Burch: Training for Success

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Peyton Burch considers the rigorous training he received while at a Big Eight firm as the key to the success of his Burch Consultants. "If you have fabulous software and no one knows how to use it," Burch says, "it does no one any good. Training the client's project team at the outset of the engagement exposes the client's key personnel to all the functions and features of the application."

Last year, his Houston-based accounting software firm trained its clients on the use and capabilities of the business management systems it had assembled utilizing Best Software. This year, it will instruct about 250, the largest number since 2001, when the company was Best Software's Authorized Training Center of the Year. The company which had about $2.1 million in revenue last year, expects that training will represent about 10 percent of this year's revenue.

Burch Consultants, founded in 1986, grew out of the accounting firm Burch & Co., owned by Peyton's father. The company was part of the first group of training centers established by State of the Art, the company that was originally owned by MAS 90 line. Burch's clients, who range from manufacturers and distributors to healthcare and professional services, receive training on the MAS 90/200 and MAS 500 lines sold by the 15-person staff.

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Training begins during the design stage of an implementation. The firm begins schooling users on the system's capabilities to make sure it will meet their business needs. This also serves as an opportunity for the firm and its clients to identify any additional issues they would like to have a system address. And Burch can discuss any additional features or modules that can be added as operations grow.

"Training during the design stage bridges the gap between our knowledge about our clients' business and our clients' knowledge of our applications,'' says Burch.

Training incorporates instruction on accessing modules, data entry, and performing applications and printing reports. It's the hands-on training, in addition to employing case studies, that Burch says were the tools used by instructors at Arthur Andersen. During his six-week training program for staff consultants at the Big Eight firm, Burch says, those two were the building blocks on which he founded Burch Consultants.

The Best-certified trainers-all but one of whom is a CPA--work out of a training center that has a partition that can be removed to turn two rooms into one for the meetings of the Houston Area MAS 90 and MAS 200 User Group. There are 11 workstations in the center.

The cost for the classes ranges from $395 per day for the MAS 90 and MAS 200 4.0 Customer Workshop training, to $1,345 for a four-day training program for a core applications bundle without payroll, and $1,580 for a five-day program with payroll.

The firm does not offer Web-based training for two reasons: Burch says there is no substitute for the hands-on experience clients receive, or for the productive exchange that occurs amongst the students.

Burch cites the firm's success with one client, Southwest Oil Field Products, as demonstrating the value of training in getting and keeping a client.

"Training is key to a successful implementation," says Burch. "What we have allowed them [Southwest Oil] to do is be more competitive and grow by capturing the full costs of manufacturing and gaining control of the finished goods, inventory, and warehouse replenishing costs."

Southwest hired Burch Consultants in 1992 to migrate its users from a mainframe to PC-based accounting. Seven years later, the company upgraded the drilling equipment manufacturer to MAS 200. Two years ago, MAS 500 was installed to address replenishment of Southwest Oil's 38 warehouses.

For the past two years, Burch Consultants had engaged Best Software's reporting tool in its MAS 500 business management system to keep tabs on Southwest Oil's inventory levels. The training given the client's workers on the succession of Best accounting software has contributed to the firm's increased efficiencies, says Burch.

Riccardo A. Davis is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at riccardo.davis@sourcemedia.com.

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