Clark: A Quality Act for Act

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Try this trivia question? What is Act consultant Susan Clark? The answer? Reseller, consultant, and trainer. That describes Susan Clark, president of Cornerstone Solutions, veteran Act Certified Consultant, Premier Trainer, and one of Act's leading Value Added Resellers in North America

Oh yes, add frequent speaker at seminars and conferences to that resume.

Besides all that, Clark is prolific author who specializes in instructing users of Act by Sage on how to use the contact and customer management software. To date, she has produced some 200 client user guides; and as the Act QuickStudy Guide.

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It was natural, she says, since Cornerstone has been using Act since its formation.

"That's one of the reasons Act asked us to write the Act QuickStudy Guide," Clark says. Clark has also served on the Act Advisory board.

The trivia question fits Clark's approach to Act training-the company has an Act trivia game that it uses at the end of its training courses as a way to reinforce skills. Students break into teams and answer questions such as "How do you add secondary contacts?"

But training is only part of the formula. Where the company has made its mark is in selling to larger corporations, which may come as a surprise to those who think of Act as a contact manager for sales people.

Cornerstone's clients include Fortune 500 companies to financial services firms, and sports franchises including the Houston Astros to Duke Energy. Many of these organizations have thousands of employees, which Clark says Act can accommodate just as well as small firms with a handful of employees.

Word of mouth has been important in the sports business, which has given Cornerstone a roster that includes the Houston Texans and the Aeros, an American Hockey League ice hockey team.

It's that success that earned the company its Sage Platinum Partner Reseller status because it's about a lot more than just contact management.

The installation for the football Texans has been a prominent case study for Sage, since it involved a system that Cornerstone developed to help track ticket sales and luxury suite sales. Clark's organization built customized interfaces for the team to calculate pricing and to graphically show seating availability. It also had to track more than 26,000 customers and prospects. And it prints the tickets.

It's customers like that who have helped push Cornerstone's revenue to $1 million a year, compared to the $200,000 or so in the early 1990s, when it was focused entirely on corporate training of IBM Lotus and Microsoft DOS and Windows.

Clark started Cornerstone after working nine years as a director of marketing for Houston-based Baker Hughes, a technology provider for the oil field industry, and then as a technology consultant for what is now ExxonMobil. At the energy company, Clark helped develop and standardize answers for its help desk support.

Clark estimates the cost for Cornerstone's services ranges from $500 to 1,000 per user. The price, she says, includes the software, installation, customization, third-party product set-up, and training. Fifty-nine percent of its revenues come from consulting, and the remainder is from software and book sales. "Consulting is the most profitable," adds Clark.

The company still provides so courseware for instructor-led classes that cover Microsoft applications, including all Office applications, Lotus products, and of course Sage Software's Act and SalesLogix.

Instructing people on how to use software was a primary goal for still is important. The purpose of the Guide, which has sold more than 60,000 copies, is to boost the productivity of Act end users. "It's a challenge to write something so that computer illiterate people can understand how to make the software work for them," she says.

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

CORNERSTONE SOLUTIONS

HQ: Houston, Texas

Founded: 1987

Offices: 1

Employees: 5

Annual revenue: $1 million

Software brands: Act, SalesLogix

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