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Selling Microsoft

Partners: Beware of 'Reinventing the Wheel'

Growing businesses have problems. There are many resources to help you address those problems; the opportunity is for you to use them.

As you read this column, I hope by now you've spent time reflecting on what worked and what didn't work during 2012.

There's a quote, frequently attributed to Albert Einstein or occasionally Mark Twain, and used to good effect by Alcoholics Anonymous, that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

To succeed as a Microsoft partner in 2013, I believe you do need to pay attention to the details of managing your business -- but also to the business environment you'll face (alongside everyone else). Based on your personal and organizational maturity curve and business environment, you'll experience certain challenges at various stages of your business. Some inflection points that I've seen trigger significant challenges include when employee levels reach 10, 25 or 60 employees, or when launching new practices such as cloud, mobility or customer relationship management.

To limit the effects of hitting a business challenge during 2013, it's important that you perform an assessment on your existing business model. (Acumen Management Group offers a comprehensive, free online assessment that many partners use to simply measure their maturity.)

This is Acumen Management's 16th year of providing consulting services to the partner community, and I've experienced many conditions that are unique to certain partners. But the vast majority of partners face common challenges, and best practices can resolve these typical problems. During a recent partner-consulting visit I was asked about employee turnover and hiring better salespeople. I responded by suggesting that employees tend to leave organizations because of:

  • Poor products to represent
  • Bad customer service
  • Change in compensation plans
  • Loss of confidence in the company
  • Bad management
  • Merger, layoffs and acquisitions
  • "Grass is greener" syndrome

The mistake that's most common, however, is "reinvent the wheel" syndrome. Problems come up and people are assigned the responsibility to solve them by creating new systems, adding procedures or hiring more people. I see so much wasted energy and loss of time and profits by partners who attempt to improve their business by trying to figure out solutions to their own problems. I'm not directly "selling" my consulting services -- what I'm suggesting is for partners to continue to explore solutions to their problems by taking the easy route.

The rise of peer groups has assisted hundreds of partners in learning from each other. In my own peer group, sales managers explore a variety of situations and solutions to a host of problems. In past columns, I've suggested that benchmarking can be a hugely successful process in allowing your management team to see how other partners manage their businesses. One hint: This year, make a commitment to visit at least one similar partner with higher revenues than yours and explore their approach to leading their organization.

Redmond Channel Partner magazine has provided a great resource for you to seek out solutions to many of the problems facing the Microsoft partner ecosystem. I've been writing this column for many years, and each time I attempt to address issues that I see partners facing with potential solutions. You can find an archive of those columns and my frequent blog entries at RCPmag.com. If you glance through the column titles, you may find, for free, a solution to a problem you're facing today.

As the psychiatrist Theodore Rubin said, "The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem." If a business is growing, it's going to have problems. There are many resources to help you address those problems; the opportunity is for you to use them.

More Columns by Ken Thoreson:

About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at ken@acumenmgmt.com.

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