The 2014 Technology Pacesetters offer a range of accounting software to a variety of markets, but all of these value-added resellers and consultants have enjoyed record growth over the last few years. They also see more of the same on the horizon, thanks to clear strategic visions and an increasingly ravenous market for cloud accounting solutions. Half of these 2014 Pacesetters did not even rank on our 2013 VAR100 list of top accounting resellers, representing the huge potential for exponential growth in this space.
Montreal-based NetSuite reseller ERP Guru doubled its growth in 2014, which president and founder Martin McNicoll attributes to the expansion of the cloud ERP vendor for which his company has been a premier partner and solution developer for nine years.
[IMGCAP(1)]“Back in 2005, the average customer size was 10 to 20 users—30 was big for NetSuite at that time,” McNicoll recalled. “Today, we are working on implementations of $100 to $150 million, for up to 1,000 users—more midsized businesses, but still [working with] small businesses.”
Beyond user growth, NetSuite’s expansion into new sectors like retail diversified ERP Guru’s customer base, encompassing “20 to 30 stores we wouldn’t have event touched in the past three years, and now we’re actively engaged and competitively engaged to replace their old systems,” noted McNicoll.
The approach to their now 700 customers has not changed, though, as ERP’s mission remains to “free companies from their infrastructure” by replacing their on-premise accounting systems.
As ERP’s customer base and size grows, so do the length of their mandates, meaning employees that might have once “spent time on four clients a day, switching the cost from one customer to another” will work on larger implementations and provide consulting services for one or two customers per week.
ERP’s partner alliance has also been a source of business development, with its model of partnering with other companies that do not resell accounting software but serve as an ERP Guru referral source in their role as trusted advisors.
ERP’s internal staff of advisors, meanwhile, are subject to the hot talent market in technology.
Retaining talent is “a huge, huge issue,” McNicoll reported. “The last couple of years, there’s been an intense, overall rush to get trained resources; in San Francisco it’s a known fact, and in NetSuite more and more, with bigger companies looking to add NetSuite skills to the company, whether they are a service company or established company.”
ERP Guru’s big defense in that war has been “to work on a lot of good packages for employees to keep them interested” though McNicoll admits they have lost good employees to giants like Accenture and Deloitte.
“Their skill set commands good prices, and compared to Deloitte, we’re small. It’s harder to compete, so we compete more on value and experience.”
And as the largest company outside of NetSuite providing NetSuite resources, according to McNicoll, ERP Guru offers a coveted place in NetSuite’s growing ecosystem and complementary solutions.
The most valuable of those is NetSuite’s OneWorld, a module that enables companies to run multiple books for multinational, multi-subsidiary companies in one ecosystem. Since its introduction in 2008, OneWorld “has been a key to our growth. When we get a bigger account and when we get to OneWorld [implementation] it’s make-or-break.”
The rise of these customers demanding more sophisticated implementations has “not been without pain,” McNicoll revealed. “When talking directly to the president or CEO in a 30-person company and not a CFO, they don’t expect you to take care of change management or delivery strategy but when you get to a larger organization and get to the project management officer and project management office, it’s about fitting into a larger strategy and aligning with the organization.”
ERP Guru’s strategy remains tied to NetSuite, though the company continually evaluates the competitors, including Acumatica. For now, said McNicoll, they continue to see value in a true cloud application that requires no hardware maintenance.
Stambaugh Ness Business Solutions
While Stambaugh Ness Business Solutions (an affiliate of Stambaugh Ness CPAs / Business & Technology Advisors) has been a Deltek premier channel partner for the past decade, its recent acquisition of fellow Deltek Vision reseller Acuity Business Solutions boosted the technology consultancy to another level.
[IMGCAP(2)]“It has taken us to a top tier within the channel,” explained president and CEO Steve Hake, “expanding our capabilities to reach into the professional services marketplace. We have a real liking for the professional services space, but our real bread and butter is strengthening and working with architects and engineers.”
The Reston, Va.-based Acuity, which reported $4.31 million in 2014 revenue, landing it at No. 94 on our VAR 100 list, became a division of SNBS in the acquisition, continuing to serve its strong base of architectural and engineering (A/E) clientele.
“The strategy behind it is us continuing to play to our firm’s strengths,” Hake continued. “In that context, we go pretty deep into our niches—we refer to them as vertical markets. We have a long history working with some of the top A/E firms. Our strategy is, how do we continue to go deeper into that space, build that depth of knowledge and command of issues A/E owners are struggling with, to help them become more profitable and competitive in the marketplace.”
The deal began as a casual conversation between Hake and Acuity’s then-president and CEO June Jewell in 2013, when the two discovered a shared vision for the A/E space. Hake also admired Acuity’s development team and the company’s marketing and business development efforts.
The ensuing transaction in 2014 drove SNBS, with its Acuity division, deeper into the A/E vertical, serving firms in more than 40 states. While Jewell left her Acuity position to focus on her role as president of AEC Business Solutions, a coaching organization for A/E leaders and project managers, she remains a strategic partner and “great referral opportunity” for SNBS.
SNBS’s current revenue is approximately $8 million, representing 20 percent growth over 2013, according to Hake, and putting the company on track to move to $10 million in 2015. They should be boosted by other acquisitions on the horizon.
“We’re involved with active conversations as we speak for additional expansion,” Hake said. “We continue to have our eyes and ears open. We’ve had inquiries from other vendors and people in terms of whether we should be considering outside of Deltek vision. I’m not averse to that, but I think in the short- to mid-term we will continue to be very bullish with Deltek Vision and maintain our focus in that area.”
The client relationship remains central to that as well.
“Another area we’re really attempting to focus on and elevate much higher than had been in the past is account management,” Hake continued. “To be close to customers, make certain they are very happy and delighted. We desire them to be delighted with the Deltek Vision product, so we have regular conversations on the return on investment they desire with that product. We’re investing a lot in raising the bar in what we’re doing with account management.”
BAASS Business Solutions
Toronto and Miami
BAASS Business Solutions’ growth over its 26 years has come in waves of both organic and transactional developments, though the last two years has seen a renewed flurry of acquisitions, according to cofounder and president Joe Arnone.
[IMGCAP(3)]“Within the last two years, we’ve doubled in size, from 50 people to over 100 individuals,” he shared. “It’s based on acquisitions—2013 has been a very good year and we have not had this profitability since 2008. For 2013, and continued into 2014.”
In addition to adding offices across Canada, the Toronto-headquartered company expanded into the U.S., adding offices in Miami (now another HQ), Chicago and New York. Greater client sophistication has been one major driver of that growth, which also netted BAASS $19.5 million in 2014 revenue (up 34 percent from 2013).
“Some of our clients and prospects were working with smaller partners, and have seen their requirements become more sophisticated requirements,” Arnone said. “They wanted to go with a larger firm, full of more end-to-end solutions.”
Companies are also approaching BAASS, looking to be acquired and benefit from belonging to a larger company. Thus far, prospects have been fellow Sage partners, as BAASS primarily sells that accounting software provider’s solutions (300 and X3). However, as the company also offers Deltek solutions and recently formed a partnership with NetSuite, BASS is “definitely interested in non-Sage partners,” said Arnone.
For now, with BAASS’s recent influx of larger clients, the shift has been to provide business intelligence, HR and CRM solutions.
“Development and management consulting and business process engineering are what we’ve taken on in the last two years—especially management consulting, practice reengineering, business process engineering We have the tools to help clients solve their problems and take on more of the business issues and problems they’re having.”
Even with their current portfolio, Arnone said BAASS is evaluating another software publisher and the clients that would garner, but without slighting its current base.
“We have to make sure, with our current clients, that there’s that connection and we don’t lose sight of that fact and keep in contact with those clients. But there’s a huge opportunity with those clients, for cross-selling. They might just have an ERP system, and there can be growth there with CRM or HR intelligence. We’re keeping the focus on current clients, but we’re definitely interested in new clients—there’s huge potential.”
VistaVu Solutions, an SAP partner since 2003, serves energy services companies from its Houston and Alberta, Canada, offices, but has grander big ambitions over the next six years.
[IMGCAP(4)]Coined “20/20-by-2020,” the company plan aims for 20,000 users and 20 percent operating profit by the year 2020. While much of the company’s early growth came from its Canada footprint, VistaVu’s recent U.S. developments—including acquisitions in Denver and Grapevine, Texas—should put the company right on track, according to president Jory Lamb.
“The bulk of our revenue for the first five or so years was in Canada,” he explained, coming from both its SAP Business One offering and its own FieldVu solution, which sits on top of the SAP software. “But then we entered the U.S. and very quickly surpassed that. The growth is coming from, we see mobility coming to the forefront for everything in technology, so that’s driving some of that with all the companies and customers in our field [that use the software on-site]. The technology is catching up to those needs and wants.”
Those needs include “a real desire to capture all of that data and do something through analytics with that data—leading to interesting conversations that five years ago we wouldn’t have,” Lamb continued.
“For us, a huge growth area we see for the company looking forward is that a lot of clients have been with us a long time and have seven to eight years of data locked with us. The million dollar question is what can be do with this data—the opportunities and efficiencies. Sitting where I sit, I enjoy this business-level discussion to have with clients.”
VistaVu is also in the process of building an enterprise version of FieldVu, its SAP Business One-integrated solution that manages clients’ day-to-day operations.
The company is also hiring to support this growth, currently looking to add eight people in the U.S. to its current roster of about 40 total staff.
Click here to view the 2014 Technology Pacesetters slide show.
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