Becoming a member of Wind2 Software's channels program is on par with joining a private golf club. There are three candidates undergoing rigorous training in order to become Wind2 Business Solution Providers, says Wind2's chief executive officer, Dave Marvin. They are the first candidates in at least three years.
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"We are very careful about the selection of our BSPs," Marvin says.
Founded in 1983, the Fort Collins, Colo.-based financial and project management software company has only 10 resellers. However, the company has been on a bit of an expansion plan, opening an office in Toronto last fall and building a new Colorado headquarters.
Marvin's philosophy is to employ a small number of resellers that represent his $13.5 million organization. He says the goal is to have resellers with a commitment to serving customers, as opposed to having an army of dealers whose only focus is on sales. Indeed, according to Marvin, among the multitude of reasons many candidates don't make the cut to become a Wind2 reseller are that they lack a very strong customer orientation, they don't want to commit to representing one product, or they don't possess business or financial acumen.
While VARs must bring these qualities with them, Wind2 has long provided intensive training on its modules, which are designed to help architecture, engineering, and accounting firms track their time and expenses, budgets, and billings.
The Wind2 Financial Management System provides support for professional firms, through standard accounting modules. Other modules include resource scheduling and budgeting, a Web-based Time Entry suite, AR Collections, Purchase Order & Commitment Tracking, and Payroll Plus. The company most recently rolled out the new Government Contract Systems. Wind2 FMS is also available in a SQL Server Edition.
The company also offers Wind2 Award, a CRM line, whose primary modules are AwardCRM and Award Proposals, designed for preparation of qualification and experience statements, proposals, and other submittals for private sector clients. Award comes in a Windows-based Standard Edition and the browser-based Web Edition, which links to Microsoft Outlook via Exchange Server.
In addition to educating themselves on new products, VARs are encouraged to take additional refresher courses throughout the year offered either at the company's headquarters, or at regional training seminars and online.
Wind2 Software also has a multi-tiered channel program that classifies its partners as either "referral" or "full-fledged."
Referring partners, who do not sell software or service clients, receive just 10 percent of the licensing fees generated based on their referral. A full-fledged VAR receives margins that range from 30 percent to 40 percent.
In exchange for their business expertise and consultative skills regarding how Wind2 Software can benefit clients, resellers get the opportunity to build a lucrative business for themselves, Marvin says.
"It's financially rewarding,'' says Marvin. "They should make more than $100,000 annually."
Reseller Maria Kieras Vedral agrees. Since 1988, she has grown her territory from just two cities-Chicago and Milwaukee-to now encompass the north central states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and northern Indiana, along with Indianapolis.
"[Wind2 Software] allowed us to take on more because we were able to perform and we provided more value,'' says Kieras Vedral, president of SilverEdge Systems Software, which she founded in 1988. Today, SilverEdge's revenues exceed $1 million and the Spring Grove, Ill.-based firm has 10 full-time employees.
Training and Support Pays
Kieras Vedral, who has a B.A. in English but says she was "always very good in math," attributes the company's success in large part to the support it receives from Wind2 Software.
"Without their support, [the reseller's] chances of success are greatly diminished and it will take you that much longer to succeed," she says.
Wind2 sells its products directly in areas where it has yet to identify "good" resellers. Resellers, who account for 30 percent of Wind2's annual revenue, operate in Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Seattle, northeast Ohio, southern Virginia, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Vermont, and Wisconsin. The company has branch offices in West Palm Beach, Fla., St. Paul, Minn., and West Lake Village, Calif.
Wind2 Software pursues reseller candidates with a financial or accounting background. In fact, three of its reselling firms are headed by CPAs, while another operates as part of a non-CPA accounting firm. But it is not as aggressive in targeting accounting firms with its financial and project management software. The company counts just a handful of accounting firms among its 3,000-plus customers.
"I wish I had more,'' says Marvin. "It's not a market I've pursued because they are in large part less than 10-employee firms, and we target firms much larger than that."
Marvin adds that most small and midsized accounting firms aren't project- oriented and don't require monitoring hundreds of people and their tasks.
"They are more interested in specialized software we don't offer such as tax planning and write-up. Wind2 Software's 400 time and expense tracking reports are too much for them," he says.
Kieras Vedral says from the initial customer call, the goal is to help improve their businesses by streamlining their processes and reducing overhead. During that first conversation, as well as throughout the process, if Wind2 Software isn't appropriate, they will say so.
"We'll work hard to earn their business,'' says Kieras Vedral, "but if we're not a match, we'll say we can't help. Our job is to identify at least three solid business reasons how we can help them.''
Wind2 can represent significant savings for the firm that would typically invest $40,000 for a single module. Depending upon which module and its configuration, the cost averages $400 per employee, making the expenditure for a company with 100 employees about $40,000.
She says among the ways Wind2 Software can help clients is in providing them with more detailed information faster, in addition to financial data that can help them conform to a budget.
For example, Kieras Vedral says, a client may be using QuickBooks, which is not designed for project management. With Wind2 Software, she says, all of the data is automatically updated throughout the system and can be reviewed by management so that they can make the necessary changes to the project.
The Game Plan
To advise clients what's best for their individual needs, Wind2 Software resellers receive ongoing classroom education and supplemental training. After being accepted into the Wind2 Software program, they must complete a five-day comprehensive course before marketing the software.
Also available is supplemental coursework, consisting of a three-day program that includes training on specialized tools unique to the individual modules. An additional two-day advanced training course is recommended, covering the reporting capabilities of each of the systems.
"I attended the basic five-day training three or four times,'' says Kieras Vedral. "We need to know everything about the software and you just can't learn it in one class."
Besides attending the Wind2 courses, SilverEdge employees spend about 20 percent of their time taking advantage of training made available through affiliations with the AICPA, the Illinois CPA Society, and the Society for Marketing Professionals.
Participating, Kieras Vedral says, helps her and the staff keep their pulse on the rapidly changing industry to assist their clients in making even better business decisions.
WIND2 SOFTWARE SNAPSHOT
HQ: Fort Collins, Colo.
Phone: (800) 779-4632
Revenue: $12.5 million (2004)
Products: Wind2 Financial
Management System; Wind2 Award.
Riccardo A. Davis is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.