New offerings and greater efficiencies have helped this year's

Killer VARs blunt the effects of a bad economy

A saturated market, coupled with a challenging economic environment, certainly hasn't helped the software reselling market, but not everyone is letting that get them down.

In fact, this year's Killer VARs have found their respective silver linings by turning to more Web-based services, innovative revenue-generating offerings, more efficient workflow processes and enhanced customer service. For these organizations, their efforts are paying off and they have demonstrated that they have the drive, determination and savvy mindset it takes to be listed among the 2009 class of Killer VARs.

AVANKIA

Nashville, Tenn.

Chief executive: Reena Gupta

Year founded: 2002

No. of offices: 2

No. of employees: 22

2008 revenue: $2 million

Products: DBSync - Integration suite (QuickBooks; Intacct; Salesforce.com; Paypal; Auth­orize.Net; databases like Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, mySQL). TargetRecruit.net; Healthcare CRM built on Salesforce.com

When it comes to serving clients, reseller Avankia has found success in speaking with them on a business level and then bringing it down to the technology level, said co-founder and chief technology officer Rajeev Gupta.

"We can focus more on the business side and can provide an end-to-end solution," said Gupta, who noted that many of Avankia's product offerings were developed internally for use by its staff, and proved to be so successful that it decided to bring them to market.

Avankia offers the DBSync suite of integration and extraction tools. For example, through the DBSync for Salesforce.com and databases, users can extract, replicate and integrate Salesforce.com with their database. There's also DBSync for Salesforce.com and QuickBooks, which enables users to integrate data like accounts, contacts and opportunities from Salesforce.com with QuickBooks.

Much of Avankia's focus centers on providing Software as a Service like Salesforce.com or Intacct. SaaS is a model of software delivery where Avankia provides maintenance, daily technical operation, and support for the software provided to their client. According to data provided by Avankia, Gartner Inc. estimated that the global SaaS market will grow to $19.3 billion by 2011, tripling in size from $6.3 billion in 2006.

Avankia has an offshore center in India, and combining the firm's tools with its offshore operation enables it to offer clients faster and cheaper solutions, explained Gupta. He said that a typical implementation that would ordinarily cost a client about $10,000 could be done by Avankia for between $2,000 and $3,000.

Not only is SaaS cost-effective, but it also enables a firm to focus on its core business, and not IT. Because SaaS is cheaper and easier to implement, Avankia has been enabling clients to try before they buy.

"That is huge from a selling point of view, if I [as a client] can get the whole platform ahead of time," said Gupta, who noted that about 80 percent of clients who try a SaaS solution end up buying it. "It is a try-before-you-buy with a whole installation."

ADVANCED SYSTEMS INTEGRATION

Lake Forest, Calif.

Chief executive: David Payne

Year founded: 1991

No. of offices: 1

No. of employees: 20

2008 revenue: $8-$10 million (est.)

Products: Microsoft Dynamics AX

Advanced Systems Integration, a value-added reseller of Microsoft Dynamics AX and a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, is not afraid to take on risk.

In fact, one could say that the comp­any welcomes it.

As one of the original resellers of Damgaard Axapta, now Microsoft Dynamics AX, ASi has a deep-rooted understanding of the product and, over the years, has built a reputation for managing the project risk associated with complex deployments, said director of business development Jeff Onesto. "Our uniqueness is our reputation for zero fail," said Onesto, who noted that the company has earned a solid reputation for service delivery and turning around "orphans" - those companies not satisfied with their previous resellers.

The company, whose operations are 100 percent onshore, has about 20 active customers, with a "sweet spot" consisting of fast-growing mid-market manufacturers and distributors, and those with complex supply chain requirements.

In addition, ASi's expertise and its utilization of the Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step implementation methodology have, in recent years, enabled it to successfully and profitably implement Microsoft Dynamics AX in the lower mid-market, offering growing companies a flexible, scalable and lower-cost alternative to SAP and Oracle.

According to ASi, leveraging the Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step methodology with its existing solution framework has reduced the ramp-up time for new consultants by 25 percent.

Meanwhile, ASi team members are also taking a proactive approach toward social media, using blogs and Twitter to stay in touch with industry members and with clients, as well as to create new business opportunities.

"We drive tremendous Web activity from these and other tools and have incorporated them into our marketing approach," said Onesto, who also writes a column, dubbed "AX Insights," for MSDynamicsWorld.com.

INCORTECH

Fontana, Calif.

Chief executive: Steve Birdwell

Year founded: 1998

No. of offices: 3

No. of employees: 12

2008 revenue: $1.5 million

Products: QuickBooks Enterprise (and most add-ons); Oasis CRM; Deltek Vision; Sage MAS 90, MAS 200 and MAS 500; JobOps; SalesLogix; SageCRM; MAPADOC EDI

Ask Steve Birdwell about the challenge facing most projects, and he will likely mention a lack of communication between the reseller and the client. That's why when Birdwell founded IncorTech in 1998, he set out to blaze a new trail and develop the type of consulting firm that he wanted to hire when he was the client.

"For us, the thing that has been good is trying to put the client before the software and hardware," said Birdwell, whose software products include Sage, Intuit's QuickBooks Enterprise, Oasis CRM and Deltek Vision. IncorTech currently has about 650 clients and largely targets midsized firms in the field service/project-based industry.

With most of its team members having a background in accounting, Birdwell said that the company is able to better drill into a client's existing program, identify the true problem and offer several solutions, instead of a one-way approach, thereby arming its clients with a number of possible solutions and enabling them to make a more informed decision.

Looking to take its customer service a step further and enhance efficiency, IncorTech earlier this year hired a project manager who works in team fashion with a sales person and is involved in the sales process right from the time a propo­sal is started - an approach that Birdwell said is unique in the industry. The idea, he explained, is that having a project manager involved from the very start helps to ensure that expectations can be met.

It can also save time. That's because the project manager has already gathered a great deal of information from the client and is able to flesh out many of the details even before the work order. "We are already seeing great results," Birdwell noted. "From a teamwork standpoint, it is a lot better."

Looking ahead, IncorTech has several initiatives in the works, including doing more customization and development with Oasis and Intuit's QuickBase.

SIKICH

Aurora, Ill.

Chief executive: James Sikich

Year founded: Tech division - 1998

No. of offices: 6 (5 have technology units)

No. of employees: 80 in tech division

2008 revenue: $17.6 million

Products: ERP products - Microsoft Dynamics GP, NAV and CRM; Sage MIP Fund Accounting Software; Assistance Software PSO. Infrastructure practice products - SonicWall; Citrix; HP; Symantec

Reseller Sikich hasn't let the challenging economy hamper its spirits, and, thanks in part to beefed-up sales and marketing efforts and an empowered staff with a broad range of experience, the firm is tracking ahead of last year's revenues.

"We've made a decision that we are not going to hunker down because of the economy," said Jeff Rudolph, partner-in-charge of the technology service area. Rudolph is the founder of ICS Advantage, which was the predecessor firm to Sikich's ICS Technology Division. The technology division accounts for about 40 percent of CPA and business advisory firm Sikich's overall revenues.

That mentality appears to be paying off as revenues, as of the end of May 2009, were tracking about 8 percent higher compared with the same period last year, and the firm looks likely to top $18 million for the year. Factor in some potential mergers and the division could hit the $20 million mark, said Rudolph. He revealed that Sikich is currently in talks with firms on the ERP side and could complete one or two mergers over the next year.

This year, Sikich once again was named to Microsoft's Inner Circle for Dynamics Partners, marking the fourth time out of the last five years for that honor. The Inner Circle is limited to the top 1 percent of worldwide Microsoft Dynamics partners.

Sikich works with businesses, governmental entities and not-for-profits to provide hardware and software, from single-location accounting packages to multi-location and enterprise-wide total business solutions. It has set in place a rigorous methodology from sales to implementation to support, and its staff can track the work in progress via a site called "Client Connect."

As a follow-up to its service efforts, random calls are placed to past and current clients each month and they are asked to take part in a five-question satisfaction survey, said Rudolph. The customer satisfaction rating currently stands at 84 percent, beating the firm's targeted goal of 80 percent.

Contributing to the company's success is its commitment to staff. The environment is one where associates are made to feel empowered and are included in the growth plans. In addition to training and an annual off-site strategy meeting, Sikich has implemented an incentive program that encourages cross-selling by awarding associates $100 for recommendations and even more if a deal is closed.

SWK TECHNOLOGIES

Livingston, N.J.

Chief executive: Jeffrey D. Roth

Year founded: 1989

No. of offices: 4

No. of employees: 37

2008 revenue: $7.8 million

Products: Sage MAS 90, 200 and 500; MAPADOC EDI; QuickBooks Enterprise

SWK Technologies is not one to rest on its laurels, especially in today's challenging environment, so it perhaps comes as little surprise that this reseller is hot on the trail of innovative ways to bolster revenues and better serve clients.

"In this kind of environment, we are always looking for revenue streams," said chief executive officer Jeffrey D. Roth.

With a particular emphasis on supply chain innovations, the firm's premier product is MAPADOC electronic data interchange, which is designed to reduce mapping time by more than 75 percent by allowing end-users to quickly and easily create their own maps for integrated documents. Released in 1998, MAPADOC has become a leading EDI solution for Sage MAS 90 ERP, MAS 200 ERP and MAS 500 ERP. In 2001, SWK developed the integration between Sage MAS 90, Sage MAS 200 and warehouse management software Accellos Wms/Radio Beacon.

More recently, the firm, a founding member and participant of the Information Technology Alliance since 1997, also took on QuickBooks Enterprise by Intuit and began offering HR Advisor.

Roth, who serves as chairman of ITA's Membership Committee, said that while SWK is a Sage shop, it needed a lower-cost alternative to Sage MAS 90 for prospects in the Western New York market, so in 2008 it took on QuickBooks Enterprise.

SWK further bolstered its revenue stream less than six months ago by turning SWK human resources executive Kathleen Weiss, who holds the designation of Senior Pro­fessional in Human Resources, into a billable employee via a new solution titled HR Advisor. By paying flat fees, clients can tap into such services as an employee handbook, performance management, and candidate screening and selection for use in their own business.

Going forward, Roth said that the company is considering adding additional Sage products, such as Accpac. He also didn't rule out the possibility of acquisitions in the future.

TRUECLOUD

Scottsdale, Ariz.

Chief executive: David Rice

Year founded: 2008

No. of offices: 1

No. of employees: 8

2008 revenue: $1 million (est.)

Products: NetSuite, Telesphere

The future of business lies in the clouds.

That is according to David Rice, chief executive officer of TrueCloud, a reseller of NetSuite and Telesphere phone systems that specializes in cloud computing.

What is cloud computing? Simply put, it means that a company can access everything it needs to run the business through a Web browser such as Firefox or Safari, with all the applications residing somewhere out in the "cloud" of off-site servers.

According to Rice, what makes TrueCloud unique is that it isn't simply a NetSuite reseller, but is an integrator of cloud-based solutions for small-to-emerging midsized businesses. "In a tough economy, we have seen our clients obtain as much as a 40 percent reduction in the cost to run their IT department. The implementation of products and services like NetSuite takes as little as six weeks, and we think these are phenomenal stories," said Rice.

Rice, who served as chief information officer for a computer reseller prior to co-founding TrueCloud with partner Mark Wenig in 2008, said that he began the company because he was looking into ways to leverage the skills he obtained working on the enterprise side, and it was clear that Web- or cloud-based solutions had emerged on the radar screen. The company was named TrueCloud to reflect its mission of driving services to the "cloud."

The Web-based provider of ERP solutions currently serves about 20 clients primarily in professional services, retail/distribution and technology.

When meeting with a potential client, TrueCloud will typically perform an information technology assessment of the company, help them develop a blueprint for a seamless migration to the cloud, and serve as an ongoing service provider.

Looking ahead, Rice wants to bolster TrueCloud's current offerings by year-end by partnering with platform and infrastructure providers.

Said Rice, "The reality is that this is a big transition period [in business]. ... We are headed to a point where IT is a big utility, almost like cable television."

(c) 2009 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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