Franchise market key for Sutus office-in-a-box

6 June, 2010
By Mark Cox

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Business is booming for Vancouver-based Sutus, maker of an appliance for small offices and branch offices that provides core small office IT Services like firewall, email server, file server, web server router, IP phones, VPN and WLFI access point in one appliance. And the franchise market has been a key to their success.

“We make a single IT appliance that combines all the data and communication features required to run a modern office,” said Shawn Chute, Sutus’ Executive VP. “We are focused on the small office — 25 and under — know what they need, and are priced accordingly.”

Sutus, which was founded in 2003, spent four years developing its’ product, which it launched in 2007 as Business Central (BC200). They compete directly with vendors like Allworx and Edgebox, although Chute said their greatest competition isn’t really against other all-in-one vendors, but against companies which still use multiple boxes for their communications and IT systems.

The franchise market is a major component of their success, both in Canada and the U.S., and includes franchises like Liberty Tax, Computer Troubleshooters, ReMax and Cabinets to Go.

“We truly see our appliance as a franchise in a box,” Chute said. They work closely with franchises and chains through their business associations. “One reseller can look over a national chain because of the remote aspect.”

Chute said that a lot of their resellers will preconfigure the unit, have it dropshipped and have an electrician plug it in, and do all the final configuration remotely. The BC200 has extensive remote diagnostic and management features as well as comprehensive pre-configuration features.

“It’s very easy to use, not just for the consumer, but also the reseller. It’s easy to deploy and manage, and reduces truck rolls.”

Sutus has a relatively large, mature channel, with more than 500 channel partners throughout Canada and the US. The company sells exclusively through the channel. Specialty distributor ScanSource is their major distributor in both the U.S. and Canada, but they also work with CCP in Canada and CSSA (Communications Supply Service Association), a buying association for over 200 telcos in the U.S.

“For us, a good reseller partner is one with a scalable step-and-repeat business,” Chute said. Partners are getting specialized with partners, often focusing on a vertical like chains. We arealso growing partnerships in the PoS space.”

Sutus’s top vertical is retail, with the food (restaurant) industry second, and professional services like lawyers and doctors third.

“The green message seems to be working in the channel well right now,” Chute said. “Many franchise owners own multiple franchises, so the energy savings aren’t just in one location, but in many locations, and it’s easy to make a strong case there.”

The Appliance can do both analog and SIP-based VoIP

“There is still some resistance in small businesses to VoIP because of customer service issues, so this gives options, and lets them experiment with hybrids,” Chute said. “The reseller can let the customer do a partial phase in of the VoIP and then later go over to it entirely if they like it.”

One thing the BC200 cannot do is run third party software. Sutus intends to fill that void in the near future with a beefed-up appliance.

“In late summer we will be bringing out the 5800 series to run more software on the appliance, including SAP Business One,” Chute said.

A new software release for the BC200 is also due in the next two weeks. The BC200 comes in three models, priced for three different sizes of customers: 5 users and under, $USD 2199; 6-12, $USD 3299 and 13-25, $USD 3899.