On track to grow by 90% over the next five years, Cougar USA leans on NetSuite ERP and NetSuite Alliance Partner Plative to help it carve out that path to rapid expansion.
Founded in 2003 as a manufacturers’ rep firm serving the Greater Houston area, Cougar USA has evolved into a full-service water control systems provider for commercial building applications. Specializing in pre-engineered and custom solutions for water pressure, level, temperature, flow, and quality, the company is continually expanding its physical footprint and production capabilities in order to meet its customers’ needs.
In commercial buildings, for example, legionella bacteria is a major concern that Cougar USA effectively addresses by supplying filters on incoming domestic water lines or at specific points of use (e.g., a coffee bar or ice maker). And with pump control in buildings based primarily on pressure, Cougar USA supplies booster pump packages that help modulate pump speeds to maintain a constant discharge pressure to buildings.
“We operate behind the scenes,” said Tim Zacharias, President, “helping to keep hospitals, hotels, stadiums, high-rise offices, and other buildings working smoothly.”
After experiencing rapid, organic growth over the last few years, Cougar USA realized that its current technology systems weren’t keeping pace with its expansion. Whenever a new need arose, for instance, it was addressed by simply tacking on an additional piece of software. “We ended up with five or six different solutions, none of which were integrated,” said Zacharias.
“That started to hold us back from growth,” he continued, “because our employees were doing work in QuickBooks Enterprise and then having to shift over to using another system (e.g., a customer relationship management, project management system or Dropbox for file sharing) to finish a task.” This switching took time and consumed valuable resources. It also gave Cougar USA an incomplete view of its multifaceted business operations.
“We got to the point where there was too much-duplicated effort across all of these technology solutions,” said Zacharias. “We felt it was time ‘grow up’ and get an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.”
To help solve its technology woes and find an ERP that could support its growing business, Cougar USA called on NetSuite Alliance Partner Plative, which helped the company narrow down its choices and find the best fit. “Once we met the Plative team and got to know them,” says Zacharias, “we realized that their mission and values aligned pretty well with ours, so we started working together.”
Early in the ERP selection process, Zacharias says he was most concerned about the cost of replacing the company’s patchworked business systems with an integrated ERP system. Having “survived” on QuickBooks since inception, the company was bracing itself for a major software upgrade.
“I thought making that jump would be really expensive,” Zacharias recalled. “What I didn’t account for was how much we were paying for all the systems that we already had in place.” After doing a side-by-side comparison of the “before and after” scenario for Cougar USA, he said the ERP route was clearly the company’s best option.
“In terms of the efficiencies that we’d be gaining by moving to NetSuite, it really became a no-brainer,” said Zacharias. “By switching to that platform, we’d be able to scale without having to add more people, be able to operate remotely from a single system, and use automation to do our jobs better.”
Zacharias said he also liked the implementation process that Plative laid out for the company on a week-by-week basis. “We could see where we were going, have weekly meetings to keep everything on track, and avoid any major bottlenecks,” said Zacharias. “Knowing that a full-blown ERP implementation is more difficult than just spinning up a new QuickBooks file, Plative helped make implementation feel like a smaller pill to swallow.”
Live on NetSuite Cloud ERP since July 2020, Cougar USA is on track to grow its top-line revenues by about 90% over the next five years. As the company grows, it has a robust, unified ERP that will scale up right along with it. This is a critical point, according to Zacharias, whose goal is to expand the company without having to hire additional employees to manage its business systems and processes.
Situated in an area that was highly impacted by the winter snowstorm of 2021, this Houston-based company is also well equipped to react and respond to natural disasters and customer emergencies. Where in the past it was working from a hodgepodge of data, spreadsheets, and manual processes, Cougar USA now has a unified database that employees can access and utilize from anywhere (a fact that also made the early stages of the COVID pandemic easier to manage).
For Cougar USA, Plative also built a direct integration between NetSuite and an existing asset and service tracking application. Using that application, Cougar USA can catalog the water control systems (and related products/services) installed in customers’ buildings and then track the related service history on those systems.
Having recently rolled out a new “STAR” (System Tracking, Assessment, and Recommissioning) service program, for customers who sign up for 2-4 in-person “testing” visits annually, the company uses NetSuite to track those activities, inspection of the system, safety features, and any adjustments made to that equipment. “Before NetSuite,” said Zacharias, “we didn’t have any means of tracking that activity or equipment.”
Zacharias plans to use the STAR program as a competitive differentiator for Cougar USA, which now has the tools in place to effectively identify and mitigate potential failures and other problems before they become real issues.
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