Jo Barsa: CPA+Reseller=Advisor

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After being let go after six months as a comptroller for a small ambulance company Jo Barsa, who has also worked in the audit department of Ernst & Young, realized how best to put her auditing and accounting technology skills to use. "My unique ability is being able to assess what a customer needs very well and provide that to them," says Barsa. "Part of the what we do is preventative which allows them to focus on what they do best."

She has a track record to back up that claim of unique abilities. Since Barsa began what is now known as the Barsa Companies, she has been an all-around performer. Last year, the San Diego Society of Human Resource Management nominated Barsa's organization as one of the best companies to work for in San Diego. Jo Barsa was also named as a finalist in San Diego Journal's Eleventh Annual "Women Who Mean Business" program for the second time. The VAR was also Platinum for Windows Partner of the Year for 2001, 2002, 2003.

Her operations include a traditional CPA firm, Barsa and Associates, and Barsa Technology Solutions, the reselling arm, which was spun off in 2001. Together, the units generate annual revenue of about $2 million with about 75 percent of revenue coming from the reselling business.

Partner Insights

BTS carries Best's MAS 90/200 and MAS 500 accounting software, along with Epicor's Enterprise. However, about 80 percent of revenue comes from sales of MAS 90 to medium-size businesses. Despite the success with Platinum for Windows, which serves the process manufacturing market, that customer base was sold to a former employee last summer because it competed with MAS 200.

Barsa believes that operating both the CPA and reselling firms gives her an advantage over competitors that focus solely on technology.

'They [competitors] don't understand the headaches and challenges our customers face everyday," says Barsa. "We can find better solutions because we can relate to the clients' pain." The CPA firm promotes the ability of its professionals to support a wide range of accounting software, including QuickBooks and Peachtree, in providing services to clients. Barsa also has an outsourced IT division that provides security services to clients and began providing Web site development last year. And it offers remote support services through a utility called BarsaConnect.

The Barsa Companies employ 15 people: two exclusive to the accounting firm, six dedicated to the technology group, and seven administrative and managerial employees shared between the two. Moreover, professional employees of Barsa Technology Solutions all have experience either as a controller or CPA before joining Barsa.

The company has come a long way from the time when the staff was just Barsa. "I was doing all the implementation in conjunction with the clients that utilized my accounting services,'' says Barsa.

Last fall, she hired a person dedicated to marketing. Previously, Barsa had one employee whose responsibilities encompassed both sales and marketing. When that person left the firm, Barsa said she created a position whose sole responsibility would be to direct marketing. The company now has a marketing plan and a dedicated budget. Barsa has an active Webinar program for MAS 90 and also hosts a user group.

BTS is also partnering with other resellers and consultants to expand its reach. For example, Barsa is working with Spinnaker, a South Orange County CRM reseller to upgrade the software at the company of motivational speaker Anthony (Tony) Robbins. Spinnaker is installing Best's SalesLogix package while Barsa is upgrading the accounting line from MAS 200 to MAS 500.

Barsa expects to benefit both from expanded marketing, and the need of companies that bought financial software to solve Y2K problems to follow a normal replacement cycle. She is also eying additional product lines on the way to what she expects will be $8 million in revenue in three years.

Success, she says, is not just built on business expertise and experience, but also on integrity and long-term customer relationships, including some that have lasted more than a decade.

"Our business is about the relationship, not about the sale,'' Barsa says.

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

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