SP was founded in 1982, in times when for a small company in Spain buying a computer was like buying an empty box. On top of being expensive, when a company bought computers to manage its business, it was common to call a programmer to design a company-specific software, which was quite costly and often useless. Thousands of companies put aside computersthat had cost a fortune because they couldn’t run them. It was in this context that two young professionals, Fernando Escolar and Álvaro Ramirez, realized that what a number of companies needed was a low-cost, hassle free and standard software. 1985 was a key moment for SP, because it started to develop a program that meant a revolution for the Pyme (small and medium size enterprises, SME inEnglish): ContaPlus. That program was followed by others like FacturaPlus and NominaPlus, which with their simplicity and easy operation feature , conquered the market. Since then SP centered its activities in the manufacture, edition and marketing of software products for business management. Taking advantage of the new accounting plan adapted to the European Union requirements , SP launched a newcampaign for making its programs easier to get, selling them in newsstands, and fulfilling in a week the forecasts made for a two years horizon. ContaPlus is so widespread than its been considered the accounting standard for Spaniard companies, with more than 600.000 units sold. SP had in 2002 a 42% market share with its software for small companies.
Most of SP clients are companies with up to50 workers and sales for of up to 1 million euros, to which big software companies had not suitable systems and that had not been computerized yet. As Fernando Escolar, president of SP, commented: “many companies haven’t got into computing, not because they don’t want to, but because they just can’t. These companies think this is a big expense and from their point of view, instead of expending20.000 euros in the solution offered by a big company, they buy a delivery truck that is more profitable for them. You have to demonstrate to this firms that investing in computers is profitable from the beginning , if you start talking about huge amounts they don’t follow you, from there up, they don’t understand, it is necessary to go to lower amounts that represent an opportunity forthem to get in, that don’t mean an excessive cost for them and is profitable from the start. It is because of this, that we offer integrated management systems which includes accounting, management and sales point terminal from around 100 euros”. SP soon realized that you can have the same income from selling 5.000 units at 3.000 euros than 500.000 units at 30 euros, but that the latter also meantnearly as many maintenance contracts, which expanded the growth potential of the company.
As the time went by, the group’s activities evolved in a way that design and marketing of the software was complemented with services to their clients, whom not only buy the product, but demand updates, manteinance, personnel training and instant solution to any doubt or problem that they can have. Fromthe beginning, the growth of SP has been continuous, reaching 700 employees, more than half of them being part of the customer service department.
Getting into Portugal
The international activity of the company started in Portugal. Its geographic and cultural proximity with Spain, and the high familiarity with the Spanish reality by the Portuguese, has meant manySpanish companies don’t really think of entering Portugal as true an real internationalization step. After both countries entered the European Union, and excepting the language, not much more difference is perceived between them than the ones which are found between two regions within Spain.
SP opened it’s Portuguese subsidiary in 1994. Access to that market was relatively simple, because the...