R.O. Whitesell and Associates: Accounting for Long-Term Success with Up-to-Date TRAVERSE Software
In 1945, Robert Whitesell left his position as Chief Engineer at P.R. Mallory and Company, having developed key electronic innovations for the allied war effort. His work had been so critical, in fact, that the army denied his attempt to enlist, insisting that his work was too crucial to interrupt.
On January 2, 1946, he started R.O. Whitesell & Associates, a manufacturer’s representative company providing sales expertise and marketing support for the burgeoning electronics industry. Mr. Whitesell’s vision lives on today in the company that still bears his name and continues to represent electronics manufacturers in the heart of North America.
Phenomenal growth that continues today
When Mr. Whitesell started his company, it was a one-man operation in his garage. Today, Whitesell is one of the largest electronics representative firms in North America both in terms of people and sales volume. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, R.O. Whitesell and Associates employs 57 people in 16 offices spread across 14 states and northern Mexico. Having just opened an office in Des Plaines, Illinois, Whitesell is enjoying growth when many of its contemporaries have shut their doors.
Investing in their back-end office
“We have come through one of the worst times,” said Steve Underhill, Controller for Whitesell and Associates.
The recession which had touched the rest of the country was particularly brutal in Whitesell’s backyard. “We’re headquartered in the Midwest, so we’re heavily automotive. There was a big downturn. Fortunately, we were in a position where we were able to stay in business as opposed to a lot of companies that couldn’t.”
Following the downturn, Whitesell needed to replace an accounting software system. They were still relying on Open Systems’ own OSAS version 6.0, a software system that had been the state of the art—in 1998. In 2010, the time had come for R.O. Whitesell’s back-end accounting solution to catch up with the rest of the company. “Basically, the OSAS version 6.0 was becoming ancient at that point,” said Underhill.
The Whitesell family sticks with the Open Systems family
Underhill performed his due diligence in checking out other software products, the latest version of OSAS, and Open Systems’ other product line TRAVERSE. In the end they decided to stick with Open Systems and TRAVERSE. With the expert help of Open Systems’ Services personnel, the upgrade was complete.
“We actually looked at other software,” says Underhill. “I liked what I saw with TRAVERSE, was comfortable working with Open Systems, and thought it would be a lot smoother doing a conversion from OSAS 6.0 to TRAVERSE rather than trying to go back and reinvent the wheel with another company. Really, conversion went very smoothly,” says Underhill.
Updated look and feel for a modern solution
Whitesell’s older system required keystrokes and couldn’t show more than one function at a time. TRAVERSE was developed with a .NET framework, and is based on principles familiar from Microsoft applications; “With it being Windows-based, it’s just so much smoother and easier to work with,” says Underhill. “We’ve been very happy with TRAVERSE, and the user interface of TRAVERSE turned immediate benefits.”
Goodbye workarounds, hello TRAVERSE
With each of the 16 offices representing its own profit and loss center, Whitesell’s four person accounting team was responsible for communicating a lot of information back to its separate office—and not always very efficiently. If a statement was to be sent electronically, a laborious workaround was needed. “I pretty much had to print it and then scan it, then send it out that way,” says Underhill. TRAVERSE offers a variety of electronic means to produce statements, including saving them to PDF format and sending in an email with a few keystrokes.
The new system suits Mr. Underhill just fine; “I print out one copy that I keep for me at the desk so I’ve got a hard copy, but otherwise, everything is done through email.”
Maintaining continuity, keeping relationships strong, and taking advantage of new opportunities are principles that have served R.O. Whitesell well. With the new TRAVERSE accounting system in place, the staff of R.O. Whitesell is free to take care of the people that have kept them successful for over 65 years.
“We’ve been around a long time, have represented major principals, and have had very good luck,” says Underhill, reflecting on the company’s longevity. While their growth has been phenomenal, it’s the personal touch that makes R.O. Whitesell truly successful. “The company is still small enough that really, it’s more or less like a family.” Open Systems is pleased to play a continuing role in the ongoing R.O. Whitesell story.