By definition a pacesetter is not following a trend, they are setting an example and this year’s crop of Technology Pacesetters in the field of accounting-related software consulting are representative of where the profession is moving.
This is not to say that there aren’t others who are, in their way, leaders or even following a similar path as the Pacesetters. But what this report is about, and has become, is merely an example of the kinds of firms that are helping to define what it takes to be a leader in accounting technology sales and consulting.
Our Pacesetters are showing, in some cases, that size doesn’t matter and what they are delivering to their customers defines them. And where they are sizable, they show how to use that factor to their advantage through added service and even their own line of niche products.
Overall, this report has never been about ranking or revenue. Below are a select group of firms that, in no uncertain terms, help showcase where the profession is moving for them and firms like them.
Arxis Technology Inc.
Simi Valley, Calif.
It’s no news that more technology consultants are taking on selling cloud products, but far more than just expanding its product line to include the latest in cloud ERP and CRM, but Arxis is doing more by establishing and entire practice around cloud products and services.
Arxis represents cloud products in the areas of accounting, ERP, CRM, business intelligence and has been planning double its efforts to develop internal expertise and promote solutions like SugarCRM, Adaptive Planning, and document management.
For principal David Cieslak, establishing Arxis Cloud has been far more about growth potential and serving his clients that what the products themselves can do and mean to the firm’s bottom line.
“We understand which technologies remain a work-in-progress and which ones are poised to make a significant impact for our prospects and customers. In other words, we can usually recognize the solutions which are going to make a big difference in the marketplace,” said Cieslak. “Three years ago, we began a process of transitioning our practice to emphasize cloud computing. Of course, no one can claim to be a leader if no one is following. In that regard, it’s rewarding for the Arxis leadership to be a resource for organizations such as AICPA, CalCPA, and ITA; vendors such as Sage and Intacct; and resellers around the country.”
Being a part of both the Microsoft Dynamics and Intacct President’s Club isn’t entirely what helps define LBMC Technologies or necessarily makes the firm a leader, but it’s a start. The technology consultancy affiliated with Top 100 CPA firm Latimore, Black, Morgan & Cain has also achieved many awards for customer satisfaction and company growth and sales, and had its employees and team members vote the firm as a top company to work for.
The accolades from customers, staff and vendors are a big part of who the firm is, but it has been the diversity of service it delivers that help define it as a leader.
“While [we] may not be as large as some of our peers in the industry we definitely feel as though we have a place at the table of leaders. Although many consulting firms are looking to diversify their portfolio of products and or services due to dwindling margins or poor financial performance, we have continued to experience growth every year over the past several years due to our diversified business model,” said LBMC Technologies managing partner Stacy Schuettler. “Given that we have depth and breadth of expertise in business software solutions as well as hardware, our clients don’t look at us as just their IT consulting company. We focus totally on the business goals of our clients and then make recommendations that will allow them to achieve their goals.”
It’s a theme that has been echoed throughout the reseller channel community, and even a rallying cry of sorts: “service over software.” Although comparatively small even more so than the aforementioned LBMC -- the technology consultancy of CPA firm Maner Costerisan PC knows all too well that it’s the service that keeps its clients returning, year after year. Since merging in the technology solutions company Caldwell & Associates in 2001, the practice has grown to an established Microsoft Dynamics and Intacct partner. Moreover, the firm has shown how it’s also “service over size” that accounts for its success as a technology practice of a CPA firm.
“Selling technology solutions is not only assuring the delivery of meeting the tactical business needs but how well do you fit into the strategy, success, values, and the culture of the business. Frankly speaking we all desire having lasting and positive relationships no matter whether you are a business, organization or individual,” said principal David Caldwell. “The product or service being offered is only the introduction, but what the long-term focus is on is who are we committing to and who your prospect is committing to. [Our firm] makes it a point to form relationships for the long term and treating and valuing them as if we were forming a family. No business, organization or individual can be built in a fashion to be resilient to change. That does not mean giving up on core values but rather understanding core values provide a strong foundation from which storms of change can be weathered.”
Sage 100 ERP, 300, 500, X3; Abila MIP Fund Accounting
When a firm is able to grow to the size of Net@Work they are often faced with the challenge of how to maintain the brand at that level and how to grow it. Net@Work has reached a point where they are able to maintain their brand not only through expanding its reach through its own partner program, but by establishing its own line of products to market through that channel as well.
“We represent so much and we need to figure out what works best, you can have a great month in a given product line but unless I bring in balanced business to other product lines that business will suffer,” said co-president Alex Solomon. “We used to grow one customer and one sale at a time, these days we can’t do that to keep the growth rate we want. Having our Partner Alliance Program and making it structured so they can take advantage of things; that has been most successful for us.”
Like other, larger Sage channel brethren, SWK have found a way to sell products and services that are all their own and zero in on where their biggest growth potential lies. Certainly, they have expended outside of what they have traditionally offered by their main publisher. As with others, they too are now representing products from other publishers, but it has been their approach to specific customer needs, and not just what technology they offer, that has allowed the firm to lead.
“We are a true partner to our customer companies; we aren’t just software implementers but rather business consultants. We introduce technology into our customer’s operations in order to simplify their business processes and make them more efficient, and as we partner with our customers we discover even more opportunities to help them do their jobs better,” said SWK president Jeffrey Roth. “Over the past twelve months we made a fundamental shift in our business strategy by focusing on becoming the number one Sage ERP X3 reseller in the United States. We have put a tremendous amount of effort into this focus and it was a game changer for us as we have an enormous installed base of Sage 100, Sage 500, and Sage BusinessWorks customers. Our dedication to the customer base allowed us to continue to work with existing customers while our new license focus drove an incredible amount of Sage ERP X3 license sales.”
Being a Master VAR, as well as one of the largest accounting/ERP consultants in the country has its obvious advantages: access to capital for growth and acquisitions; status with a major publisher and brand recognition. Yet all of these factors only tell part of the story of why Tribridge is a leader.
These days, what is defining Tribridge is its ability to go deep as well as broad; specifically with product and service offerings in niche areas it sees the highest growth potential or it has established expertise.
For one, in July Tribridge added Human Capital Management to its list of service offerings with the acquisition of Intelladon -- a talent management solutions consultant and integrator. This purchase is expected to give Tribridge a foothold into the growing HCM market and strengthened the firm’s cloud offerings.
“The demand for technologies and systems that help companies better manage, train and empower the workforce is rapidly increasing, and Intelladon’s deep expertise and leadership in the talent management industry will enable us to offer our nearly 4,000 customers the best solutions on the market,” said firm CEO Tony DiBenedetto.
Tribridge has also seen significant growth in its Concerto Cloud Services, or what it calls its “Solutions as a Service” offering, where DiBenedetto sees large potential for his firm.
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Despite being “started by accident” 11 years ago, according to managing partner Steven Templeton, the technology consulting practice of Templeton & Company, a 50-person CPA firm, has developed its Microsoft Dynamics sales and consulting practice particularly CRM with a focus that has the growing attention of some of the top CPA firms in the country.
Many smaller firms seeing success representing accounting/ERP products are doing so by establishing a niche as Templeton has. For them, this has been predominantly consulting much larger CPA firms on their marketing and practice management needs and, in a growing number of cases, switching them over to their CRM for Professionals and Practice Management Professionals products designed on Dynamics CRM.
“We understand CPA firms, because it’s in our roots. Not only do we offer just products for these firms, but we bring best practice ideas to each engagement,” said Templeton.
See the 2013 Technology Pacesetters in Slideshow form here.