- Headquarters: Markham, Ontario, Canada
- Acquisition Date: November 2016
- Vertical Market: Nonprofit
Update – June 2020: Two years after the publication of this case study, Réal Bédard announced that he, too, would follow his Andar co-founder, André Marcil, into retirement. Gallery Systems CEO, Jay Hoffman, initiated a search to find his successor. Harry Veening was welcomed to Andar Software as the new General Manager in April 2020, bringing with him extensive nonprofit experience, most recently as General Manager for the Canadian Liver Foundation. Réal and Harry worked together before Réal handed over the reins to Andar, feeling confident in how his company had fared post-acquisition and in the abilities of its management team.
André Marcil and Réal Bédard founded Andar Software Ltd. (formerly called Helix Ltd.), a Markham, Ontario-based company, in 1988. The two met while working together at a consulting firm, where their proposal to grow the business by providing software to customers was not embraced by management. Consequently, André and Réal decided to establish their own firm, initially concentrating on building CASE software and offering training on the IBM AS/400.
Andar soon became involved with the nonprofit, community-based United Way organization. United Way had developed its own AS/400- based software, but it gave Andar the rights to further enhance and market it. As technology changed, Andar developed a new software system called Andar/360 to address the needs of United Way specifically and nonprofits in general. Andar/360, an enterprise-wide, CRM and donor management system for nonprofits, was a great success, and Andar grew rapidly, gaining customers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
After nearly 30 years in business together, André informed Réal that he wanted to retire. Réal wished to continue the business, but he knew that taking over all of André’s responsibilities was not feasible, so he began to formulate a succession plan and look for a suitable partner or investor. Unfortunately, most of the prospects who came forward with serious offers wanted to completely change the business, which would mean that Andar would essentially cease to exist. Since André and Réal took a lot of pride in their business and wanted to ensure the welfare of their employees and customers, they rejected all such offers.
The product direction would have entirely changed, dramatically affecting our customers and requiring us to make significant cuts to our highly skilled, long-serving staff. We didn’t want that.
— Réal Bédard, President, Andar Software Ltd.
The Decision to Sell
Enter Gallery Systems, a software company fully owned by Volaris Group. The offer it presented, and Volaris’ buy-and-hold-forever strategy, seemed the perfect fit for Andar. André would be able to retire, Réal could continue to operate the business as usual, and there would be minimal employee disruption. Additionally, Gallery Systems and Volaris would take over all back-office activities, relieving Réal of those time-consuming tasks so that he could focus on further developing the software and growing the company. Réal could hardly believe it; this scenario was exactly what he had been hoping for.
André has retired, and I am now secure in the knowledge that if something happens to me, the company will continue to operate and our staff and customers will be taken care of. The future looks bright. We are streamlining our processes and working more efficiently, and we have access to a wealth of resources and best practices at Volaris.
— Réal Bédard, President, Andar Software Ltd.
The acquisition was definitely a learning process, but the relationship between Andar, Gallery Systems, and Volaris was always collaborative, and the atmosphere remained friendly and supportive throughout the changeover. When the purchase was first announced, the claim that Andar would continue to operate as usual was met with considerable skepticism. But Gallery Systems/Volaris quickly laid fears to rest by demonstrating that they cared about Andar—the product, the company, and its employees. It put forth great effort to make sure that everyone affected by the change was included in the process, and it encouraged open communication with all staff. The result was a transition as smooth as could possibly be hoped for. It had always been very important for André and Réal to know that the welfare of their employees and customers would be protected. That is exactly what the acquisition by Volaris has ensured.
“Naturally, some customers were concerned at first, but they quickly realized that it was indeed ‘business as usual.’ Now, eight months later, they haven’t reported any negative changes; on the contrary, some have noticed improvements, as our product continues to grow and our support services are being streamlined and optimized,” said Réal.
Gallery Systems bought Andar’s competitor, Access International, simultaneously with its purchase of Andar. Andar and Access are being merged into one organization with two products, an approach rarely taken by Volaris, which usually chooses to keep its companies separate and standalone. The merger had been thoroughly planned, with support and guidance from Volaris at every stage of the operation. The merger approach was chosen because of its strategic benefits and because it ensured a safe succession plan for Réal, along with providing a solid future for employees and customers of both companies.