Paul Farrell doesn’t need magic to practice wizardry. His software waves the wand behind the computer screen. Wizard Productivity Systems, a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner, serves as a Web-based implementer and consultant so that smaller businesses wishing to install Microsoft Dynamics GP or SL can do so themselves and resellers can make the process less expensive for their customers.
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In November, Farrell formed the Mid-Atlantic Consortium of 10 resellers for whom he qualifies Dynamics leads and quickly achieved success. Fourth-quarter revenue for 2007 surpassed the previous eight quarters since he took over the mostly virtual company and six more VARs signed on within four months. He is expanding into other regions and by year’s end hopes to roll out the program nationally.
During Microsoft Convergence (the annual Dynamics conference with more than 9,500 customers, resellers and employees attending last month in Orlando), Farrell spoke about his unusual start with the company, how he convinced resellers to embrace his product and some of the lessons learned along the way.
Resellers saw Wizard as a competitor initially. How are you convincing them your product isn’t a threat?
Wizard wasn’t making the sales we wanted because resellers were afraid of us. I say I can install accounting systems for 30 percent less, which at first blush is daunting. After last year’s Convergence, we needed to show them it’s not scary and we can show them how to do more volume. I was an ISV and decided to also become a reseller of GP because I had to eat my own dog food and show them how to do it.
How does Wizard work?
The days of the 100-user GP implementations are gone. Most are two- to four-user accounts being passed up by partners who were losing money selling the old way, making (costly) face-to-face visits. We have an online model with a budget proposal so customers know upfront whether they can afford it. It’s like the Home Depot motto: You can do it, we can help. Our software enables you to implement it without being consultants. Consultants can optimize it for you, analyze your chart of accounts and workflow and do higher-level customization. All leads come to us and we get them ready for the partner with a fixed-price budget and needs (assessment). They get the new sale credit with Microsoft and my software is imbedded in the product. Resellers make less money (per sale) but more sales.
Share the story of why you chose to take over the company from the original owner.
Morris Wiginton was an SL reseller in Denver who believed there had to be a better way. There were no tools for fixed implementation and all his consultants would do it a different way. He got leukemia and I was having dinner with his main investor and I was not working—other than on a honey-do list, skiing and fishing. He asked me to run the company and I didn’t even know what Wizard did. If he told me it was a trash company, I would have done it. The most important things in life we have are relationships. I knew him for 25 years and he was in a place where he needed me to step up. We had a handshake agreement for nine months, but we had to formalize it.
About half of your employees are based in India. Why did you go with the onshore/offshore model and how are you making it work?
I needed programmers with SharePoint and .Net experience and that’s where you get the experience, and I get more for my money. One time a year we go there and one time a year they come here. You have to treat them like employees, not $22 per hour assets. You can’t just toss them meat in a basement and hope they stay down there and program.
What did you learn in your role as senior vice president of business development for AOL?
A partnership is a two-way street— both parties need to be profitable for the partnership to work. Periodic senior management meetings are needed to review the results to make sure everyone is getting a fair shake. Big organizations need big deals to make a difference, but the singles and doubles help a lot.