by Joanie Hollabaugh
If you ask Ed Ledgerwood about his 40 year span with Sage/Timberline, he tells his story in a framework that he’s the only dealer to ever own a distributorship, and that he grew the business from City to State to Continent on his journey. It’s also a great family and friends story, and it’s my pleasure to share it with you.
Portland, the City
On October 10, 1974, a young accounting professional was hired by the McGregor Fertilizer Company in Colfax, WA.
Evidently, McGregor’s “computer lady” had abruptly quit, so they directed young Ed Ledgerwood to the Burroughs “L8000” with a fresh roll of punch paper tape, and said, “We don’t know a THING about the computer, you have payroll for 120 employees due on Friday, and here’s the 800 number for Timberline – that’s the accounting software we use.”
And so it began in the city of Portland, Oregon.
Ed took his Timberline skills from McGregor to work for an accountant (briefly) when a good friend opened a retail “minicomputer” store. Ed went to work there, opting to sell software: Accpac for the retail vertical (now known as Sage 300 ERP), Timberline for construction (currently Sage 300 CRE), and RealWorld for general accounting. The programs for IBM were run “double floppy” systems; programs went in ‘A’ drive and data went into the ‘B’ drive. At that time, the Timberline modules for construction accounting included four basic modules: payroll, job cost, AP and AR.
After three or four years of selling Timberline in a retail environment, Ed went out on his own. From 1984-86 he grew the Timberline market in the Portland area, becoming one of the top dealers for the Northwest region.
In 1986, a rising architect from Denver, CO needed a Timberline demo for a project he was pitching in Hawaii. Ed volunteered and flew to Maui in July to do a demo at the local AIA meeting. By now, computer technology had progressed from a double-floppy system to an internal 10mg hard drive and Timberline had added additional models to the suite of products. The architect and Ed both won big – the project, a business opportunity, and a lifelong friendship!
Hawaii, the State
Ed decided to open an office in Honolulu, HI in August of 1986. Ed’s brother Pat had joined the company in the meantime and ran the office in Portland as “Ledgerwood Associates” had now expanded to two offices. Meanwhile in downtown Honolulu, Ed office-shared a space with an advertising agency. He sold enough Timberline software (DOS based, originally) in the first three months to hire his first sales help! A close childhood friend was recruited, sharing a two-bedroom apartment with Ed, and helped to grow the dealership selling both Accpac and Timberline. Eventually, Ed hired a dedicated Accpac salesperson and concentrated on Timberline and moved to a bigger office. About that time, Curtis Peltz (another Timberline/Sage long-timer) introduced Precision Estimating to the market – software that integrated with new technology hardware that changed the entire estimating world.
The introduction of the GTCO digitizer combined with “modern” estimating was an auspicious event for Hawaiian developers/builders and “green fill’ (virgin land) projects popping up everywhere. Ed took the opportunity to turn it into a double-down demo dream: what used to take two days to estimate manually could now be done in an hour using the digitizer plus the software! Engineers and architects were eager to purchase both.
As the Timberline product mix expanded, so did the Hawaiian Ledgerwood dealership. Ed now had to hire several new employees to keep up with business (in addition to the Portland office).
In 1987, Ed embarked on a digitizer/estimating roadshow in Honolulu. At that time, there were a few building/development companies from Australia and New Zealand who had done joint ventures with locals in the area. While demonstrating the product the companies bought the equipment and software on the spot! Ed saw a potential market opportunity in Australia, and engaged another friend (research consultant) to perform extensive market research in New Zealand (NZ) and Australia (AU).
In October of 1987, Ed and his researcher spent a month meeting and networking with the local AIA and homebuilders’ association. Armed with statistics and insights, they put together a comprehensive business plan. They had found out that one of the largest architect firms in Melbourne had previously purchased Timberline’s architect/engineering software product, and another major home builder had purchased Timberline estimating and accounting. With the thorough market research they had performed, they discovered there was absolutely no competition in AU or NZ – for sales or support.
By now, Timberline had separate software divisions: estimating, construction, property management, and architecture/engineering (AE was sold off in the late 90’s). Ed approached Timberline, presenting the business case to promote Timberline to a new continent. He was not immediately successful.
Australia, the Continent
In the meantime, Ed’s Accpac salesman was getting a promotion with a move to Australia. In March of the following year, Accpac invited Ledgerwood Hawaii (the geographically closest partner) to work a trade show in Australia. Already known by local homebuilders and associations, Ed argued to bring Timberline as well as Accpac to the Australian market. He was accepted conditionally: Ed was offered a job, an office, and a vehicle if worked for the Accpac dealership 50% of his time, selling and supporting the product. So he sold Accpac in the morning, and Timberline in the afternoon!
Again, Ed approached Timberline with a proposal to open an independent Timberline dealership and was rebuffed. Consequently, Ed moved in July of ‘88 from Honolulu to Sydney and split his days between promoting the two product lines. Ed’s brother Pat then moved from Portland to run the Hawaiian Ledgerwood office (and remains to this day!).
Bootstrapping at a construction trade show just a few months after relocating to Hawaii (literally borrowing the office furniture to place in a small booth on the back wall), prospects stood in line to see the digitizer being demonstrated. Ed knew from the success of Hawaii (demos) that he should become a digitizer dealer as well; the two companies happily cross-promoted each other – cornering this new market in AU.
During this time, Ed continued to network in the business community and he made it a point to become acquainted with accounting firms (Ernst & Young, Coopers & Lybrand, Price-Waterhouse, etc.) looking for a construction solution with Job Cost accounting.
Eventually, Ed was granted a dealership by Timberline. (In fact, they respected his rapid business growth so much he was consulted by Timberline management regarding the development of the OS2 version and Window products.)
The dealership continued to flourish, selling Accpac, Timberline accounting and estimating, the AE product, and property management. Ed’s sister, Martha moved to AU with her two young children to help administrate the business. There, she used her payroll expertise to work with developers to create an Australian version of payroll. The business grew, adding industry friends and competitors to the staff. After an on-site visit to a competitive estimating dealer, Timberline allowed Ed to become the Timberline distributor. He quickly set up other dealers (in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, and Sydney) and doing the promotions and marketing for all.
In 1993, Australia was granted hosting privileges for the 2000 Olympic Games. No one caught the excitement more than Ledgerwood Associates in Australia! The construction potential was enormous – and construction companies needed software. Mirvac became one of Ledgerwood’s first customers for Australian Windows; and the 2000 Olympics Village became Mirvac’s biggest project using Timberline.
This truly became a seven year-long sales pipeline.
Martha went back to the States in 1995, while Ledgerwood Associates, Inc. moved to a larger office. Timberline and Estimating became the core products (Accpac sales were waning with Accpac selling directly to accounting firms); Ledgerwood eventually dropped Accpac altogether. The distributorship expanded, adding new dealers in New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia (Southeast Asia) for a total of ten dealers.
Ledgerwood Associates became the only independently owned dealership in the world.
In 1994, Ed started an Australian Users Group, supported by Timberline. The territory flourished, with more products geared to the market, helped with Ledgerwood sponsored tradeshows, seminars, and advertising campaigns.
Although the Olympics were awarded in 1993, the burst of construction building activity starting in 1995 – five years prior to the event. The Timberline Windows product was growing (competitors were still on DOS). Transfield Services became another key account client, building the “Airport Link” – an underground railway line from the airport to the city.
In a surprise announcement, Timberline decided to take over the distributorship in 1997. After serious negotiations Ed agreed to become a dealer in Sydney, where he was highly successful for several years.
Through the years, Ed and his girlfriend Kerri (now wife) met up regularly with (Timberline User Group) friends Kim and Craig McClure who owned a dealership in Arizona. Ed and Kerri invited Kim and Craig to join them in Australia for the Olympics in 2000. Once there, the pair tried to convince the Ledgerwoods to join their business in Scottsdale. Coincidentally, soon after the Olympics Ed was approached by his Operations Manager and his Accountant with an offer to purchase his dealership. As Kerri and Ed’s parents were advancing in age, and they had a standing offer to join an established partnership – they decided it was time to come back home.
By 2002, they had sold the Australian dealership (but flew back regularly for a year and a half) to help transition the business), and the McClures were able to add Property Management sales to their Timberline suite via Ed (Kerri was a Senior Consultant for PM). Ed and Kerri were married, they settled into a home in Scottsdale, and went to work for “CreativeWare.” In 2003, the Ledgerwoods bought into the partnership. Ed became the Operations Manager while actively selling Property Management. Kim did Professional Services, and Craig handled construction type sales. He bought into the dealership several months later and became part owner.
Together, the couples designed and built a stunning two-story building on two lots in Old Town Scottsdale. (Builders Guild, the GC, was a Timberline customer of CreativeWare’s – so the building was built literally by clients!) Built with expansion in mind, CreativeWare occupied the West half of the second story and the training center downstairs, and leased three separate suites.
Kim landed at Skyline Steel, a CreativeWare client where she had successfully implemented Timberline. She hired Tony Merry, Kerri’s son to manage the accounting department at Skyline. Tony dove right in and streamlined the AP process. He then went on to evaluate the receivables and the revenue side, which detoured him into the mechanical lien laws which led to the contracts/legal side of the business. This progression of costs, revenues, and legal proficiencies steered Tony into actually running the jobs, as he had the most (well-rounded) business and job knowledge. Part of the job evaluations included immersion not only into Timberline accounting, but estimating as well.
CreativeWare merged with MIS in 2006 and the Scottsdale office kept operations running as usual in sales and marketing, as well as consulting for the region. In 2009, MIS closed their doors.
The Ledgerwoods re-joined forces with Kim in 2009 to re-acquire the territory including AZ, NM and NV. Ultimately, perseverance, continued sales, and great customer support won the dealership back from Timberline (acquired by Sage in 2002). Joining forces with a Sage 300 CRE Colorado dealer and a Sage 100 Contractor dealer from Utah – Ledgerwood Associates evolved to become the entity it is today.
In 2012, Tony Merry joined the family business. As a power user and construction expert, Tony was a natural fit to run Ledgerwood’s Sales department. Kim retired from the business in 2015, and Tony has since become part owner. Kerri has retired from consulting and is currently the Operations Manager for the business.
Ed remains the patriarch and the heart of the company. Last year, he was honored at Sage North America headquarters for “40 years in the Timberline/ Sage family.”
He is still known in the Timberline/Sage world as “THAT Ed Ledgerwood!” He and Kerri are shown the red carpet on their visits ‘down under’ to the Sage headquarters in Sydney.
From city, to state, to continent – Ed’s story of business growth, loss, recovery, and success always contains a single, distinguishing element for doing ‘good’ business: Ed treats everyone like family.