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Business Automation Specialists of Minnesota, Inc.(BASM) began as a networking company in 1985.As the company began supporting accounting software, BASM found that the firm’s knowledge in that aspect far exceeded that of the vendors selling and installing. The company switched to accounting software and grew as its clients’ needs changed. Automation and process streamlining and change became a bigger part of BASM’s business as it provided a greater value for the firm’s clients, which further led into warehouse management and shop floor data collection. BASM is headquartered in Minneapolis.
In conversation with Ron Ketterling, President and Founder, BASM
You have added product development to your portfolio. How and why did you decide to add that facet to business automation?
A customer came to us for support after their old vendor failed them with a need for ATF regulatory tracking. We found that their current process was flawed and that they weren’t in compliance with the regulations. We were able to resolve their issues through intensive work with their attorney and the ATF. The client was bought out before they went live and the parent had another ERP product. We determined that there were no comprehensive solutions available and decided to put our knowledge to practice.
Can you share the experience of your first product roll-out?
We had slow acceptance in the beginning as there were regulatory issues to cross and the industry was used to paper records. Our attorney brought several clients to us who were in need and their experience with the regulatory agency became very successful. We found that the better market for us was in the manufacturing, importing and distribution market segments as opposed to retail. Our expertise in the manufacturing and distribution space allowed us to expand our offering to a fully integrated ERP scenario that relegated the compliance to a background process that required no user input.
What challenges did you face in your initial years?
Technology had a great deal of promise, but was short on fulfillment and slow in performing what it did do. Many feature sets were missingor non-existent. Multiple operating systems and networks made providing support challenging. Determining where the market would settle was also a challenge. The hot, market-leading product of the past year was surpassed by a new, agile, customer-responsive product today and, soon, it was replaced by another, more agile product (WordStar, WordPerfect and Microsoft Word).
The take-away is this – get a basic product that meets a customer’s need. Then, with live input, broaden and deepen you feature set. Don’t sit on go trying to get it perfect (in your mind), because it won’t be. Users will want something other than you have developed. Once you have live customer input, keep developing and keep on changing and evolving to stay ahead of the pack.
What kind of mixed responses have you received from your consumers over the years, and how have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?
Price pressure caused us to introduce a lower priced product which in turn enabled us to sell more of our upper end product. We continued to expand our feature set to facilitate simplified, faster data entry. We added new integration features for other ERP systems. We also began offering subscription pricing to our regular purchase pricing. When regulations allowed us to offer a cloud solution, we did.
If you have to list five factors that have been/are the biggest assets to your organization, what would they be and why?
1) Asking for help early and often, whether or not you feel it makes you feel dumb.
2) Never overestimate your value, when you see someone who can do it better than you can, hire them.
3) Always look for something that works better than what you are doing today, but don’t undervalue what you know and can do.
4) Don’t let your ego cause you to defend your output to the detriment of your product.
5) The fact that someone else created the code doesn’t make it inferior.
What do you feel are the reasons behind your products’ popularity and the consistent growth of your organization?
Clients recognize our commitment to and investment in industry knowledge as they talk to us. We have thought about the issue they are facing and very frequently have already created a solution for the problem.
Our cyclical reinvention before our current technology or product is in retrograde. This puts us in a position to adapt newer technologies as we move forward without significant client or product disruption.
Are there any factors/individuals that have played key roles in shaping your organization’s road map?
Working on our mission statement and by-line with our business advisor andimmediate business partner, and understanding who we were and how we derived our emotional satisfaction and payback from our work. Also, by helping our employees understand who we are as a corporation and how that affects them and our clients.
Where do you see you and your company a couple of years from now?
More subscription and cloud business with less mundane service and higher value to our clients. Our employee mix will change to include more entry level positions, using people who couldn’t come up to speed in our highly technical, super-star environment today.
Meet the Master
Ron Ketterling, President and Founder: Ron founded Ketterling, Inc. in 1985, following two and a half years at a startup software development company. (He changed the name to Business Automation Specialists of MN, Inc. in 1989.)
Ron’s primary responsibility, on the production side of the business, is as Senior Business Analyst. His areas of expertise include warehouse management systems, manufacturing and inventory control automation, and general business and accounting processes. Ron’s experiences include many years in sales and entrepreneurial pursuits, as well as network, IT and a wide variety of software categories.
Ron’s focus is on creating a business environment for the firm’s clients which includes effective, efficient automation tools and business processes to help them achieve their business objectives. Ron has served on the Business Partner Advisory Councils for ACCPAC, SAGE and Microsoft.He received his formal education at Azusa Pacific University and California State Polytechnic Institute, Pomona.
“Clients do not pay for technology; they pay for solutions to problems or tools and methodologies to capture new opportunities.”