We’re thrilled to introduce the Partner Spotlight to highlight fantastic Safety Net partners! We work with some great businesses and would like to introduce you to them. We’ll try to shine a light on products or services that could benefit your organization, and other educational and interesting facts about these organizations doing great things.
“Large Enough to Serve You, but Small Enough to Know You”
We recently met with Ken Jacobsen, Vice President, and Allie Phillips, Sales & Marketing Assistant, of The TM Group. Established by Judy and Mark Thomas in 1984, they currently have 40 employees with offices in Farmington Hills and Grand Rapids. The TM Group has become an award-winning and highly respected firm because they recognize the importance of keeping their customers happy and well-served. They implement, customize, and support Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (formerly Dynamics CRM), Business Central (formerly Dynamics NAV), Dynamics GP, Dynamics SL and Sage Intacct (cloud-based accounting software). Judy, the president, likes to say they’re large enough to serve, but small enough to know their clients.
“Specialize in the Ridiculous”
The TM Group provides a comprehensive range of technology consulting services from software evaluation and selection, to custom development, implementation, and ongoing support. They do a lot of transformational projects where implementing ERP and/or CRM ends up improving a business’s processes within a specific department or across the entire organization. For example, they worked with a foundation who was using their CRM to manage their grants to organizations from the proposal stage to the completion of their projects. Like many of the TM Group’s CRM projects, it was unconventional, but effective. Kevin Alexander, The TM Group’s Vice President in charge of transformational solutions delivery, likes to say The TM Group “specializes in the ridiculous” as a way of explaining TM’s CRM projects which tend to be more operational based than sales based which is more typical of CRM projects.
The Q & A
What is the typical size of your client?
Small to mid-size businesses of 50 – 1000 employees. We have expertise in many industries including family wealth management, community mental health organizations, non-profits, and supply chain organizations (inventory-based and/or the field service component).
Are your clients limited to a certain geography?
No. We work throughout Michigan and in more than 25 other states. People come to us when they’re looking for someone with a lot of experience. We’re working on a project in Arizona with Dynamics 365 Business Central; we were one of the early partners in D365. A lot of that work is done remotely, but there are on-site visits as needed during the implementation and for go-live support. We’re also implementing Dynamics GP for a family office in New York City right now.
What benefits are there to working with The TM Group?
For companies in Michigan, we are local. There are a lot of companies who want someone there face-to-face, and since we have people across the state, it’s fairly easy to offer that. Because we’ve been at this so long, we’ve worked in a lot of different industries and we have a depth of knowledge and understand the capabilities of the software we represent. Many CRM partners are IT companies or sales/training firms, and we are a lot different from them. Because we do both ERP and CRM, we understand the whole office operation and take CRM beyond just sales management and marketing initiatives.
What problems do you see when companies implement new software on their own?
We often see companies who’s chart of accounts has been set up wrong. It’s so important that a chart of accounts is set up properly so that financial statements and reports come out correctly for operating your business. When people take on installations themselves, a lot of the time it ends up being a lot of extra work and manual processing down the road. They get backed into a corner and can’t get the reports they need. We frequently see people working outside the accounting solution in spreadsheets which is a huge problem. Take purchasing, for example. If it’s done manually outside the system, you will not be clear what your outstanding POs and cash requirements are. That makes it hard to manage cash flow.
If people don’t know the software they install and they try to train others, companies end up with inefficient processes that can cause real problems, like not being able to get necessary information for their CPA at tax time. Eventually, some of these companies will recognize they need help and look for a partner. They’ll come to us and sometimes they have to completely start over.
What sets The TM Group apart from your competition?
We have an in-house development department that often integrates accounting or CRM products with line of business applications, like Point of Sale systems. We’ll also build applications from the ground up when necessary. For example, we’ve developed an online portal for one client to process healthcare claims using CRM. For another client who used Microsoft GP for payroll and accounting, we customized their system to meet their complex union requirements. Most partners have to outsource development.
Another thing that sets us apart is that we have a Vice President (Kevin Alexander) that oversees our transformational solution projects from discovery through delivery. We also have three full-time project managers on staff. However, we don’t charge an hourly rate for project management, just a flat fee based on the size of the project. That way if a client has questions or wants to know the status of the project, they are free to reach out at any time without having to worry about being billed hourly.
How do you work with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) like Safety Net?
We refer clients to each other when we see an organization who needs their help. If we have a customer who is unhappy with their infrastructure or support, we don’t do those things, so we recommend they work with an MSP. From a compliance standpoint, we’ll get involved in PCI compliance, but usually there isn’t protected data (like patient records) in the scope of what we do. It’s the MSP managing that.
If you think your organization could be doing more to use your accounting/ERP and CRM investments to their fullest, we’d be happy to provide a warm introduction to the good people at The TM Group.