by John M. Covaleski
San Francisco - Reseller Matt Lefkowitz is taking a second stab at being an accounting software industry matchmaker.
Lefkowitz, who, organized last year’s Separation 2001 conference, which brought together more than 100 accounting software resellers and vendors in a formal networking environment, announced plans for a 2002 version of the show - VAR Fest - to be held Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, here.
Lefkowitz expects this year’s event to match or exceed last year’s, which, he said, resulted in dozens of formal and informal business relationships being struck between individual resellers and vendors.
Moreover, Lefkowitz and others associated with the show hope it will be a galvanizing force for the accounting software reseller community. In addition to networking, the show also is designed to train resellers on key business issues and provide a format to exchange ideas.
"The accounting value-added reseller community needs a business-building venue where people can meet and exchange ideas in person," said Lefkowitz, president of a San Francisco reseller firm that bears his name. "VAR Fest is our industry’s only conference where vendors of accounting software and related products can find new VARs and where resellers can receive the information and tools they need to make their businesses more profitable."
"There’s not a lot going on allowing VARS to get together in an objective environment to learn more about their business," said Brian Sittley, president of Productivity Management Inc., a South Bend, Ind.-based reseller, who attended Separation 2001. "Separation was an excellent event for VARs and VAR Fest promises to be just as valuable."
Show co-sponsors include two recently established forums for VARS - the Organization of Accounting VARs, headed by Steve Morin, president of Software Generation Inc, a reseller in Colleyville, Texas and VAR Loop (VARLoop.com) an Internet-based support service headed by Cary M. Root, of American Logistics Group, a reseller in Solon, Ohio.
Despite his claims, Lefkowitz’s shows are not the only formats for vendors and VARS. Many state and national accounting industry shows have, for years, provided
that format, and the Informa-
tion Technology Alliance (www.ITAliance.com) is a consortium of vendors, VARS and consultants that’s been organized and has conducted formal training and networking conferences for several years.
Lefkowitz is a former reseller of SBT Accounting software products, which stopped handling that line after a contract dispute with SBT’s parent company Accpac International. He put together Separation primarily as a forum for SBT resellers with similar contract concerns.
This year’s event is not focusing on any vendor or segment of the industry; instead, it is designed for all accounting software VARs. "If you’re a VAR, you want to know how to make your business more profitable. That’s what this show is about," said Lefkowitz, whose company now handles software by TIW and the BusinessVision division of Softline Software.
He said that training topics include how to find clients, how to get more billable hours and how to offer additional services in line with accounting or enterprise software implementation work. At press time, the show’s trainers and speakers had not been announced.
In addition to training, VAR Fest will feature networking sessions that will bring VARS together with other VARs and with vendors. Vendors also will man booths where they can display their products and discuss their channel programs.
Last year’s Separation attracted the following vendors: Navision; Advanced Software, developer of UA Business; IAS International; Best (then known as Sage); Microsoft/Great Plains; Softline; Red Wing Business Systems; TIW; Cougar Mountain; Bravosoft; and QES.
Thus far, Softline and TIW have committed to attend this year’s VAR Fest.
Roy Hoffman, marketing manager for TIW, based in Easton, Pa., said that Separation provided a jumpstart for his recruitment of resellers for Allere, a product that TIW launched at about the same time as the conference, last September. There are now 130 Allere resellers.
Steve Yulga, Red Wing’s national channel sales manager, said that Separation was his company’s "most successful reseller recruitment effort last year." However, he said that Red Wing has not yet decided whether to attend VAR Fest.
Resellers who attended Separation and plan to attend VAR Fest include Kevin Stroud, president of NexLan, a Danville, Ill.-based SBT reseller, which, last year, also became an AccountMate reseller after meeting representatives from that vendor at Separation. He said that he also met Microsoft/Great Plains officials at the show and is now considering taking on that company’s products, too.
"In tough markets, a VAR must be able to diversify," Stroud said. "This kind of meeting is the best place to learn how to diversify."
"Last year’s show was terrific - the only chance I’ve had to meet with so many vendors in one setting," said Gary Shurman of Software and Stuff, in Metairie, La. As a result of meetings at the show, he said that his company established reselling relationships with Red Wing and Softline’s two companies - BusinessVision and AccountMate.
Registration, excluding hotel, ranges from $125 for one day to $375 for all three days of the conference. For further information visit www.Varfest.com.
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