Psst … come a little closer. I’m going to let you in on a secret that’s going to knock your socks off. OK, are you ready for this?
Most business management systems pretty much do the same thing.
Wait, did I just say that out loud? Well, yes. I did. Mainly because its true.
For the most part, most of the big names in the small- to mid-size business management solution business will get the job done. Some are better than others at one process or another, but in the end, most businesses will find success just based on the software alone.
However, in the world of business management systems, you don’t just deal with the software alone. In this world, companies can’t just come to the Practical Software Solutions office and buy Sage X3 or Sage 100 off of a shelf like you can at Staples with Microsoft Office or QuickBooks.
Instead of having a box of CDs that can be installed on a single computer, these business management systems need a team of specialists working for weeks or months (depending on the complexity of the project) with their customer to fully implement the solution. Aside from the software itself, there are servers to set up, databases to manage, clients to install, users to train, and so on.
So when a company makes the investment to implement a business management system, the relationship they have with their sales and/or implementation partner becomes a vital part of the project’s success. When you’re going to be working that closely with a customer for that long, both sides need to make sure they can coexist on the same team.
It’s easy to compare the sales cycle to dating: Putting on airs, talking more about yourself and what you can do, lying about your background, and making promises that you can’t keep may fool someone to start, but it will all be found out eventually. Like any relationship, a business relationship needs to be built on trust, honesty, and compatibility.
As strange as it may sound, we’ve turned down potential customers because we felt like the relationship wouldn’t be a good fit. And I’d venture to say some prospects felt the same about us. But we want everyone that comes in contact with us to succeed, even if we’re not the partner that works with them.
Beyond the software system implementation: Vertical products
When you get past the sales and implementation processes, there are still other ways a software partner can differentiate themselves from other software partners — even ones that sell the exact same product.
Being a Sage development partner allows us to customize the business management systems to best suit the needs of our customers’ operations. We almost never see a customer who can use one of these business systems straight “out of the box.” Whether its building a few custom reports all the way up to major customizations, having access to the source code and the technical staff that can do the work makes us stand out a bit.
Sage has had this same discussion with their partners as of late. Along the same vein, Sage has recommended its development partners find a vertical market on which to focus. That way, the partner can become an expert for a smaller segment of the business world while also having the general knowledge to still help a “typical” customer.
Interestingly enough, 10 years ago a vertical market found us.
Metrolina Greenhouses of Huntersville, N.C., was already a Sage customer when they were looking to upgrade their software system. However, they were also looking for a partner who could help them translate a traditional manufacturing and distribution business management system so it could understand the complexities of manufacturing a live product.
In that sense, they were looking for a software partner that didn’t just care about them as a greenhouse grower. They wanted a partner that knew about how their entire business operates.
If their only concern was finding a Sage partner was proximity, we would have been their only choice considering they’re less than 15 miles away from our office. However, that coincidence was a negligible factor in our partnership. We had the knowledge and ability to create what they were looking for, and we forged a partnership that would extend beyond our office doors.
How much did Metrolina Greenhouses trust us? By all rights, they could have kept their Sage add-on to themselves. It was their idea, and we just helped them make it a reality. But as good stewards of the horticulture industry, Metrolina realized this could be a boon for everyone. They gave us permission to allow Grower Vertical to hit the open market.
In the past decade, we’ve learned more about the horticulture industry than we ever thought possible. And we’ve seen the industry go through both heartbreaking losses (especially during the recession and dealing with immigration and healthcare laws) and make some amazing strides. We’ve seen the industry go from spreadsheet accounting to 70 percent of the Top 100 Growers in North America looking to implement a business software system.
You can’t be a part of the horticulture industry this long without falling in love with it: The way they work together to help the industry succeed. The way they’ve grown from a greenhouse in Grandpa’s backyard to a multi-million dollar family-run business. The way they work hard to succeed and pass that determination down through the generations.
And just like our friends at Metrolina, we want to be good stewards of the industry. We want to make sure the industry continues its progress when it comes to technology. And we want to make sure growers find the right solution that will help them succeed. We’ve built relationships with other software vendors in the industry so that when our product isn’t the right fit, we can help recommend another solution. We want everyone to succeed.
We are so grateful to Metrolina Greenhouses for approaching us all those years ago and bringing us into this world. And we hope for many decades more of success for you and the horticulture industry.