Dealer – Driven Software
Greg Musson, general manager at CropLife Top 100’s Gar Tootelian Inc., had a hefty wish list when he went searching in 1999 for management software. “I started looking for something simple that would make our staff extremely efficient, force good procedures upon us, produce monthly financials and allow our people to leave every night with a clean desk and a smile on their face,” he says. “What I saw on the market was software that would keep our CPA smiling but did little towards making our life simpler or more profitable.”
So, he set out with John Kirby, long-time Wilbur-Ellis programmer, to create just what the doctor ordered. In 1999, Kirby was leaving the company and returning to Fresno. He had developed and managed the “operational” software that was used to run Wilbur-Ellis’ branch system – and was sold to users outside the system, such as Gar Tootelian (a 10-year customer, in fact).
“We felt that two veteran industry people with good accounting, software design, and ‘hands on’ operational experience could build a better software package for our industry than someone, let’s say, in the parts business,” says Musson.
Very Close To Customized
The result was CPR+, a business management package launched in mid-2000 that handles direct shipment of product, stock transfers, manufacturing, formulation, sale orders, back orders, and complex vendor and customer pricing schemes. “It is fast, well-tested, and very stable on virtually any Microsoft platform. It even does rebate estimating & tracking and allocates it to sales history; and even the P&L if you like,” explains Musson.
“Ship something and it shows in your A/R and Inventory. Order something and your dispatcher immediately knows it. Write a recommendation (in Agrian, CDMS, or CPR+) and it flows right into the shipping process. Create a ‘will call’ and your people can not only anticipate future inventory needs but also follow through to make sure you ship the order,” he says.
Musson says that everything is totally integrated and available in detail for at least 7 years. A user can pull up an invoice from 7 years ago, drill down on a line-item’s detail, and then re-create the statement he got back then.
“Additionally, what sets CPR+ apart is that our users get access to all modules. So as they grow and need new tools, CPR+ has them for them already. Also, CPR+ users have access to a centralized database of products where manifest and chemical information is maintained for them. This relieves them of the need for a regulatory person to maintain this data,” says Musson.
Meeting Specific Needs
He and Kirby knew they were on to something back in 2000 when the software worked so well for Gar Tootelian’s needs – and so they formed SASS Development to market the program to dealers. Musson serves as director of marketing for the firm.
He says one selling point is that CPR+ came out of a belief that software would be more effective if it is simple to use. Most of the programs that Musson tried seemed to be written by a CPA or programmer totally unfamiliar with the ag retail industry, he says. “They did not address such things as shipment manifests, hazmat reporting, special taxes, repackaging, application, EDI, etc.” Most could not even hold detailed historical information for more than 12 months.
And CPR+ development has been totally user-driven. People in companies using the system meet and network regularly. Enhancements suggested are implemented and introduced as they become available – “as opposed to one big, buggy, new upgrade,” Musson says.
Word about the CPR+ has spread, first to customers in California, then to Arizona and Texas. Several installed the program in its first year of existence, and so far, SASS has yet to lose a buyer.
Jill Cotten, office manager at SureGrow Ag Products in Comanche, TX, is a new user that’s particularly pleased with CPR+’s powerful inventory tracking capabilities. She also likes how it maintains pre-pay accounts – a task she used to have to handle manually on spreadsheets. The pre-pay function was something her former software, the generic business program QuickBooks, could not do.
Musson says new users like the fact there’s no big “up-front” cost for the software – as well as its low monthly cost. One new user “is pretty excited” with a new formulator module recently introduced.
“User and sales friendly,” “very logical,” “best software around,” are words Rich French, manager of Bear River Supply, Rio Oso, CA, uses to describe CPR+. “The system has saved money with the flow of information and lack of double entry of information. In addition, good people are hard to find – and my estimate is that with CPR+ we need at least 50% less staff to get more done accurately.
“It addresses the needs of this business,” he says. “We do not adapt our business to the software. I never have to tell a customer that we can’t do it that way because of the computer program”. Readers can contact Musson at [email protected] or 559-908-9884.