Cougar Ramps up Again

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By Carly Lombardo

Cougar Maintain Software would like to grow its channel, but not to anything like the more than 2,000 accounting software resellers it had six years ago. Cougar is looking for a few good VARs.

“In the past, partners called when clients were interested in the software and then we would never hear from them again,” says David Haworth, business development manager. The Boise, Idaho-based company currently has 250 partners and is looking to roughly double that. Cougar Mountain realizes that, with the new channel requirements and training options, it may lose the bottom part of the channel. But it wants to make sure that it finds dealers that complement its services.

Partner Insights

Cougar Mountain Snapshot

Headquarters: Boise, Idaho
Phone: (800) 388-3038
Web:www.cougarmtn.com
Founded: 1982
Employees: 65
Annual Revenue: $5.1 million
Products: Cougar Mountain Accounting, Fund, and Point of Sale

“Now, we’re looking for partners with business typically in the $1 million range with at least four employees and 50 percent of their annual revenue coming from service. In addition, we want them to bring another value to the table, we don’t want them to just sell the software,” says Haworth. Marketing director Jim Stone noted that the company’s effort is aimed at raising the average size of Cougar resellers, with particular interest in attracting organizations with full-time sales people and full-time consultants.

Cougar will accept resellers with a wide variety of backgrounds, including networking or hardware specialists. It’s not targeting experienced accounting software resellers, although “we wouldn’t necessarily exude them,” says Haworth.

In a rapidly changing market, Cougar emphasizes that not only has it been in business since 1982, but it has the same owner, Bob Gossett. The company offers accounting, nonprofit accounting, and point-of-sale software, and markets products suited for a wide variety of vertical markets.

The Cougar Mountain Accounting line includes basic accounting modules and add-on modules such as multi-location inventory, bank reconciliation, payroll, purchase order, e-commerce, report generator, and barcode generator. The accounting line starts at $1,499.

Its not-for-profit package, Cougar Mountain Fund, starts at $999, and is designed for nonprofit organizations and government agencies. The Fund suite includes general ledger, bank reconciliation, accounts payable, purchase order, and data exchange modules, as well as Liveware’s R&R Report Writer Version 9.0. Cougar Mountain Fund Revenue Center bundles order entry, accounts receivable, and inventory modules for customers with sales, order entry, or revenue-tracking needs.

Meanwhile, Cougar Mountain Point of Sale enables users to tighten inventory controls and set promotional pricing. It comes in standard Point of Sale or Point of Sale with Back Office Accounting, which integrates with the company’s accounting system and starts at $699 without hardware. Cougar also resells a variety of hardware, including cash register systems and POS workstations, and peripherals such as monitors, scanners, and credit card readers.

Good leads
But it’s the leads provided by the company that are the best thing about Cougar Mountain, says Joel Eisenhandler, an Albany, N.Y.-based computer consultant who has been a part of the channel for a year. “When Cougar does advertising and leads come in, the sales representatives pass them on to qualified partners because they don’t get penalized for doing so,” says Eisenhandler.

He has received about 12 leads, closed a handful of those and is working on the rest. “The good thing about leads from Cougar Mountain is they’re pre-qualified. I’m not chasing my tail all over the place. With other software companies, I received leads that didn’t have the right address or phone number for the contact person,” he adds.

One lead Cougar Mountain provided led to the sale of Cougar Mountain Point of Sale with Back Office Accounting and a specialty shop add-on. Eisenhandler’s services included setup, training, minor cabling, conversion of the existing inventory from an Excel spreadsheet and three months of support. That was a $16,200 deal.

Time for a Commitment
The channel program is broken into three levels and includes opportunities for independent software vendors, value-added resellers and consultants.

  • Level One partners receive a 30 percent margin and must spend at least $5,000 annually.
  • Level Two partners receive a 40 percent margin and must spend at least $10,000.
  • Level Three partners receive a 50 percent margin and must spend in excess of $15,000.
Once partners join, they receive a choice of start-up packages that include software, brochures, demo CDs, reference manuals, technical support time, and hands-on training. The minimum start-up package costs $500 and allows partners to choose one product, and includes free training for one person. While the start-up package to resell all the products costs $2,000 and includes training for two people and in-house use of the software.

The company is also providing an increased focus on training. The issues they face are familiar to anyone who has dealt with supporting application software. The technician is asked to fix everything that’s wrong.

“Often customers will call in with issues they believe are related to the software when in actually it’s not,” says Haworth. “Their issue may stem from problems with their operating system, network, routers, or hubs. We want partners who can go onsite and resolve these issues or at least be able to refer them to someone who can assist.”

This is just what Eisenhandler, does. “With the one-week program, all I have to pay for is the airfare and the hotel. The training allows me to walk into a client’s office and meet all their needs. I know how everything works and I know how to set it up,” he says.

Eisenhandler has one client who publishes law books that have a subscription component. When there are changes to laws, updates need to be sent out. The publishing company needs to keep track of subscribers so they can match the updates to the right purchaser.

Utilizing Cougar’s User Defined Field, Eisenhandler wrote a routine to read the field to match customers to the publications they have purchased.

The software Eisenhandler wrote creates the data to help form the invoices and then feeds them back into Cougar Mountain.

Because Cougar Mountain has limited technical support hours, it wants resellers to support the customers 24/7, which requires partners to have a complete working knowledge of the software.

Haworth adds, “Some customers want onsite training and it’s not economical for them to pay for our trainer to come to their office. In order to be able to train, a partner has to not only be familiar with our complete software, but has to have a working knowledge of accounting.”

The company also provides a co-op marketing programming that sets aside a portion of revenue that the partner generates to help develop more new business.

Stone says Cougar has been generous in the way it hands out co-op funds that range from 2 to 5 percent depending on the sale. With some vendors, “to get 5 percent, you may have to sell $100,000 [in software],” he says. But Cougar’s program provides the top rate for $20,000 in sales.

The company will also ramp up the funds if the reseller has a program that utilizes Cougar’s services, such as telemarketing, even if services from other vendors are part of the marketing effort. For instance, if a VAR wanted to work with a cash register manufacturer in promoting a POS system and had accrued $250 in co-op funds, Cougar would provide $500 worth of work by its telemarketing services.

“We’re trying to build a customer service foundation, leveraging our partners’ expertise,” says Haworth. “That not only encompasses the customer’s accounting needs but their other business needs as well.”

Carly Lombardo is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at carly.bohach@thomsonmedia.com.

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