The Changing Channel

The Hidden Payoff in Starting an IAMCP Chapter

In a region that's ripe for partner-to-partner networking, the launch of another IAMCP chapter is bringing more value to Microsoft partners.

It took the effort of helping launch a "SoCal North" chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) for Cort Baker to truly grasp the potential of the group.

The Greater Los Angeles area chapter was an offshoot of the SoCal, or Southern California, chapter, and is not to be confused with the Northern California chapter or the San Diego chapter, for that matter. California is an active area for the IAMCP.

"It wasn't until we started up the SoCal North chapter, and I became engaged with the leadership in the region, that I began to understand the power of the group and how much it can impact business," says Baker, vice president of sales for the Technical Division at General Networks Corp. in Glendale, Calif. A chapter-planning discussion with Ro Kolakowski, current vice president of the IAMCP U.S. Board, and CEO of 6th Street Consulting in Redondo Beach, Calif., opened Baker's eyes. "[Ro] said that a substantial proportion of his business came through IAMCP relationships," Baker says.

The IAMCP describes itself as the preeminent networking venue for Microsoft partners in the world. Like many geographically dispersed associations, the quality of a given partner's experience will vary with the current quality of the leadership and membership of their local chapter. In Southern California, the local experience has clearly delivered value to members.

Going to Market Together
The chapter-creation experience also brought Baker in contact with Dave Gersten, West Region chair for IAMCP and VP of Customer Success & Strategic Relationships for Bond Consulting Services in Long Beach, Calif. "We did our first project with Bond, and it went so well that we went to one of our largest customers who was struggling with a Dynamics project and said that we'd like to bring another team in. They were very glad we did," Baker says.

The relationship developed. "We had a customer who was complaining about wanting to buy Oracle Financials but they hadn't returned his calls. Having done previous projects with Dave, I explained to my customer how much more expensive Oracle would be than Dynamics, and he agreed to meet with Dave. We got a great infrastructure project and a managed services contract from that. Dave got the better end of the deal with a large Dynamics project, and it all started with me selling his story," Baker says.

Let the Customer Know You're Partnering
For Gersten, being up front with customers about a partnership is critical: "We've been most successful partnering when we're very transparent. We don't do the 'white box' thing and try to pretend we're one organization. The customer is very clear that we do this, and they do that.

Picking Partners
"When I'm selecting partners, my first criterion is that they must be an IAMCP member," Gersten says. "Then I look at whether the personalities of our companies will be a fit, the level of expertise and whether they'll fit the customer's budget."

"Reputation and skill," adds Baker. "I look for companies where we're complementary and not competing -- a partner like Bond who focuses on things like Dynamics that are not in our stack."

Baker also values the built-in quality assurance of IAMCP membership."

Sharing Opportunities
Many partners struggle with how to compensate each other for shared opportunities. Some offer a finder's fee at either a fixed amount or a fixed percentage. Others pay a commission. "There's no financial compensation between us," Baker says. "It's a two-way street. Dave brings me into a great deal, I work to pay him back by finding an opportunity for him."

Keeping in Touch
The act of meeting regularly through a professional organization like IAMCP helps, too. "IAMCP gets us together on a regular basis," says Baker, "which means we stay engaged even if we're not working on a project together at the time."

More Analysis by Howard M. Cohen:

About the Author

Howard M. Cohen is a consultant to IT vendors and channel partner companies and a board member of the U.S. chapter of the IAMCP. Reach him at hmc@hmcwritenow.com.

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