Quick Take With Ron Verni, CEO of Sage Software

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VARBusiness' Carolyn A. April checks in with Ron Verni, CEO of Sage Software, on the business-software market, consolidation and partner strategies.

VB: Who do you compete with in the business-software space?

Verni: This industry is consolidating. You've got us on the lower end, and the Oracles and SAPs at the high end. Five to 200 employees are our sweet spot—companies that are spending tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands, of dollars. There are 7.8 million businesses in North America that fit our description.

With Microsoft, it's different. With its CRM product and Great Plains software, we compete. But we are seeing less and less of Great Plains and more of [Microsoft's] Axapta and Navision products. They are moving up to the higher end because Microsoft wants to sell its full stack, and you don't sell the full stack in small businesses.

VB: How many partners do you have, and how have you reconciled partners acquired from other companies?

Verni: We have about 6,000 in North America and over 22,000 worldwide. The acquisitions we made all had large partner channels…It's one integrated program now…We are spearheading a number of activities, meaning boot camps, training sessions and our 100/100 program. In that program, Sage helps partners find and hire the best salespeople in the channel. We hire the recruiting firm for the partners, pay for the sales hires' first 90 days on the job, and provide training and metrics to make sure they are successful. It's a salesperson-in-a-box, if you will.

VB: What are your top goals for 2006?

Verni: Growth. We are a consolidator and don't intend to be consolidated ourselves. We will drive expansion into verticals by two methods: getting deeper into the five we are already in by either acquiring or expanding products, and then also going into new vertical markets.

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