CDN recently spoke with Best Software CEO Ron Verni on partner programs, Accpac and how it got Kevin Bacon to play at a recent product launch.
CDN: Best announced Partners for Growth at the Insights conference in June. The program started in September. How is it doing so far?
Verni: It’s going terrific. We announced at the conference that we were going to take the first hundred; we were sort of piloting the program. We had 250 of our partners apply. Right off the bat it was a great success from the activity that the partners exhibited and the interest.
We’ve started it off and we have our first group that went through training . . . but we’ve had over $250,000 in sales generated by the first three people who were out of the group. Our goal was that if it were to be a success, and I have every hope that it will be, this is something we can roll out even deeper to our partner network.
CDN: These 250 partners that applied, are they just in the U.S.?
Verni: Actually it is in the U.S. and Canada. We did end up only choosing a hundred of them because for the pilot test we felt we couldn’t really do the training that was necessary.
CDN: A couple of the Accpac partners at the conference told me that the acquisition initially caused some anxiety. Looking back on it, how has Best worked with its Canadian partners to alleviate this initial anxiety?
Verni: From our side, we’re very pleased from the response we’ve received. Accpac was a great product, was a great company but in this market of consolidation it was starting to get “”disintermediated.”” You had on one side Microsoft — the gorilla’s sort of starting to line up — you had new entrants, you had SAP coming in and us on the other side.
In any classic market consolidation when you can come to strengths and your business objectives line up it’s good for the partners. The reputation that we carried into the acquisition that we had to prove was that we were a 100 per cent partner-centric company.
There were some things that Accpac was doing in their partner program that we’ve adopted, and there are a lot of things that we’ve been doing that we’ve brought into the mix. The stability of the company not wondering in that particular circumstance if Computer Associates was really dedicated to the segment. All of the uncertainty has been removed so that the focus we are dedicated to the segment and we are a partner company.
CDN: What have you done in terms of merging the two programs?
Verni: One thing we’ve done is putting people under the Best umbrella. If they want, and we help people to do this, they now have a larger selection of products if they wish to sell. Our portfolio is fairly deep. We’ve brought a portfolio to those partners who have selected to choose that.
CDN: Doug Meyer said at the ACT! launch that Best wanted to use Accpac to increase contact and customer management line in Canada. Have you been successful with this so far?
Verni: We think there’s a great opportunity because Accpac through their Simply Accounting line has such a great presence and such a great market share in the emerging part of the segment and the lower end of the segment through the retail channels and the banks and everyone else. We think it’s a great opportunity to introduce Act! across all of Canada. We’ve started instituting those programs. We’ll be rolling it out over the next couple of months to extend those products into the whole environment.
CDN: How did you get Kevin Bacon to perform at the ACT! launch?
Verni: (Laughs). I wish it was because I could say Kevin and I go back a long way. We just approached the manager. They love to play. It was a great venue for them.
CDN: What did you learn from your years as a small business owner and how does that help you do your job today?
Verni: It’s been the best experience I could probably ever have. When I talk to a small business person, talk to customers, prospective customers, I speak as one of them. Having been there, done that and understanding the unique challenges.
I also owned restaurants, real estate business. I built those. I didn’t buy them. I didn’t have any money when I started out. I had $1,000 in my pocket. The reason I got into software was because way back when — I’m as old as dirt — there wasn’t software to run restaurants.
CDN: So that’s how you came up with the idea to develop it?
Verni: My roommate ran the computer lab at Harvard. I went in there at night on an old IBM S/360 and started programming a payroll program.
When the Radio Shack TRS 80 came out in ’76, ’77, or ’78, it was the first personal computer where you could actually run a business application on. I ported what I did on the mainframe down to there and started selling software to my friends.