Getting kicks from playing in a crowded house

Getting kicks from playing in a crowded house

Small and medium business software provider Accredo, based in Auckland, says its corner of the market is crowded, and that it is usually not an organisation’s first choice.

Director Paul Heinz and general manager Tish Brindle say SMEs will generally buy off the shelf when they start out, but will consider buying Accredo as they mature and have more sophisticated business needs.

Even at this stage of a potential customer’s lifecycle, 25-year-old Accredo faces stiff local competition from other players such as Greentree, (which was kickstarted in the early 1980s with the release of CBA software), 16-year-old Accomplish, 19-year-old CSoft and many others.

However, Accredo hopes a new image, recent expansion and close, long-term relationships with resellers and customers will set it apart.

Heinz and Brindle say the day-to-day enjoyment of solving unique business problems has kept each of them at the firm since 1989 and 1991 respectively.

“It’s fun and we never have a chance to get bored,” says Brindle. “Problem solving and the creative side is what we get a kick out of.”

In preparation for future growth, Accredo has spruced up its branding, moved up a floor into customised office space with a dedicated reseller training room and recently hired four new staff. A new website and an email newsletter are also part of the drive for an enhanced profile.

Accredo ensures it incorporates user feedback into each software release, and the interaction with long-term customers is as beneficial for the company as it is for resellers. Heinz and Brindle say the ability to customise their products is a chance for resellers to offer consultancy services.

“What we want is people and customers who are good business for us as much as we are for them. They want to spend on their software on a regular basis, not spend as a one-off purchase,” says Brindle.

Heinz agrees. “The part of the business we enjoy is interacting and if customers don’t want any services and support then why do it? In the same way, the resellers that are often the best are the ones who have that ongoing relationship and know their clients’ business.”

The pair says some of the company’s 80 or so resellers (which they call qualified service providers or QSPs) have stayed with the firm since it began.

When Heinz’s fellow director Adrian Abraham started the firm in 1989, it was a response to his father-in-law’s need to balance the books using a Commodore. As Heinz tells it, Abraham found software for the machine was limited to games and that local accounting packages were scarce.

Heinz helped Abraham develop the first product – Profax – which moved through Dos and eventually into Windows in the late 1990s. However, the Profax name became a hindrance, as those who had not heard of the firm thought it made technology for fax machines.

Last year the leap to Accredo was made, named after the company’s major product. Accredo offers two versions – Saturn, designed for businesses operating from more than one branch, and Mercury, aimed at SMEs with one office.

Between 800 and 900 customer sites are now said to run Accredo, including manufacturing companies, distributors and retailers.

Although the majority use Windows-based Accredo Mercury, Heinz says there is a “huge tail” of Dos users and some still using Profax. Accredo is still asked to migrate systems from small providers who established business software systems and then went out of business, Heinz says.

The most recent Accredo releases include a fixed-asset tracking module and a report designer module to automate customisation of reports.

Brindle says Accredo hopes to recruit more resellers in regions where it is less represented, and chartered accountants tend to dominate its channel outside the main centres. As well, it recently introduced pricing by number of employees to complement traditional per module pricing.

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