From its colonial building in the heart of Belden Village, Patriot Software wants to be second to Intuit in accounting and payroll software in the United States.
JACKSON TWP. Michael J. Kappel, the founder and CEO of Patriot Software, sees the proximity of his burgeoning company in a three-floor colonial building in Belden Village to Interstate 77 as great for business.
Mainly because it is more easily accessible for his 120 employees to commute to work, is close to a lot of restaurants and night life and is located near great universities and school districts.
But the location is irrelevant to his 16,000 customers, the vast majority of whom Kappel and the company's employees will never meet in person.
The customers, small businesses with 1 to 100 employees, use Patriot's tax and accounting software. If they encounter issues, they call and get help from customer service representatives at Patriot's Dressler Road NW offices.
Kappel founded his business in Canton in 1986. After decades of trial and error and an investment of more than $48 million to refine his software products for small businesses, he says with minimal increase in the number of employees, Patriot can scale up to serve a far greater number of customers.
How many? He's thinking "more than a million customers easily within the next 10 years." Actually, he's shooting for eventually 5.6 million, 8 percent of the small businesses in the country.
"Why wouldn't we?" Kappel said about the short-term goal of a million. "The closest competitor is Intuit ... who's No. 1 in accounting software. ... There is no No. 2. So, that's where we're going."
In-house attorney Michael Wheeler said the company has purchased another building on Fulton Drive NW near Dressler for $1.7 million to serve the company as it expands. In addition, it held a $8 million private stock offering that Wheeler said attracted about 65 local investors. It nearly went public in 2016 but chose not to, fearing new shareholders due to a new law would force the company to split into different units.
"We really don't want to move our offices away from Canton, Ohio," said Wheeler, adding that they don't want financing that "comes with strings" that don't work for them.
It now is about $6.5 million into a $20 million stock offering for accredited investors nationwide that opened May 1. The proceeds will cover the marketing costs to expand the customer base.
The ethos of the company is simplicity, products that work efficiently and reliably, quick customer service, affordability and relatability.
"I have a phrase. 'Big company, stupid.'" Kappel said. "We're not doing any of that bloat in here."
The back of employees' thick business cards read: "Keep your Time and Money." The company's website uses clear, plain-spoken language.
Wheeler said the companies' customer service reps have math and accounting backgrounds and the ability to submit requests to software developers immediately to address issues in the software or to improve the software.
"You're not being outsourced to India. You're getting support that's live in Canton, Ohio," he said. "Tomorrow, there'll be a new version of the software."
Kappel says the company, which moved to a bigger space in Jackson Township from downtown Canton around 2012 when it had about 65 employees, has its own software development team of about 50 people who write all the code. While some companies find it difficult to find enough coders, Wheeler said Patriot is so strict in its standards "you've got a 1 in 99 chance of getting in here," he said.
Both say the danger of brain drain and the most talented graduates leaving the area are real.
Kappel, 60, said he has set up company internships through Walsh University, the University of Mount Union, University of Akron and Stark State College.
Wheeler says when he goes on trips to promote the company to investors, they'll note the technology company is located in the Midwest.
"'Well, you're in a flyover state,'" Wheeler says they'll remark. He'll reply: "'No, we're not. We're in university central. We have a lot of talent in the bread basket of America.'"
His company has registered the domain i77techcorridor.com — just in case.
"We'll be a major employer," said Kappel. "Whether that'll be 200, 300, 500 ... it's going to be what it's going to be."
Reach Robert at 330-580-8327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @rwangREP