SAP Business One helps drive Canadian medical distributor’s continued growth

London, Ontario-based Tribe Medical Group moved to SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA last year, and have found its simplicity critical in helping them sell, keep staff, and control complexity.

Davi Pontes

Davi Pontes, Manager of Operations at Tribe Medical Group

NEW YORK CITY — At SAP’s SME Summit here, the vendor has been articulating a strong message that SMBs need simplicity and that those who start simple grow faster. Their Canadian reference customer at the event, London, Ontario-based Tribe Medical Group, forcefully seconded those views, stressing that SAP’s Business One offering helped them break through the clutter of growing complexity, while also letting them make their wares more attractive to customers, and assisting in the retention of key staff.

Tribe distributes products used by orthopedic surgeons to hospitals.

“We distribute all over Canada, and SAP has been key to that, since July 2014 when we went live on Business One,” said Davi Pontes, Manager of Operations at Tribe, which is an orthopedic surgical distributor.

Tribe started in 2006 based out of a house, moved into formal offices in 2008, and moved into a larger business that they own in 2013. They have been growing at a rate of about 20 per cent a year since they made that office move in 2008, and now have close to 80 employees. SAP was not the reason for the company’s initial growth. But Pontes credits them with the responsibility for breaking down the barriers that threatened to stifle that growth as the business grew and its IT started to become more complex.

“Before SAP Business One, we had a very fragmented ERP environment, and we didn’t have any CRM at all,” Pontes said. “We used QuickBooks for finance and two different ERPs for inventory and sales that were targeted specifically at the healthcare market. We needed a true all-in-one solution, that did CRM, where everything was in one place.”

Pontes said that the nature of their industry made this consolidation important for more than just saving time and money on the back end.

“Orthopedic is a difficult market in health care in Canada,” he said. “It’s very different from the U.S. where the private system means the more surgeries you do, the more you make, so the key is controlling the surgeons. Here the hospitals all get same funding, so to get their business you have to bring value-add like customized reporting. SAP plays a big part in how we can make those things come true.”

Pontes also emphasized that the simplicity of the SAP Business One solution is important in helping Tribe keep talented staff.

“There are lots of systems that are so old – and they look old,” he said. “Salespeople don’t want to deal with any complexity at all. Everything needs to be as simple as a smartphone. If things are complex, it’s tough to keep people. Attracting people isn’t hard, but keeping them is. You have to offer them something that isn’t that cumbersome.”

So is SAP Business One as simple as a smartphone?

“Not yet,” Pontes said “But it is getting there. Version 9.1 was a big leap forward, and 9.2 is browser based. The big deal here is that I know the strategy of the company, and it’s to make the product simpler.”

SAP Business One is sold entirely through channel partners, and Tribe’s partner was Illumiti, an SAP-focused systems integration and management consulting company which is an SAP platinum partner and a member of United VARs, SAP’s premier partner community.

“We put out an RFP and Ilumiti responded,” Pontes said. He indicated that while they showed them options throughout the whole SAP portfolio – Illumiti is the 2015 SAP Business All-in-One Partner of the Year, Canada – they recommended SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA, and Tribe decided that was the one that they wanted.

“They did the whole implementation, from the blueprinting where they came in and learned our business, through the training and customization, and they also provide the support,” Pontes said.

Pontes added that Tribe’s only regret is that they didn’t make the move earlier.

“We waited and it made it more difficult, because it’s more difficult to transition when you have a lot of data,” he said.