Sage Advice US

Q&A with Sonia Ferrera, CEO/Owner, Southeast Computer Solutions

Many Sage business partners have been building their businesses around the Sage family of products for decades – delivering value-added services and support that help our shared customers get the most out of their business software. We sought out one of those long-term partners to better understand how they got started, how they are growing, and what they think about the direction the industry is moving. Meet Sonia Ferrera of Southeast Computer Solutions.

Sonia launched Southeast Computer Solutions (SCS) when she was barely out of her teens, following a successful implementation of MAS 90 (now Sage 100) for the family business. She claims she always had a passion for business, and she’s proven it. Three decades later, Southeast Computer Solutions of Miami is one of the largest and most successful Sage business partners in the country.

Describe your company’s mission and why your partner business is unique.

A major part of our culture, and part of what makes us truly unique, is our corporate culture of family and togetherness. This sense of value and belonging allows our team to function as one unit headed in the same strategic direction. Our customers see and appreciate this. We have an amazing employee retention rate, in fact my first two employees still work with me! We invest a great deal of time and resources in our staff, both professionally and socially. We spend time together both in and out of the office. Some of my best friends are colleagues and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What key trends have you observed that’s had the biggest impact to your business in the last five years?

Without a doubt, software publishers moving towards a subscription model with annual maintenance, as opposed to selling software licenses outright has been the biggest change in recent years. Customers are also pushing us to be ever more innovative and provide creative solutions to their business problems and issues. Customers are much more savvy than ever before, and often influence the direction that SCS heads. The subscription model changed the game dramatically as customers began to view software more as a commodity rather than an asset. Technology has evolved so quickly that software is now mobile-friendly and easier to configure and use. As a reseller, we needed to up our game and offer newer, more sophisticated services to remain relevant. Business intelligence, process mapping, even industrial engineering services have allowed us to expand our services offerings and become more of a trusted advisor, rather than acting solely as a software vendor.

South Florida has always been the “gateway to the Americas” and this involves much more than merely speaking Spanish! Many of our customers import or export products throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America (as well as Europe and Asia). This has required a mastery of multi-currency, import/export container tracking, and local fiscal requirements. For example, in Mexico, many companies are required to track retentions, or perform electronic invoicing and electronic accounting. Often times, these requirements translate to substantial modifications to their accounting and ERP systems. Understanding these regulations and requirements in detail have given us a unique perspective and has allowed us to be very successful in this space.

What are the most common business challenges you hear from prospects and customers?

Do it faster and do it cheaper is a common refrain. Everybody wants to implement in half the time and for half the cost than we typically estimate. So many customers have suffered through painful implementations in the past and are hesitant about pulling the trigger on a new project. They see ERP as “Expensive”, “Regretful,” and “Painful.” It is our job to change this perception! I often use the analogy of a construction project. As with any construction project, you can hire a professional contractor, or you can do it yourself. Too often, our customers try to take on this role, only to have it backfire and ultimately pay the cost for having to do the job twice. Very few customers have the knowledge and experience to perform this function on their own. The biggest challenge often is helping them acknowledge this before they begin the project.

Given our 31 years in business, we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes an implementation successful, as well as what pitfalls to avoid. Our proven implementation methodology is a deliverable that we provide with any new implementation. It is the biggest tool we leverage to overcome the faster/cheaper challenge.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

It has to be when I was handpicked by State of the Art Software (now Sage) to develop and write the Spanish version of MAS 90. This helped to open the door for SCS to become a leader in the industry, mastering many challenges of working with companies in Central and South America