Using accounting software to assist the Port of New Orleans in tracking thousands of vessels and their cargos, helps keeps Coe & Co. afloat. And helping bayou-based industries has done more than just keep the firm ahead of most resellters. Microsoft cited New Orleans-based Coe for Top 2005 U.S. New License Revenue Growth for accounting software products when awards were handed out to Microsoft resellers in March.
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It's a big award, and it's been given to a firm that isn't in one of the nation's easiest markets. Being located in New Orleans, Charles Coe Jr. says his firm faces a challenge that many of his U.S. counterparts don't experience.
"New Orleans is a small town compared to where most of the big VARs are in the United States, causing us to work harder to generate business from a smaller client base,'' says Coe.
But the firm has labored effectively in marrying training, creativity, and technological innovation to maritime and gaming businesses, and government agencies.
Coe, who started his accounting career at PriceWaterhouse, worked for a small accounting firm before starting Coe & Co. 12 years ago. "I realized I was much better with computers than I was with tax returns," he says.
Since then, his firm has been focused on the maritime business; now approximately 30 percent of the New Orleans-based firm's $2.7 million in annual revenues is derived from the seafaring industry.
It is not uncommon, Coe says, for the firm to use software from three vendors-Microsoft, Sage, and Silver Brook Systems, an HRMS vendor, to develop a system to meet its maritime clients' reporting needs.
The company has created flash reports for port workers and ship captains that enables them to access a schedule of daily activity. These are delivered via cell phone text messages. By 7 a.m. each day, the system reports the line-up of ships expected into port that day, as well as their tonnage, so that the captains and port officials can plan staffing levels. The type of vessels in port and their respective cargos also is important to loaders, suppliers, and shipping agents. Shipping agents want to know when the ships are expected so that workers on the ship can be paid, diesel suppliers can determine refueling amounts, and dock loaders can assign an adequate number of longshoremen.
The Training Factor
Coe says training is integral to the firm's distinguishing itself from its peers In July, Coe & Co. won a $200,000 engagement from the Clerk of Court for the City of New Orleans, including hardware.
Training made it possible to complete the installation quickly. The company budgets $2,000 a year for each of its 20 employees to participate in seminars, Webinars, and coursework.
"The Clerk of Court project,'' Coe says, " I can point to as a direct result of training. Our professional staff pulled the implementation together in 21 days, including data conversion."
The accounting system was set up to track and record more than 50 different classifications of records handled by the county clerk's office.
The company uses telemarketing and direct mailing to reach some 9,000 area companies, ranging from SMBs up to publicly held companies with as many as 3,000 employees. Coe & Co. spends about $1,200 monthly to send 3,000 direct mail pieces to roughly one-third of the list. The monthly campaigns generate approximately 30 leads, of which 10 are typically converted to clients.
Coe describes the strategy as "targeted drip,'' the goal of which is to touch prospects with information about the firm at least every three months. This approach produces about one-third of the business, with two-thirds coming via referrals from CPAs.
COE & CO. SNAPSHOT
HQ: New Orleans
Annual revenue: $2.7 million
Accounting software brands: Great Plains, Solomon, MAS 90/200/500
CRM brands: Microsoft CRM
HRMS brands: Great Plains, Silver Brook Systems
Other software brands: Microsoft Retail Management, Microsoft SharePoint and Business Portal, Sage FAS
Riccardo A. Davis is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.