Accounting for SMBs: A Solution Beyond Entry-level Systems Red Wing Software
Red Wing Software Featured Author - Charles Chewning Jr.
The market for middle-market accounting software spans a large range based on price, functionality, and the size of the target organization. Most people are familiar with entry level products such as QuickBooks, Peachtree, and Simply Accounting and they are equally familiar with higher-end products such as Microsoft Great Plains Edition, MAS 90, ACCPAC Advantage Series, and Navision. Unfortunately there is a significant gap between these two classes of products and that's precisely where products from companies such as Red Wing Software compete.
Founded in 1979 with offices in Red Wing, Minnesota (US), Red Wing Software (http://www.redwingsoftware.com/) offers a strong middle market accounting system, as well as industry specific products that are leaders in their respective fields. In 2001, three companies (Red Wing Business Systems, Champion Business Systems, and FMS/Harvest) merged to create Red Wing Software, Inc. (1-800-732-9464). The merger was strategic and consolidated two of the leading agricultural products (AgCHEK by Red Wing Business Systems and Perception Accounting by FMS/Harvest) under one corporate umbrella. Additionally the merger allowed Champion Business Systems to offer a mid-range, Windows-based accounting product (TurningPoint) to its large DOS customer base. Red Wing Business Systems developed TurningPoint from the ground up with their DOS users in mind. Consolidating resources further provided each company the ability to enhance quality support services for their product lines, something on which each company prides themselves.
Agriculture (Ag) has always been a strong niche market for Red Wing. Focusing on financial management tools for producers (farmers and ranchers) and agribusinesses, AgCHEK and Perception Accounting are Ag-specific and recommended over general purpose, small business products. Cow/Calf is a complete herd management tool with analytical reports that track individual animal information, veterinary history, weaning, yearling, etc. for bulls, cows and their calves. Crop/Chemical and Livestock Management are comprehensive production management applications that integrate with AgCHEK accounting.
TurningPoint is Red Wing's premier business product. First introduced in 2001, TurningPoint targets companies with revenues of $1 to $25 million (USD). Written in Visual FoxPro, Red Wing does not provide source code, but does provide COM object technology to integrate third party applications. Five user-defined fields are provided for each master record and Crystal Reports is used as the reporting engine. User-defined reports can be created, if Crystal is purchased separately.
TurningPoint 3.0 was released in July 2004. Development of TurningPoint is based largely on the company's knowledgebase of customer requests and suggestions. In addition, Red Wing strives to develop relationships with alliance companies to form integrations, such as point of pale and dispatching services, to provide a broad suite of capabilities for customers and to drive new market development.
TurningPoint consistently receives high accolades from industry experts and publications. Standard pricing is $895 (USD) per module. A bundled core accounting system costs $2,495 (USD) while a bundled inventory suite costs $4,495 (USD). TurningPoint provides value for wholesale distributors with an expansive list of capabilities, including multiple-location inventory, drop shipments, and up to twenty pricing levels per item for customers with complex distribution methods.
It is also a prime choice for agribusinesses, due to 1099-Patronage export to payroll. The 1099-Patronage export to payroll is designed for US agricultural cooperatives that use the 1099-Patronage form, which deals with the allocation of dividends. The feature allows unlimited and customizable units of measure and customized labeling, and integration to a payroll product (Red Wing Payroll) that includes piece rate, multiple language pay stubs, and government reporting specific to migrant workers.
TurningPoint is easy-to-use with a design that follows the Microsoft Explorer hierarchy of folders. Due to TurningPoint's modular nature, users can customize their solution by purchasing only the pieces that are necessary and then grow into a more advanced solution as needed.
Currently TurningPoint supports the following applications:
- System Manager
- General Ledger
- Accounts Receivable
- Accounts Payable
- Purchase Orders
- Order Entry
- Red Wing Payroll (integrated or as a stand-alone option)
TurningPoint - What's Interesting
TurningPoint has been designed to serve the needs of companies with 5 to 100 employees in the $1 to $25 million (USD) revenue range looking for software that costs $5,000 (USD) or less. As such one, would not expect to find sophisticated functionality. However that's not necessarily the case here. The product is very well designed with menus and screens that are crisp and easy to understand for even a novice user. Although some training will be required, users should be able to move quickly to full utilization of the system.
Other features include pop-up reminders that can be created to alert users to meetings, tasks, and exceptions that require their attention. While these alerts are not that sophisticated, they certainly will be sufficient for most middle market companies. Also, the Document Manager can be used to link files to master records and Microsoft Office can be launched from within the system and merge documents created for announcements or even to remind customers about overdue accounts. TurningPoint can also integrate with GoldMine as its contact manager.
Menus can be also be customized or user-defined as an alternate to the main menu for specific, user functions. These personal task lists can then display only those functions to which a user has been assigned rights. Entries can also be customized by changing field labels and skipping fields.
Also, reports created in TurningPoint can be saved or e-mailed in multiple formats, printed for any time frame, and information can be exported in various formats including Excel. Also, the Order Entry screens are very well designed and allow users to move from section to section quite easily. Users can even accept deposits from an Order Entry screen.
TurningPoint also has light manufacturing and production planning features that are superior to other products in its price range. For example, while most products support assemblies, TurningPoint takes this concept one step further. It allows users to create production plans that list the sequence of events that need to be followed. This is particularly useful when an order calls for the creation of a set such as a table and matching chairs. Users can also create a production plan that combines assembly operations to create a single plan. Finally, TurningPoint allows users to include labor costs in an assembly, thus reflecting the true cost of each assembly (parts and labor). This is the only example in this price range of which I am aware that allows users to control production without having to move to what may be an overly complex MRP application.
Moreover, TurningPoint has features that are not supported by lower-end products. For example, it allows multiple substitutes for each inventory item and it tracks vendor item IDs, and will print the vendor part number on a purchase order.
Most notably, however, is that TurningPoint also has features that are not supported by many higher-end products such as multiple locations, including costing and pricing per location. It will also create a suggested purchase order based on either a forecast or the order point within inventory. In addition, users can create a purchase order from an Order Entry screen for non-stocked items or drop-ships.
Although TurningPoint does not support highly sophisticated pricing schemes, it does support product line pricing, unit of measure pricing (e.g. case and item) as well as location pricing. Users can set up twenty different prices for an item for any one quantity price point. This allows users to associate a customer to one of these price points and therefore build a fairly sophisticated matrix.
Third Party Applications
TurningPoint does not currently support a large number of third party products, but Red Wing will be adding strategic integrations over time. Currently the following products are supported:
- Contact Management: Goldmine (http://www.frontrange.com/goldmine/).
- Point of Sale: Acme Point of Sale (http://totalbusinessware.com/). Acme Point of Sale tightly integrates with TurningPoint's Accounts Receivable, Inventory Control, and General Ledger. Acme is advanced retail management software that includes barcode printing, credit card processing, and marketing features so you can do date-driven sale pricing, promotional mailing labels based on past purchases, receipt couponing, and more.
- Service Management: Dynamite Service System (http://www.southbysouthwest.com). A full featured, computerized dispatching software system that tracks field service calls and installations, in-house repairs to customer equipment, service contracts, technician calendar, customer profitability, equipment rentals, and much more.
- Installation Tool: Applianz (http://www.applianz.com/turningpoint.htm). Applianz Data Vault allows TurningPoint users to get up and running immediately on any existing PC or laptop with enhanced system performance and at a lower cost of ownership than other hardware upgrade or replacement options. Plus, users have the ability to access TurningPoint from any PC anywhere in seconds. The Data Vault's plug-and-play technology enables this without any installation, compatibility, or maintenance hassles.
- Printing Tool: PDFBlaster (http://www.datafabrication.com/main_content.asp?pageid=45) PDFBlaster is a revolutionary new "smart" printer driver that bridges the gap between your customers and suppliers and the documents they need to make your business succeed. PDFBlaster streamlines the entire process of creating, printing and delivering mission critical business documents without the hardware hassles associated with analog modems.
While it is relatively easy from an academic perspective to place TurningPoint in the competitive landscape (between entry level products such as QuickBooks and Peachtree and mid-priced products such as MAS 90, ACCPAC Pro Series and AccountMate), most users see one end of the spectrum or the other, but not products in between like TurningPoint.
The product itself is actually quite powerful for its price point, but Red Wing must continue to add functionality in order to offer users something other than just a price advantage. Name recognition may be Red Wing's single greatest challenge. Small companies like Red Wing have survived because they have been able to attract a loyal, albeit small number of resellers. Marketing is expensive, not to mention the relatively small number of middle market publications and other marketing outlets, which makes marketing harder. In short growth is difficult. The most effective growth strategy is through increased reseller recruitment as well as marketing to the CPA community that is very influential in this market.
Red Wing Software, unlike other small accounting software vendors serves a surprisingly wide array of industries: general accounting, small distributors, point-of-sale, service management, agriculture, farms, livestock, and small municipalities. TurningPoint, Red Wing's flagship product is a powerful, yet very reasonably priced accounting system that will appeal to many companies searching for software in that difficult range between entry level systems and larger, more expensive products. In fact, some of the functions supported by TurningPoint are not even available in these higher-end products (production plans and automatic purchase order creation, just to name two). TurningPoint is an excellent product and should be considered to possibly take advantage of this price/functionality advantage.
About the Author
Charles Chewning, Jr. is president of Solutions, a Richmond, Virginia-based (US) consulting firm specializing in accounting software selection. He is considered a leading software selection expert. He has written a number of accounting software reviews and is a frequent speaker on the subject of accounting software selection as well as sales and marketing And is the publisher of The Accounting Library (http://www.AccountingLibrary.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.