketing materials. Also, "The prospect should decide if they would enjoy working with the individuals who will actually be providing the service."

Experience has taught Terrell, "Implementations fail due to overwhelming relationship failures and not overwhelming feature failures."

Richard McCausland is Senior Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at richard.mccausland@thomsonmedia.com

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