"Is your accounting software provider too big?" reads a recent advertisement from Red Wing Software. It's a question that's being asked by a lot of accounting software resellers.

Whether or not Red Wing persuades any VARs to abandon the ranks of larger competitors, there are resellers who are concerned about how large the major players--Microsoft Business Solutions and Best Software--have become.

These resellers complain that they don't know people within the vendor organizations anymore. Relationships that have been cultivated over the years have been lost as executives who would prefer to be bigger fish in a smaller pond have left to find their own companies. Or people simply get squeezed out of jobs in shuffle or reorganization.

AccountMate president David Dierke made the point that resellers liked the ability to be able to reach the head of the company they deal with. AccountMate has been on both sides. It was acquired by Softline, which was then purchased by Best, and then spun out this year--a small company once again.

Accounting software was once a market dominated by small players. People knew each other and many employees of these suppliers were long-term. But as the market has consolidated, the players have been moving. While this is all natural, it's often not very comfortable for VARs that have been part of this game for more than 10 years.

The departure of Dave Butler from Best earlier this year seemed particularly unsettling to some because Butler, who had worked with the MAS line for eight years, was seen as a channel guy, a person who championed the resellers and was accessible. There were similar feelings when Bonnie Robertson left Microsoft Business Solutions.

As much as VARs might pine for a small town feeling, accounting software is a big-time game now. The stakes needed to play are higher. Many key employees have not settled into their jobs at Best and MBS and everyone is dealing with unfamiliar territory.

Unfortunately, the choice is between the better-known lines owned by the major players, and the more accessible vendors, whose products aren't as widespread as those of MBS or Best. But the game has changed, and that's the way it's played these days.

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