Another (2) Reason(s) To Attend Sage Summit 2012

One of my goals at my early Insights was to meet these two guys listed below. The first was Ed Kless and I would attend every one of Ed’s Sessions, sit in the front row where I made sure Ed could see me and then I’d spend the entire hour thinking of questions to ask. (Some were good, some weren’t) I went to Sage Consulting Academy in Dallas and I still think it’s one of the best investments that any VAR can make and it doesn’t have to be just for your consulting staff. I’m Sales oriented and found it to be invaluable. Since those early days Ed has had a positive influence on me and when I really have an issue I know I can call him and get the feedback that I need. With his travel schedule it makes it a little tough, but I know he’s just a phone call away.

When I first started working at Blytheco somehow a newsletter came through my e-mail from some guy named Wayne Schulz and after a few weeks of deleting them I started to read them. I was surprised that this VAR from small town Glastonbury, CT. had his pulse on the Sage environment and that so many people knew him. As with Ed I met Wayne at an Insights meeting because I wanted to get to know him better and find out more about him, how he got his information (He still won’t tell me) and only using information that he could confirm.

What I found from both Ed & Wayne was that you can succeed and still hold on to your core values.

I asked Wayne and Ed to be Managers on the Sage LinkedIn group because I trust their judgement and know that they have solid reputations in the Sage Software World. There’s been times when I would see a post that would send me flying through the roof and I would run it by them only to hear that I needed to come in off the ledge. Neither of them are “Yes” Men. If they disagree they’ll let you know.

Wayne and I talk 2-5 times weekly with most calls running 30 minutes or so and the topics are of a wide variety but mostly center around what’s going on at Sage, who he just saw at the Indian Casino and his family.

I sometimes think about what would have happened if I hadn’t trusted my gut instincts and taken the chance to meet this guys.

So if you’re going to Summit for the 1st time and are looking to maintain new relationships, work the floor and don’t stop working it until you can’t walk anymore. Wayne is always surprised at how many people I know at Summit. I’ve just made it a goal and if I can help someone feel a little bit more comfortable in a sea of nameless faces then I’ve accomplished what I’ve watched people like Ed & Wayne do for years.

Have fun and I’m looking forward to another Sage Summit and I’m anxious to see what Danielle and her team have up their sleeve.

BTW: Tomorrow 7/10 is Wayne’s birthday. Drop him a Happy Birthday wish and if he wants to share his advanced age with you that’s his business.

What Does A VAR Look Like To You?

Robert_Himanshu_Bill_Pascal @ Sage Summit 2011

What Do You Think A VAR Looks like?

Do they have integrity, passion, & honesty? Or do you have to check and re-check every invoice they send you knowing that you’re going to have a less than pleasant conversation with them about the “Holy Cow” additional costs that you hadn’t anticipated?

 Do you hear from them regularly to tell you about new updates, versions or maybe just an offer to go to lunch? Or, do they call just to remind you that your annual maintenance and support fees are due?

Is This What Your Re-Seller Looks Like?

 Do you recommend them to friends or business associates who are looking for ERP software? 

Or are they like your drunk Uncle Charley who shows up for every holiday, drinks too much, starts swearing like, well a drunken uncle. He then proceeds to pass out on your new couch which is when he chooses flatulence as his primary language. Upon awakening to the smell of something burning in the kitchen and the shrieking of the fire alarm do you realize that Drunken Uncle Charley has plans to stay the entire Holiday weekend at your place, which is when you whip out the plastic and book him a room at the furthest hotel from you with promises that he’ll pay you back.

If your “VAR” isn’t providing you with quality service like the ones that have been mentioned above then maybe what you have is a Re-Seller, not a VAR.

I was just reading  a social media post from a new Sage partner who wrote the following (paraphrased)

They wanted input from other partners because they wanted to know why Sage is better than Quick Books & another solution but they weren’t really sure as they have no experience in the usage of Sage or any other accounting program. Okay, fair enough we all have to learn sometime about the software that we represent but here’s where I was just dumbfounded. I went to their website, wait for it, and wait for it
This was what I read (paraphrased again)

At ____________ we specialize in the use of, and training in, Sage accounts, Payroll and HR programs. We offer good value and great service during training and, if you require it, maintenance.

Okay, so is there something that I’m missing?  So which classification does this partner fall into? They don’t appear to me to offer much beyond the ability to sell software so I’m going with Re-Seller. A Re-Seller doesn’t offer additional services, usually doesn’t have the resources to provide those services and generally has to charge you more because they have to pay an outside resource to provide those services.

I know what the Re-Seller looks like because I worked for one for a short period of time. Not only did they not have the in house resources to help their clients but they hadn’t bothered to have their IT person certified, why by the way is a requirement by Sage. What that means that even if we had a sale we couldn’t process it because our online Sage access had been shut off.  That’s called a red flag and a reason to find a real VAR who could provide those services.

Our clients deserve the best service that’s available. They trust that they’re getting the best service. It’s incumbent upon us to provide an extraordinary customer experience each and every time that we have a dialogue with them.  It’s time that our clients are treated as something other than a quick buck. If you’re losing more than your fair share of clients for “undetermined” reasons then it’s time to re-examine your business practices.  Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate why you’re in business & if it’s just to make money then you’re probably doing in business for the wrong reasons. However if providing an extraordinary customer experience for your clients is your number one goal, congratulations. You “get it” and not surprisingly so do your clients. Welcome to the World of VARs

Transition Versus Change


I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about change lately and the reasons for each individual event have one basic conclusion, but we’ll get to that later.

What’s your initial response when the company you’ve worked for a period of time experiences significant change in the overall ownership structure? My first reaction is one of fear and that fear is usually based around one re-occuring. “What Am I Going To Lose?” With that one simple question my mind can run off in all sorts of directions that aren’t healthy for me or anyone around me because that’s when the negativity & fear of the unknown start to cultivate & grow in my mind. 95% of the time when I have speculated about what change is going to bring is so off the mark that I feel like a moron.

This is also the time that I start to speculate about those changes. The best definition of speculation is “a message expressing an opinion based on incomplete evidence.” The key phrase is incomplete evidence. Apparently it was pretty evident to others that I wasn’t dealing well with the changes that were going on around me so they gave me a book to read titled Managing Transitions by William Bridges. In it he says the following;

 “Change,” which he describes as external and public, and “transition,” which is internal, private, and psychological.  He claims that change is relatively easy but transitions are more difficult and emotionally demanding.  He states “Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation….and, it is these interior processes of learning and adaptation—not the external facts of change—that are underestimated and can be treacherous to one’s health and happiness.”

“ In our highly mobile society, where change and ambition are considered coin of the realm, people fail to recognize that any transition process—in life, in love, in work—not only requires adapting to a new situation, but it means letting go of old habits.”

Prior to reading this book I didn’t realize that there were two parts to change. I just thought that I thick headed and stubborn. Well, maybe there’s still some of that, but……

You might ask why I’m writing about this at this juncture. Since you asked I’ll tell you. Sage is going through some major changes in terms of re-branding its entire product line. There’s been a lot of discussion amongst the Sage partners about how it’s going to affect their bottom line.

What’s interesting to me is that I haven’t lost a minute of sleep because I understand the need for a change so I’ve passed through the Transition phase with flying colors and am anxious to see how this all works out.

I’m in the Change phase which allows me to move forward and I hope that all the partners who are still in the Transition phase get to enjoy the Change phase.

All VAR’s Are Not Equal

Beats Me

All VAR’s are not equal nor are they the same. Some VAR’s shouldn’t be VAR’s which makes the exceptional VAR’s stand out even more, but gives the entire industry a Big Black Eye. This is just my opinion but some partners should close their doors and find their core competency and go do it.

Pre-2000 deals were flowing and everyone was happy, except for the customers. They were unhappy because they found that selling the solution was but a small part of the process and a lot of these customers were left out in the cold silently, and sometimes not so quietly cursing the entire industry. They were justified in their anger and disappointment.

What they found, much to their dismay was that not all VAR’s had their best interest in mind. This reminds me of Ben Franklin’s quote which was written more than 200 years ago;

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

Deloitte and Touche did a study a few years back. They asked first and multiple time purchasers of Accounting Software what their #1 criteria was for choosing a system. (See Results Below)

Top 10 Criteria for Selecting Accounting Software

Rank                            Reason

Price of Software

Ease of Implementation

Ease of Use

Software’s ability to fit the business

Functionality of software

Software works with existing hardware

Growth potential of software

Level of support provided by local firm

Quality of documentation

Developers track record of performance

2nd Time Buyers

Rank                          Reason

Level of support provided by local firm
Developers track record
Software’s ability to fit the business
Growth potential of software
Price of software
Quality of documentation
Functionality of software
Ease of use
Ease of implementation
Software works with existing software

Take a look at the top 5 in the second group. The level of support provided by the local VAR was #1. I have shared this study with many prospects over the years, 50% took a look at it and still decided that price was the most important and paid the price. I’ve had many calls from prospects who chose price over substance asking us to clean up the mess from the partner they chose. The other 50% bought the right solution from the right partner and lived happily ever after! I recently ran into a Sage Software distributor who doesn’t have any in house resources to implement MAS products and yet call themselves a VAR. Apparently they’re unaware that VAR is the acronym for VALUE ADDED RESELLER intimating that the reseller provides Value. They can sell and they can provide support for the customer. If there are any potential customers reading this please don’t make the mistake that many others have made by choosing your Solution Provider on price alone.

  1. a. Ask them for 3 – 5 reference able happy and satisfied clients.
    b. Ask them what their implementation methodology is. All successful VAR’s should have this ready to send to prospects.
    c. Ask them how long they’ve been in business as a Sage VAR.
    d. Ask them if their staff is certified. If they can’t provide you with any of the above then you’re probably not dealing with a VAR, you’re dealing with a distributor; and anyone can distribute software.This is your time to ask questions and you should expect answers to your questions.Being a VAR requires a healthy investment and there are companies out there who are looking for shortcuts to this process. The Sage Software distributor that I mentioned earlier didn’t even have up to date certifications for their IT guy to do implementations. Really? Yet, they call themselves a VAR. Its people like this who give the industry a bad rap and unfortunately the rest of the industry has to answer for these companies.

Life’s Crossroads

Have you ever come to a crossroads in your life and not known which branch to take? They all seemed about the same at the time but in retrospect they were about the same as night and day.

So, what to do, you ask? Beats the heck out of me, I can’t answer for anyone else but myself. Making wise decisions was never my forte when I was younger and I’ve only got smarter as a result of repeatedly taking the wrong road. Taking short cuts seemed to be the easier, softer way, and they were fun. But life has a way of turning shortcuts into valuable life lessons.  Fast forward a few years to 2001. I had a small business and my partner ran off with our remaining $91,000, left the country and me with few options.

See where this is going? Crossroads? Decisions? I was at a crossroads and I was willing to listen to others. I received a call from a friend who had been selling Oracle software for a few years. He had made the switch from Oracle to Sage and was the Sales Manager at Sage’s largest partner.

He asked if I wanted to come to work for him selling software. I told him “sure” but I’d never sold software. He told me not to worry, he’d teach me everything that I needed to learn. Thus, my career in the world of software began. He left the company shortly after hiring me but I wanted to stay because I was really enjoying what I was doing.

The owner of that company became my first software mentor and even though I left his company I still consider him a friend today. Occasionally we get together for lunch (almost always sushi) and we catch up with each other.

When I left his company I was at a crossroads, I thought that it was time to take what I had learned out “into the world.” It wasn’t my best decision. The difference in this decision and the ones that I made when I was younger; was that I was making this decision to take better care of my family.

Since then I’ve had to make a lot of crucial  decisions, but that’s part of life, making decisions each and every day and the one thing that I keep in mind when I’m making those decisions is this, how is this going to affect my family?

One of the hardest decisions that I’ve had to make in the past year was my relationship with my son’s mother and how we both knew it was time for me to get my own place. I remember leaving the house that night and I was filled with a feeling of  “failing.” I sat in my car that night for a long time wondering how things had gotten to this. Since that night to right now I’ve grown more and as a result of that growth I have become a better person. I make sure that my wife has plenty of whatever she needs to continue to give the boys what they need and I treat her with the up most respect because no matter what she’ll always be their mother and I’ll always be their father and I’ll always be the father I never had. I don’t talk bad to the boys about their mother Why do I do this? Because it’s the right thing to do.  As a result of doing the right thing I get to spend quality time with them and that’s extremely important to me.

I was at a crossroads when I left the house and I had two roads to take, the first would have been the selfish one and my sons would have had to pay for that. The second and the most rewarding road is the one when I do things for other people because it’s the right thing.

How Important Is Transparency?

 

Webster’s Definition of Transparency; “Implies Openness, Communication & Accountability”

In many corporations you’ll find the “Executive Team” cloaked in secrecy, making decisions that affect their employees all the way down the organizational chart often changing the relationship between the company & their customers. The sub text of this type of secret organization implies that they don’t trust their “valued” employees, nor do they care for their input & if they complain enough the company finds a way to let them go & finds someone else to fill that space & the behavior goes on unchecked, but who cares because profits are up, so why change?

Most of their customers are treated the same way. Other than the revenue that they generate the company looks at them as a necessary evil, invests minimally in support & knows that they can find more customers.

All of these decisions are made behind closed doors & in hushed tones & it’s this sort of company that creates no employee or customer loyalty. It’s just a job or in the case of the customer it’s just a vendor & you won’t find any Raving Fans in either group.

We have all probably worked in this atmosphere, I know I have & even though I had great ideas most fell on deaf ears. Eventually that dream opportunity becomes the dreaded work place that I have to show up to so that I can get a paycheck. In time creativity is gone from my spirit, I’m taking sick days off; I’m getting in late, leaving early. There is an astronomical cost that goes along with this type of operation.

Now flip the page & look at a company that is doing it’s best to become transparent. I understand that complete transparency is impossible, so I’m not being naïve about my definition of transparency.

Let’s talk about the new Sage. For those who have been living in Mukluk, Alaska or wandering the Sahara Desert for the past year, News Flash! We have new faces & new attitudes at Sage. Our CEO is making changes along with her management team that they believe will help the partners & customers, not hinder us. Were some of the decisions that were made last year popular? No, but I believe that they were made because they had to be & someone has to make them.

They’re open to hear what we have to say & in most cases people just want someone to listen to them. In the past 6 months I’ve seen more evidence of a transparent society than ever. We’ve been offered free training classes, Workshops, Road Shows, etc. There are a lot of Sage employees crossing the skies everyday to bring that new message to us & if you’re not taking advantage of them it’s your own fault.

One of the bright spots of this new transparency is that it looks like its being backed up with action. Understand that all these actions by Sage are not going to make everyone happy, but if you have a complaint take it to the right people & think about a solution that you think might work. That opens up the communication lines, it makes people feel valuable, & they know they’re being listened to, & you can’t put a price tag on that.

Creating a work culture that trusts its employees doesn’t happen by accident. It takes work. It also takes dedicated and passionate people who not only trust their employee but are “Part Of The Solution.”

When I was managing sales persons and support people I encouraged them to bring their concerns to me. But if they were in my office just to complain they had to bring a solution with them. It’s a small paradigm shift but if everyone’s thought pattern is centered on the solution rather than the problem the culture will change into a more positive atmosphere. It has to.

For a great book on these topics read Paul Spiegelman’s “Why Is Everyone Smilng? The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity & Profit”