Enterprise Times recently spoke to Lisa Pope, Executive Vice President – Americas at Epicor. Pope has worked in senior leadership positions in the ERP industry for over twenty years. She was previously at Infor, QAD and Oracle. Enterprise Times asked her about her current role at Epicor.
She replied: “All of the go-to-market in the sales process, our channel market, the direct business, everything we do from discovery, all the way through selling and closing that deal, and then passing it off, on the delivery side. It is that entire process. The majority of our revenue is driven on the direct side. We view that right now as a competitive advantage for us. We do have a healthy partner channel, and we use them selectively in specific industries where they have that capability.”
Looking at the Sales organisation
How is Sales team organised because Epicor has a lot of different products, including Core ERP, Eaglem and Prophet21?
“We go to market vertically first, that’s a big differentiation for us. I have a head of manufacturing, distribution, retail, automotive and lumber and building materials. We include LBM in our distribution business because they tend to see themselves more in that industry than they do on the retail side.
“Within each of those verticals, we have different channel bars, based on the size of the company and industry. For example, we have a partner in San Diego, that is very strong in aerospace and defence and does a lot of specialised work there. They have a bar that they’re focused on below, but in some cases, we will even leverage them above that bar if we feel we need them. It’s a very collaborative environment. We’ve tried to create room for them to flourish and grow, with their own space and focus on making them successful before we just rush to add more partners.”
On cloud migrations
Back in May 2017, Joe Cowan, the then CEO announced that only 350 customers were using its cloud software, out of 20,000 customers. Pope was responsible for the migration of Infor customers to the cloud in her role there. How far along is Epicor in moving its customers to the cloud and has the pandemic changed the attitude of manufacturers?
“We’ve seen our cloud business continue to grow double digits over the past three years. It was definitely a big focus of me coming in here. With our new ownership of CD&R, it will probably be even more of a focus. In the last couple of years, we’ve let customers make that choice. Infor took a very proactive: “Let’s convert customers”. We said, customers can decide during the cycle, we will support both, and if customers want to convert to the cloud, that’s fine. But we weren’t pushing it.
“Over the past, six to eight months, we’ve definitely seen more interest in cloud. COVID is also driving people to realise remote workplace matters. Also, they have fewer resources. So there’s this whole sense of, if we’re going to have less people, do we want to spend our resources running the ERP, or can Epicor do that better. This year we expect migrations to be a significant piece of the business. For me, in the Americas, our target this year is about 40% of the bookings coming from the cloud business. That is about the same share on the manufacturing side.”
What have you achieved this year?
“Our year ended in September. If I look at the Americas in terms of what we were able to do. The biggest accomplishment is we had an incredible finish to what was a very challenging year. We really gained a lot of efficiencies and lessons learned about how to continue to grow the business.
“The year was phenomenal, not just the sale of the company, which is very good for our clients going forward because of the continued investment we’re going to get from CDR. But also just the success we had, starting in Q3, but then really finishing in Q4, where we met last year’s fourth quarter. When you look at everything that happened with COVID, that’s an amazing accomplishment. We had many of our sales teams, make club. We look at all that and say: Wow, we were able to get a lot of business. A lot of customers are comfortable with continuing to purchase, and a lot of new customers coming to us and picking Epicor.
“At the same time, we had to reinvent our sales process, all the way from our business development reps, the sales process for net new, and also the delivery side. We had sold some really large deals in Q2 right before COVID hit, then we had to make sure that those customers didn’t cancel those projects. he fourth-quarter flourish that we saw was probably the most amazing fourth quarter I’ve had in my entire career in terms of seeing just the momentum. It was a huge accomplishment for us.”
What do you hope to achieve in 2021?
“A couple of things. One, we want to continue our growth, that’ll be important to us across all of our verticals. I want to ensure that we continue to develop our traditional customers. Over the past two years, we’ve done quite a bit of moving upstream. Not upstream, like we’re trying to compete head-on with Oracle or SAP, but I think we’ve come into our own, We’ve sold now over 14, what we consider to be, enterprise deals for the company. As a result of that, we’ve realised that that is now becoming a core competency for us. So for me, the continued success of these large global companies. Making sure that they’re referenceable, and that we continue to repeat that. I do think we’re going to see some more big increases on the cloud side of the business, which is also important.
“We’ve got some great lessons learned from this past year, that have changed the way we’ve thought about how we sell. We’ve got some really good best practices and things that we can continue on this year, to help drive productivity. In sales, we all pride ourselves on being road warriors. It’s a big part of our job, taking a conference call from the airport, trying to get through security while you’re doing something, trying to get a proposal done before you jump on a plane. All that is still going to happen in terms of visiting clients. But I think we’ve all recognised that there’s a whole set of ways to accomplish parts of that, that free us up to do a lot more productive work both on the selling and on the delivery side.”
Lessons learnt during COVID
What have you learnt as a Sales leader during the pandemic?
“One of the best practices we learned is that it was still important that we do retain some on-site component of the sales cycle. It’s really hard to do a factory tour, or walk the warehouse with a phone remotely over video. If we could get in early, and at least meet the client and do something in person, then the video worked very well, because there was an established relationship.”
Pope also noted that customer visits only took placed where customers wanted them to happen. She also revealed that with less travel required there was an emphasis on resource management to ensure that the right people were available to service the sales, which was not always the closest one.
On the selling process, do you expect those efficiencies to stay? Is this the new norm?
“There are a lot of software companies that probably could do 90% of their business virtually and using technology. In the business, we’re in its people, and it’s trust. It’s very hard to get that over a phone call or video. So for us, we won’t go back to being road warriors. But we will absolutely continue to keep that customer touch alive and feel that trust. It is that relationship ultimately, along with the solution, that is why someone enters into a long term partnership to run their company.”
What are your challenges?
“The challenge is continuing to serve our customers in a challenging, global economy. Many of our customers are still manufacturing in China, with sales offices all over. By no means is this epidemic done. We still have to work on a country by country, state by state basis. What’s open? What can we do? How do we support that? While making sure that we’re leveraging our resources globally? But the success we had last year, and with the momentum we had, I’ve not seen a more positive time at Epicor. And it’s odd because I think for a lot of companies right now, this is not a time where they are thinking positively. We’re in a unique situation. Challenges are more focused around what’s happening outside our four walls, and how we adapt to that inside the company?”
In the CD&R announcement, it stated that acquisitions further expand Epicors’product portfolio as well as make strategic acquisitions to meet customers evolving transformation needs.
“We’ve always looked at acquisitions and evaluated all options. When we talk about acquisitions overall, we do look at both synergies across verticals that we’re already in, as well as products. What I don’t see Epicor doing is stepping out of our core and going in buying something completely different. That’s not really true to what we do.
“I think we’ll continue to evaluate companies that, sell into the same verticals that we do with other products that potentially our customers could want. We’ll continue to look to fill in the white space. Similar to, EDI and we bought a warehousing system for the LBM space. Where we see customers using products consistently, and those companies are interested in potentially becoming part of the Epicor family that, is good for all of us, because it’s more seamless, and integration and everything is much easier.”
Will they continue to be in the US or global acquisitions?
“We’ve always considered both. Given the mix of the revenue that we have. Anyone that has global capabilities, products, customer bases would be an advantage for us because it would help to build up that side of the business. We’ve been very open to both.”
The book question
What’s the latest book, you read business books you read?
“I don’t know if I want to plug it because our president’s brother co-wrote the book and it’s really cool. It’s called Rehumanising leadership (by Sudhanshu Palsule and Michael Chavez Amazon US/ UK). I read it before COVID. It has a lot of really interesting concepts around how you can be a leader and lead in different ways through that personal touch.
“It certainly opened my eyes prior to COVID. Then some great best practices in it helped us think differently about how we take what happened this past year and make it personal to everybody because it was. People had personal situations. We had people working out of their closets because they had no place to work with their kids in the house. How do you help them set up a professional environment? It changed our perspective of how you try to work with each employee. And then also try to understand what each customer was going through. So I highly recommend it.”