Channel Futures – Double your Business

(Pictured above: JS Group’s Janet Schijns onstage at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, April 10.)

This article first appeared here.

CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO — By anyone’s standards, the Channel Partners Influencer of the Year Janet Schijns is a force of nature. She assumed the keynote stage today at Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas with a talk titled “Can You Double Your Business in 2019?” Hands flying, silver heels flashing and advice coming a mile a minute, Schijns outlined where the channel needs to step it up if it’s going to keep up with the market.

Emerging tech today can do some incredible things. It can warn drivers distracted by their phones when there is a hazard coming up. Artificial intelligence (AI) is finding ways to identify bad actors that are using advanced social engineering tactics. There are providers that sell IoT packages for supply chain, with everything from devices to connectivity to security included. But there are too many partners sitting comfortably not exploring these advanced technologies.

The companies that are making and selling these kinds of solutions are doing so as-a-service, and Schijns said all of the examples she provided have at least a valuation around 13x, but that’s not the case for managed service providers (MSPs) and value-added resellers (VARs). The reason? Not enough recurring revenue.

“The problem for all of us,” she said, “is that while anything is possible, everything isn’t.”

There’s a gap, therefore, between the volume of tech that’s penetrating the broad market and the volume being sold by channel partners. To be fair, she doesn’t lay the entire blame for this at the feet of partners. Vendors are just not in tune with their channel. In many cases, they don’t even value their channel all that much. As a result, they’ve fallen out of touch with their partners, and the relationships between vendors and partners that the channel was built on are today extremely strained.

At this point, Schijns asked the audience to open up their conference apps. For the first year, Channel Partners built in functionality that allows for live polling. She asked the audience a simple yes or no question: Do you have at least one vendor partnership that isn’t working? Eighty-eight percent of the audience said yes.

Fixing those damaged relationships has become a focus for Schijns, who left Office Depot at the start of 2019 to return to her consultancy, JS Group. There, she’s teaching both vendors and partners how to repair those relationships — and, in some cases, how to let them go.

“We hear that at the top of the Ivory Tower — and I’ve been there, this is true — there’s people at these vendor companies that think the channel costs too much money,” she told the audience. “Can you believe that?”

Partners have to find ways to cull their solutions

and vendors down to the good ones — the ones that listen, that provide education over training, that value their channel and understand that without it, they’ll never succeed.

Doubling your service provider business is entirely possible, said Schijns, with just a few changes to business models. Partners should narrow their focus and stop trying to be the IT generalist of yesteryear. “Go narrow to get big,” she said.

Some hard conversations have to happen around partners’ talent profiles. Just like some vendors have to go, so, too, do some people — maybe even the business manager in certain instances, such as if they also act as the sales manager (the number one leader Schijns says most often needs to change).

Business owners also need to understand that the old adage of “It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” no longer holds water. In today’s era of social media influencers, it isn’t who you know — it’s who knows you.

While it may seem out of reach, Schijns stressed that growing a channel business hand over fist isn’t a pipe dream. It just requires a different mindset. It requires partners to double down on recurring services, bite the bullet and let go of vendors and employees that are hindering growth, and put themselves out there so people can put a face with the business name.

Can you double your business in 2019? According to Schijns, absolutely.

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