Altara's growth model a sign of the times for VARs?
Read this article at Accounting
by Seth Fineberg
Irving, Texas (February 2004) - It may be no surprise to find large
accounting and business application product resellers like Altara getting
larger, but many in the industry see it as a sign of things to come for
Resellers are realizing that just being a small accounting software reseller
is not conducive to long-term growth, and are under increased pressure
to get big, get bought or grow within a niche if they want to stay in
McKena Group, a small computer consultancy serving the greater Dallas/Ft.
Worth area, recently merged its Microsoft Business Solutions practice
with the Southwest operations of Altara a global MBS partner. McKena
Groups business solutions practice will now be doing business as
Altara and will be represented by key personnel from McKena and Altara.
In turn, Altara will continue to provide MBS products including Great
Plains, Solomon, Axapta and Microsoft CRM to middle-market companies
in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and throughout the South Central region.
The McKena buy is just one of five that Altara plans to make in the region
within the coming weeks as part of its overall growth strategy.
We had been talking to McKena for about six months. They are
much smaller and saw eroding margins, they were under 10 people, but they
had a good customer base, said Duane Connor, president of Altara
Southwest. You can either stay very small or become a market player,
but you arent just going to drive business on software sales alone.
We are trying to raise the bar, not eliminate competition.
Nationwide, Altara now has over 90 professionals in nine office locations
and over 800 customers, but they are not the only firm that believes
that growth or diversification is important for a resellers survival.
Alex Solomon, co-founder of New York-based
Net@Work, has grown his firm organically over the past several years,
and it is now a $6.9 million operation with a staff of 48. His firm is
also a top Best Software and Accpac International reseller, which
due to Bests recent acquisitions of Softline Software, Timberline
Software and Accpac has put his firm in a unique position to offer
more and grow accordingly.
Weve changed our sales from product-driven to solutions-driven,
and we look at what clients want. Its hard for me to see how smaller
dealers [six to 12 person firms] can survive. They need resources, and
small shops cant do it, Solomon said. Now that
most consolidations in the publisher world are finished, you will see
it in the reseller world. VARs either need to specialize or have critical
mass to support x amount of clients and have x
amount of products.
So where do the smaller resellers fit in? That depends on their specialty
focus or, in some cases, their geography. If a small reseller doesnt
have to compete, it is likely that it will survive and grow at its own
pace, much like Canfield, Ohio-based Neo3. The firm has about 13 employees
and earns approximately $1 to $2 million per year reselling MAS 90 and
BusinessWorks accounting software for Best.
Neo3 sales manager Jim Rosenberg doesnt see a problem with his firms
business strategy, mostly because he is faced with little competition;
but he realizes that could change if the firm grows.
Our target is $5 million to $15 million companies, and thats
bread and butter for us. We have partnerships for SalesLogix [customer
relationship management] or any specialty item, where if we get into that
situation we refer out, Rosenberg said. We are growing but
in our same market space; though, at some point we may reach out to larger
areas and, if thats the case, we may be more acquireable.