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Decent Essays
For the exclusive use of C. Yu

JUNE 10, 2013


Wendy Peterson
“Could you bring us the check, please?” Wendy Peterson signaled the waiter, breaking the awkward silence that ended the annual review of one of her direct reports, Fred Wu. On paper, Wu’s performance was impressive. Within eight months of joining the Plano, Texas, office of AccountBack, an accounting software and services company, Wu had signed the region’s largest client and promoted AccountBack’s products and services among the Chinese business community in Plano.
Despite these achievements, Wu’s review ended uncomfortably. Though they’d worked together for a year, Peterson struggled to bridge the distance
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It was easy for businesses to adapt the AccountBack product as their needs changed or expanded, thanks to the modular design of the software and a comprehensive suite of add-on options.
Gleason cultivated relationships with local investors and venture capitalists to gain exposure to possible clients. The founders believed that their competitive advantage would come not only from their superior software but also from their strong client relationships, a combination that companies making off-the-shelf accounting products or large accounting firms were unlikely to replicate. The founders also believed that a flat organizational structure and collegial culture would minimize office politics, strengthen employee morale, and heighten company performance.
Soon their business model began to pay off. The product was “sticky”: once businesses implemented the software (a one-time installation cost between $25,000 and $100,000 depending on the scope of desired services) and trained employees on its use, they were likely to renew their annual contracts. AccountBack’s client renewal rate was 25% above the industry average, and most clients retained services for at least four years.
In 2010, the firm earned nearly $100 million in revenues, and employed more than 400
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