by Seth Fineberg

San Francisco — Since the acquisition of Softline by Best Software parent Sage Group plc in November, resellers of Softline’s AccountMate unit have been questioning their place in the world — whether they would become a permanent part of the Best family, or if the product itself would be phased out. Most of those concerns have been quelled.

Simply put, AccountMate resellers are ready for change, a fact that was no more evident than here in February, at what was very likely the last conference held solely for them.

Many AccountMate resellers are feeling positive about becoming Best partners; some even walked away from the recent confab with possible partner leads and a fair amount of information about becoming a Best partner.

“We want and need you to succeed,” Taylor Macdonald, Best’s senior vice president of business partners, told attendees, while noting the difficulties of being a reseller in the current environment.

“Most of you are frustrated in this business. You are tired of making less money, new unit sales are down, billable hours are down and many of you don’t have strong enough relationships with your customers,” he said. “But we like solving problems. That’s why we are in this business. Make the choice to change the way you do your work.”

Macdonald also noted that Best partners enjoy partner-training boot camps, fixed-pricing engagements for some products, and collaborative opportunities with the “thousands of other specialists” in the Best channel.

Peter Frank, CPA, CITP and partner at the technology consulting division of New York-based Cornink Garber & Sandler, is one of many AccountMate resellers embracing the Best acquisition. He is now in the process of reselling some of the software vendor’s major accounting products — MAS 90 and MAS 200.

As with other resellers, Frank believes that being affiliated with a larger organization like Best will bring his firm more opportunities to grow.

“We are in situations now where people are asking for [MAS 90/200], and these products right out of box are an easy implementation, plus there’s a lot of vertical opportunities for them,” Frank said. “It is also fairly well known that Best’s margins are the best in the industry, and Taylor [Macdonald] gave a good speech that reinforced the fact that they don’t just dump companies.”

Others, like Eugene, Ore.-based AccountMate consultant Michael Steffen, didn’t entirely know what to expect from having his primary vendor as part of Best Software, but is starting to enjoy the idea, even if he hasn’t yet experienced the reality of being a Best partner.

 “I’m a small shop with a whole lot of competition out here for mid-market products other than Microsoft, so right now I’d like to spend some time with the Best demos I picked up from the conference,” Steffen said. “My overall impression is good at this point though. People at Best seem to understand the business we are in and are willing to keep us happy.”

Steffen, also an Accpac Pro Series consultant, is unsure of what the future holds for that or other Accpac products until Best’s parent Sage finalizes its purchase of that company in the near future.

Business application software analyst Randy Johnston of K2 Enterprises believes that AccountMate resellers need not be too concerned about the future and should just focus on business as usual, with little worry about how they will be treated as Best resellers or otherwise.

 “AccountMate resellers have been in good hands and it will likely stay that way. Other than Open Systems, Syspro and in recent times Accpac, you really aren’t going to find better channel care,” Johnston said. “Right now they need to focus on the fact that there are buyers in the marketplace and they are looking to switch systems or upgrade. Vendors have to do what they can to hold onto their client base, and AccountMate has new modules that can allow add-ins or expansions for anyone looking to change or upgrade.”

Johnston also said that resellers should monitor the changes in the business style Best will put on them, and “just wait and see what comes.”

AccountMate resellers also  need not worry about losing their leadership — at least not in the near future. Softline president Murray Aston has no plans of stepping away from his role anytime soon. He realizes the day may come when he is asked to do so, but said, “Until they ask me to, I’m staying around in whatever capacity I can. Regardless, this is a great company and it’s been fun. I have no regrets.”

And even though the recent acquisition was top-of-mind for many AccountMate resellers, it was hardly the focal point of president Aston’s keynote, and likely parting, address, to his resellers. He focused on what he felt were the keys to growing a business, rather than what the immediate future might hold for his particular company.

“I strongly believe that we achieved the goals we laid out at last year’s reseller conference,” Aston said. “I thought that the best message to you should be about what it takes to manage and grow your business. And that is, first, break all the rules.”

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