Best Software's Channel Chief Aims To Do Better

As channel chief for Best Software, Taylor MacDonald has his work cut out for him. One of the few vendor channel chiefs who was once a VAR, MacDonald is attempting to synthesize several Best Software acquisitions made in the past year into a cohesive channel. He discusses why he thinks Best Software is poised to do better across the channel in an interview with CRN Editor In Chief Michael Vizard.

CRN: What's your take on Best Software's ability to compete?

MACDONALD: The most important thing is that we've got an opportunity at this point--with the disarray in the marketplace--to gain market share from our competitors. What we've done with the people who sell any of those competing products is send them something to say, 'Were you getting 59 points with Microsoft? Didn't think so. So think about it.'

CRN: What's your goal for the channel?

MACDONALD: We need to get more feet on the street, get existing partners selling more, being more productive and give them more tools. This is one of the things that our financial wherewithal allows us to do. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, we want to have more feet on the street as all of our businesses hopefully will grow with an increasing economy.

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CRN: How many partners does Best Software have today?

MACDONALD: We've got 13,600 worldwide. The number of channel partners in North America that are seriously dedicated to us is roughly 3,000 to 4,000.

CRN: As a former VAR, what do you think solution providers should keep in mind most?

MACDONALD: As a channel player, it's your business. What are you going to do with it? Don't look for Best to run your business. It's your business. You got into it for a reason; now go do something with it. I think that's the struggle we always have with channel. You can't be a little pregnant in this business. You're either a partner company, or you're a direct company. We can look easily at the people who tried to do both, and not with much success. If you're a partner-driven company, you are going to wake up every morning saying, 'What do you need to succeed?' We've got to get past that adversarial stuff that most partner channels have.

CRN: Is Best Software willing to make the investment to help partners run their businesses?

MACDONALD: Absolutely. I don't think there is anybody that's put their money where their mouth is more than we have. We have the Best Leadership program, where we train people to run their business. I've also got a guy who does nothing but channel tools.

CRN: How do retail-oriented products such Peachtree or QuickBooks eventually help feed the channel?

MACDONALD: It's more the life after Peachtree. Smart VARs have gone to the QuickBooks Web site, taken down the names of every authorized QuickBooks consultant in their geographic patch and then written them a letter, taken them to lunch and said, 'If you give me one QuickBooks guy that upgrades to a AccPacc or MAS 90, I'll give you $1,000.' And the guy says, 'Well, I'm never going to get $1,000 out of that QuickBooks guy or the Peachtree guy.' If I were a partner today, that's all I'd be doing. I'd have somebody who all day long [did nothing but] meet with accountants, hardware guys, QuickBooks guys and Peachtree guys, because that's the feeder network of people that uncover need.

CRN: What do you think is the most significant long-term trend you're seeing in the channel?

MACDONALD: When I had my business, I made a lot of hardware guys a lot of money. And they were always at my house, and we were always eating well because I'd bring them into every deal. Now at some point, if I'd been smarter, would it have made sense to go merge with some of them? I think we'll see some of that. That's where we'll see the ISV and the channel merge. It won't be the ISV guys taking on our products. It will be somebody saying, 'You know what? In today's time, if I've got a fleet of trucks with my name on it and I'm known as a great infrastructure guy and I've got a business software decision over here, I'm going to kick some butt.'