ICode's Channel Partner Program has been transformed. Not even the name remains, as the company has adopted the name of Everest, its primary product. Currently, iCode has approximately12 partners, a 60 percent decline from the 30 it had in 2004, when management began casting off the underperformers.
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The change is part of a facelift that the company made after bringing in new management and new capital over the last two years.
The independent reps that were part of the channel "didn't know what they were doing and they weren't managed well,'' says David Gutch, senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing. "That's why we hired Del Ross."
Ross was hired away from Sage Software to serve as director of channel development. The company also brought on board Eddie Pyrtle as director of application consulting, to recruit product specialists to work with its VARs to both sell and install its Everest accounting line.
"We want people experienced in the space and who have been successful at it to get it off to a fast start,'' says Gutch.
The company appeared to be on a fast path before the latest change. In 1999 and 2002, it got first and second round of funding. Early in 2003, it certified 142 of what were then called iCode Certified ERP Representatives, and reported it had 380 employees, many of them in India. It announced $8 million in funding in November 2003. But that was another era, as the management and channel programs from that period are gone, and the worldwide staff stands at 155.
Everest also changed its URL from www.icode.com to www.everestsoftwareinc.com and adopted a new tag line "Unparalleled View of Your Business." The company says the name change was designed to take advantage of the recognition of the Everest brand. Everest does not disclose revenue, but, according to its Web site it has "integrated more than 3,000 small businesses in 49 countries." However, two years ago, it reported sales of $10 million.
Gutch says that the new reseller program and the product line are more in tune with each other.
"Now it's VAR-ready,'' says Gutch, "The previous product wasn't ready for a partner program. I didn't want to spend the time, energy, and resources on the VAR program until we had a VAR-friendly program.''
Gutch says that iCode previously offered resellers inadequate marketing support to generate leads, little training on the product, and not enough technical support after installation.
VARs can now select from a number of targeted marketing programs, including email and telemarketing, receive technical support, and take advantage of ongoing training opportunities.
Now, with $3 million more in capital infused over the past 18 months, iCode has unveiled what Gutch says is a first-rate channel program.
"At the end of the day," says Gutch, "I need our partners to see how they can make more money from iCode than any other program out there."
Originally designed for companies with fewer than five employees, Everest has now been enhanced to serve those with up to 100 workers.
Pricing for the Everest software package averages $6,500 for two seats, plus another $1,500 for each additional seat. VAR margins range from 40 percent to 55 percent. For example, VARs who purchase up to $25,000 in iCode products receive 40 percent margins; 48 percent margins for $50,000 to $100,000 in purchases; and 55 percent margins for purchases of more than on $250,000.
'I think [margins] should be a consistent 50 percent,'' says Stu Zirin, president of Solution Systems. Zirin, whose reselling business is based in Rolling Meadows, Ill., adds, "Margins in any program are weak. We would always like margins to be better, but sometimes you have to take what you can get."
The retooled Partner Program now has a tier structure that breaks down into three groups -Partners, Certified Development Partner, and Help Desk Support. The certified development partner adds another level of technical knowledge that is helpful in the integration of a software development kit with time and management applications. The help-desk person is certified to support the Everest product.
Because of the product's increased capabilities, iCode believes it will need pre- and post-sales help to assist VARs.
Reselling candidates should employ experienced sales professionals with a staff of at least five sales representatives. Ideally, they should be Microsoft-certified, and have LAN administration and Web experience, as well as software application expertise and some accounting knowledge.
VARs pay a one-time sign-up fee of $5,000, plus an annual renewal fee ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 to cover the costs of marketing, technical support, and training.
Gutch expects to have at least 60 partners by the end of 2006, with at least four including major markets: Chicago, Florida, California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Boston.
Zirin applauds Everest's Ross on his negotiating skills, saying they will go a long way toward helping the vendor cultivate a bond between Everest and its channel partners. Already, Ross has worked out an amicable resolution to an impasse between Solution Systems and Everest.
"He was able to resolve an issue that had been going on for six months," said Zirin, referring to Everest initially refusing to take back unused software after a customer decided against an installation. Everest, with Ross's intervention, agreed to take back the software.
Prior to Ross, Solution Systems had another instance, during its two years as a partner, where it locked horns with company management. This time, the reseller learned of a deal that Everest was working on with a prospect.
According to Zirin, a prospect wanted to work with Solution Systems because of its local presence. Ultimately, Zirin says, they had to go to Gutch to settle the issue. Solution Systems ended up having to take less of a margin for the deal. That situation won't arise in the future because the company is eliminating its direct sales program.
Denis Donohoe, partner at Donohoe Macpherson cited, Everest doesn't flood a territory with channel partners, noting the 120-mile radius between Chicago and Rockford, Ill., and Green Bay and Madison, Wis. where Donohoe Macpherson sells Everest.
"That's just where we focus our sales," Donohoe says, "we perform implementations as far away as Phoenix and Dallas."
Donohoe commends Everest on its training. He says the vendor's training helped him achieve 14 certifications in less than 90 days.
With its revised channel program, Everest and its partners are in synch when it comes to the importance of having local VARS.
"I've talked to people who had talked to iCode, but didn't go with them because it didn't have a local presence," says Zirin. "What we bring to the table is a local presence verses someone behind the scene."
Local partners, Zirin says, cannot only demonstrate the product, but explain it better face-to-face which will help grow Everest's business. Being on-site, at a prospect's place of business, also provides the customer with an added level of comfort and gives the partner insight to their business.
"I am amazed that iCode has had the success they have had selling the product over the phone," says Zirin. He added, "The reason is it is a great product and is priced right."
Everest is more likely to come in on budget by comparison to other software packages, according to Zirin. The average cost of an installation by Solution Systems is $25,000.
Twenty-percent of Solution Systems $10 million in revenues comes from Everest and the remaining from its sales of Microsoft's Navision.
Donohoe says clients at the IT consulting firm compliment the integration and applaud that it is not a patch. The two-year old firm whose revenues exceed $100,000 is an exclusive Everest reseller.
Everest has also hired a telemarketing staff to screen qualified leads for its partners. VARs can choose to either receive all inquiries directly or receive just the qualified leads from iCode's bank of telemarketers.
"We've become their marketing arm," says Gutch, "but, I don't want to tell them how to market. I want to provide them with the resources and tools to be successful in marketing."
While Solution Systems lauds the hefty investment in its Everest software, it would like to see more resources directed to its partners.
"iCode has a great piece of software," says Zirin, "but, what they've been struggling with is the channel program."
HQ: Dulles, Va.
Phone: (703) 234-6600
Employees: 155 worldwide. 60 in the U.S.
Riccardo A. Davis is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.