Sometimes it is as obvious as the difference between Doug Burgum’s long, wavy lcurly locks and Ron Verni’s short, corporate hairdo. The style of the two leading players in the mid-market varies dramatically.

It remains to be seen how much the Microsoft corporate overlords influence Burgum’s style. They already seem to have reined in his rambling keynote speeches that used to have little to do with accounting software, and more to do with leadership and vision.

Verni has not been at the top of Best long enough to have his speaking style displayed as often. But he talks about product and direction, not interesting historical figures.

The differences, however, showed distinctly in Best’s announcement of its divisional organization last week. Best regrouped a number of divisions into two major ones and outlined who headed each and who reports to whom. Burgum never did that at Great Plains and moves affecting Microsoft Business Solutions organization have come from above, but he still has not detailed much about what happens below him.

At Great Plains, it was never clear who was the second in command. It still isn’t with MBS. With Verni, it is very clear that Jim Foster and Doug Meyer are the key lieutenants. One MBS insider once remarked that he showed some outsiders a Great Plains table of organization, then tore it up, and told the group he had not shown it to them. Asked about his practice, Burgum said last fall that he does not believe clients care about who reports to whom. At a meeting to outline strategy last fall, Best displayed its TO and outlined strategy. Burgum has never held that kind of session with the press.

It is very clear where Best intends to go and the company has outlined some specifics of how it plans to get there. The direction at MBS is not as clear, nor are the goals of achieving that always apparent to outsiders. Senior executives are promoted, transferred, disappear, without public notice. The only way to track GP execs was to watch the names on corporate fact sheets or to see which execs showed up at shows with different titles. Once, after the company shrank significantly by attrition and squeezing out weak performers in mid-1990s, GP stopped reporting the number of employees after the change in work force was reported.

Yet, despite the differences in style, recent reorganizations put the two companies on remarkably similar paths. Microsoft created a new sales structure under rising star Orlando Ayala that operates parallel to MBS. Last weak, Best similarly put Dave Butler, for several years head of the unit that markets the MAS software line, in a position as executive vice president in charge of all customer facing-operations, including installed based sales. Like Ayala’s group, Butler’s will work with sales across product lines and not inside any one product group.  Verni acknowledged the two moves not only were similar, they were simply logical moves on the part of the two companies.

As different as style is, the thing that counts is good business practices. And competent people, when faced with the same market conditions, often reach similar conclusions after analyzing them.

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