Small Fry Open Systems Earns Big Channel Points


Open Systems doesn't have the name recognition Best Software or Microsoft enjoys. Its three lines of accounting packages for small to midsize businesses do not vie for the topmost rung of the market ladder. But the 30-year-old accounting software vendor, based in Shakopee, Minn., just might hold the lead when it comes to taking care of its 2,500 North American channel partners.

"I've worked with and talked to other vendors, and the biggest difference we see with Open Systems is that even the little fish feel like big fish with them," said Tony Moliterno, president of Independent Computer Services, Anaheim, Calif.

"Open Systems is probably the best company around to do business with, and always striving to do better," agreed Dick Parsons, a salesman and programmer with Boston-based Bay State Software. "That company will do anything to make a partner happy. It's unsurpassed."

Now Open Systems has revealed the latest steps in its continual effort to satisfy partners. In place since July but only recently announced, the new channel initiatives include unlimited training, 10 percent referral fees to nonselling partners and free access to partner conferences. The new program also institutes monthly partner fees.

"We wanted to make the program financially comfortable so that it's not difficult to be a partner with us," said Rita Strauss, Open Systems' director of business development.

Fees depend on which--and how many--product lines partners are certified to sell: $200 a month each for Open Systems Accounting Software (OSAS) and Traverse Business Edition, $400 a month for Traverse Enterprise or $500 a month to carry all three products.

The number of product lines solution providers sell also affects how many of their staff receive free passes to the vendor's annual partner conferences, worth up to $3,000 in registration costs.

Probably the most important new offering, say Open Systems providers, is the company's decision to provide unlimited training for as many people as partners want. And yes, that's training of every sort, including sales, consulting, product training and custom application development.

"For the price of my airline ticket and hotel, I just got $1,500 worth of good, solid sales training over two days," said Norm Wine, senior partner of Alternative Business Systems, Columbus, Ohio. "My entire technical staff will be going for free training this month." Unlimited training complements the company's unlimited tech support.

Of course, taking care of solution providers goes only so far if partners can't sell the product. Which brings up the next logical question: How's business? The answer appears to be "not bad." Open Systems claims more than 250,000 SMB customers for its OSAS line--which runs on Unix, Linux and Macintosh--and 6,000 customers running its Windows-based Traverse applications.

So how does a company almost no one has heard of reap so many customers?

"They tend to be in smaller deals, with smaller VARs that serve small-scale clients," said Randy Johnston, executive vice president of accounting industry research firm K2 Enterprises. "Because of that, the VARs get to make recommendations to clients that don't really shop around a lot."