There are many things that make my job easier. I’m sure that everyone out there can relate to having the right tools for the job.
I remember a couple of years ago when I got an upgraded laptop and, not too long after that, a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. Armed with some of the best tools in desktop publishing, I was able to create interactive PDFs, print-ready advertisements, and sharp-looking e-mails for our customers and prospects.
But physical tools aren’t the only thing that make our work life easier. Oftentimes, people tend to overlook how important having a solid relationship within your business community can affect your ability to do your job to the best of your abilities. This can mean relationships with your customers, your prospects, your associates, your employees, and other businesses.
But last week as we were putting together an e-newsletter with the staff at GIE Media, it really dawned on my how important our relationship is with Sage, the software publisher through which we offer value-added reseller services.
Relationships open a door to horticulture
When Practical Software Solutions began work on Grower Vertical for Sage ERP with Metrolina Greenhouses back in 2006, it was our first taste of the horticulture industry. We were a bit lucky: Metrolina is one of the largest, most respected greenhouse operations in the country, and they’re located less than 15 miles from our office, which makes us the closest Sage partner to them. Metrolina was looking to upgrade from Sage 100 ERP (then known as MAS 90/MAS 200) to Sage 500 ERP (then known as MAS 500).
But the folks at Metrolina didn’t choose us as a partner just because we were near them. By another stroke of luck, Charles Childers, their IT Director at the time, had been at a traditional manufacturing company and had met us when his previous place of employment was also looking to implement a new ERP system. That company didn’t choose us (even though Charles wanted them to pick us), but our team had formed a good relationship with this Charles nonetheless.
Because of that relationship, Charles recommended Practical as a candidate to work with Metrolina to upgrade their ERP system and help them work on a way it could be improved for the horticulture industry. Receiving a recommendation from a customer never gets old: It’s complete validation that someone likes you and thinks you are worth putting their reputation on the line. But think about it: Charles had never been a customer and he still recommended us.
A company can brag all they want about how they have the most customers, making them “the one that everyone wants to be with.” But what would those customers say if you asked them about their partner? Would they recommend their partner to you? Would you rather be with the one who has all the number or the one that has the better relationship with their customers?
How being a Sage partner makes a difference
I’ve mentioned in the past how forming relationships with some of the people I interact with at Sage has helped me relay information to our customers. I’m not looking for any special treatment or insider information from Sage. I’m just asking for more details about events or announcements for our customers who have asked, or clarifications when I’m writing a blog post. And the good news is that the people at Sage are more than happy to help.
Of course, that’s more of a marketing perspective, and that’s just one kind of relationship we have with Sage. Because we’re a “full-service” Sage partner, we also have the ability to sell, implement, develop on, and offer technical support for any Sage product we carry — whether it’s Sage ERP, Sage Construction and Real Estate or Sage HRMS.
Why does that matter? When it comes to, say, a manufacturer looking to implement Sage ERP X3, there are many great Sage partners out there who can do the same thing as we do. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes the difference between choosing us and choosing a different Sage partner may be as simple as a prior relationship or receiving a lead from Sage because we were the closest partner.
But I’ll go back to Grower Vertical as an example of why being a Sage partner is vitally important. When you develop a program like Grower Vertical that works in conjunction with a Sage ERP product, it helps to know the base system like the back of your hand. And because we’ve been a Sage Development Partner since 2003, we’ve had years of experience working with their ERP systems.
If a grower is interested in switching to Sage ERP, we have the ability to implement that system. We have access to the code and database for our Sage ERP products, so we can guarantee complete integration for Grower Vertical. We don’t have to worry about updates and new versions, because while Sage handles updating its ERP system, we can concentrate on updating Grower Vertical — including access to test environments from Sage. And, if something should go wrong between Sage ERP and Grower Vertical after we implement it, we have the ability to work on both sides of the problem.
After finding initial success with Grower Vertical within the horticulture community, we could have branched out and tried to make it work with other ERP systems to get more customers. But we chose our relationship with Sage over stretching ourselves too thin. We chose having a product for which we were able to provide a complete service (“from soup to nuts,” as Greg Lafferty always says) instead of one that could spread far and wide but not have the depth as one with a singular focus.
So when we talk about our relationship with Sage, it’s not out of arrogance or to get in good with them. It’s simply to provide the best possible service we can to our customers.