A Dozen Tips for Partner Startups from an Investor

So you're a startup? Congratulations on a wonderful and highly exciting journey!

I have started and sold companies my whole life. Now, I focus on investing and helping entrepreneurs. Based on my experience, here's some advice from the trenches.

1. Focus, focus, focus! Don't try to do two things at the same time. I often hear excuses that developing a new offering didn't take much effort, that this might be a new opportunity, or that we got to send a bill for this special assignment. But what I really hear is that your scarce resources are being spread out, making everything weaker. As an investor, I want your core focus to be on one thing -- and if that one thing is not viable, then let's find another thing to focus on.

The jack-of-all-trades era is gone. With stiff competition and innovation on a global scale, you will need to focus on being great at one thing rather than mediocre at two things. Stick with your business idea or develop a new and better one. But only one idea at a time, please! When you become bigger and stronger, you can, of course, consider adding new offerings. But that will be tomorrow and not today.

2. Margins should be high. Great software products and great service offerings will give you a great net margin. That means that your marginal cost needs to be low. (Think of an airline selling one more seat; the marginal cost is limited to a bag of nuts.)

3. Selling should be done over the Internet through digital marketing, not by sending out bodies to meet with potential customers. Sending out bodies might work in your hometown, but it will be super hard for you to scale up and sell in other cities, counties, states and countries. If you can sell without sending out sales reps, then I will listen.

You can, of course, do this through a network of partners. And I don't like it if you have a call center doing outbound sales calls; that is just a little bit better, but not good enough. I don't mind an inbound call center helping customers with their experience.

4. A global mindset. Being able to sell outside your local market and win on a global scale has never been easier than today. This is something that you should always have in mind as you start your new venture and make sure that this is influencing your decision-making. I find many companies with great business models and wonderful offerings, but they are hard to bring to other markets. Therefore, I most often decline making an investment.

5. Subscriptions will give you recurring revenue, and that is a fantastic thing that everyone loves. It will take longer for you to get the revenue compared to selling projects or traditional licenses, but when it finally comes, it will be more robust and more predictable. And investors love recurring revenue! When you're selling your company, you will thank me for this advice, as it will give you a much higher valuation or enterprise value (EV).

6. Live the digital life and love digital marketing. I often meet companies that are in the technology space, but they do not understand the value and concept of digital marketing. They have a Web site, perhaps a blog, a Tweet now and then, but they have no plan or strategy for how to regularly create new content and make it visible to their audience. I honestly think that most Microsoft partners are better at talking about this to others than doing it themselves.

Digital marketing is an area where I always advise my companies to invest more. When you master digital marketing, you'll be king!

7. I love artificial intelligence (AI), but I want to hear a decent story. Just adding AI with no real purpose will not excite me.

But if your solution is driven by AI and this is a differentiating factor, then I will listen and fight to invest. AI will change our lives and there are many ways for a startup to leverage the AI bandwagon, so this is really an area with a great future.

8. Don't be afraid to fund your company with revenue. There is nothing bad about building revenue. When you've got revenue and you're cash flow-positive, you'll be in a much better position to talk to investors. Having customers that are willing to pay for your services is proof of what you're doing, and it will help you pay the bills and arrange external investments -- which you may not even need if your revenue is great.

9. The team is crucial for success. Many investors say that they invest in the team first and in the product second. The right team will find the right product and the right business model. It is important that the team has multiple talents and has the right combination of experience and disruptive thinking (i.e., inexperience). It is crucial to get along with each other, both within the team and with investors. Teams that don't get along well will never perform!

10. Embrace diversity. Your customers are diverse and your team should be the same. Embracing diversity will also give you access to a much larger talent pool. And you'll be in a better position to understand your customers' needs. This is especially important when entering new markets.

11. Don't forget the customer. Having the customer top-of-mind will help you become successful. If your services are highly appreciated by your customers, it will be hard to not become successful -- and satisfied customers are the best advocates to help you win new customers. Being customer-centric should be part of your DNA, and I want you to be proud of what you do for your customers.

12. Be honest; don't try to hide your problems because, eventually, I will find out. Instead, involve me in what is not working and seek my advice for how to resolve it. The true advantage with investors and what differentiates them is often the quality of their advice and the value of their networks. A fellow investor friend told me, "They will surely take your money, but what they will really value is your advice."

And remember, being a startup is a fantastic journey that will reward you in wisdom, knowledge, freedom and, hopefully, financially. And when you've become successful, don't forget to give back to new startups!

Posted by Per Werngren on October 10, 2018 at 9:42 AM0 comments


How To Overcome a Dazed and Confused Technology Landscape

The rate of cool technology is accelerating at an unbelievable pace. Across the board, vendors are developing and releasing applications and services quicker than ever before.

This amazing speed is causing two particular problems in the channel: Partner personnel are becoming overwhelmed and complexity is dictating the day.

Let's break the problems down. Because technology is so easy to spin up and spit out, more vendors are producing more applications. Couple this with existing vendors revamping and retooling their applications to fit the consumption economy, and you get a massive inflow of technology in the market.

For instance, do a search on "CRM" or "ERP," and the results produce endless options. Sitting in the reseller's shoes, it's exponentially more difficult to figure out this landscape, especially when they are trying to determine how to round out their technology portfolios. Prospects know much more now than they used to about a technology before the reseller knocks on the door, making every sales interaction much more challenging.

Secondly, salespeople are making their interactions much more complicated than they need to be with prospects. They try to deliver relevant information via a cocktail of technology platforms, campaigns, social media, chat, text or a hundred other options. While employing technology is supposed to minimize the complexity of the interaction, it actually does the opposite in many cases: It causes an erosion of any potential relationship with a prospect.

The road around this dilemma is multifold. First, how we are enabling salespeople must change. There are more and more generations coming into the workforce who rely too heavily on technology to create the connection with the prospect. Because of this, there is a widening gap in the soft skills of most of these workers. Simply put: People don't know how to speak to one another. Need proof? Next time you are in a restaurant, take notice of how many people have their mobile phones out.

To remedy this, training needs to incorporate a blend of skills that are set up in logical "pathways," making absorption of any knowledge impactful. Enablement becomes fast, as well as meaningful, as a result of this approach.

Next, platforms and systems must be used in a way so as to push relevant and thought-provoking information to the prospect, ahead of the prospect trying to find data on their own. The content needs to be "educational" in nature and not technical in design. By doing so, you start connecting to the prospect in a way that is different than the competition.

In short, combining newfound soft skills with "pushing" pertinent content is the recipe for success.

A great example of these approaches exists within a company called Garland Technology. It produces Test Access Points (TAPs) and aligns nicely to many big-name security vendors. Before Garland implemented its new partner program and portal, it mapped out what each enablement journey looked like and then linked every path to desired outcomes. This ensured that applicable skills were being taught for each partner constituent.

It also put into play "prospect pages" (a feature of its PRM) that allows its partners to deliver content such as whitepapers directly to the prospect, while tracking open rates. Gone are the days when a partner would send a PDF and "hope" the prospect read it.

So far, the results are astounding in that partners are more easily engaging with greater numbers of prospects, and metrics are showing that win rates are going up.

Lastly, organizations need to get back to the basics if they want to differentiate themselves. Simple things like picking up the phone or knocking on a few doors will go a long way in establishing deeper and more connected relationships with customers. What they are forgetting to do is simple: Connect on a human-to-human level.

Over seven years ago, I wrote the following line for Redmond Channel Partner magazine: "An uneducated reseller or a confused reseller cannot adequately sell a vendor's product line." The same holds true today.

Posted by Keith Lubner on September 12, 2018 at 10:21 AM0 comments


Make the Most of Co-Sell, But Avoid Overdependence

The huge theme at Microsoft Inspire this summer was the messaging around, and supporting evidence for, doing business with Microsoft and with fellow partners.

I have been attending Microsoft's worldwide partner events since 2002, and I remember less-successful similar attempts from Microsoft. This time, it clearly got it right.

The co-sell program is a huge success. And thanks to CEO Satya Nadella, worldwide channel chief Gavriella Schuster and others who have reshaped Microsoft, there is now a great path for partners to prove themselves and to leverage Microsoft's sales team in order to win new customers. I have met many partners that have given evidence that the co-sell program is actually working in real life, not just in theory.

With co-sell working so well, it is easy for partners to consider making this their only avenue for growing sales. But that would be a strategic mistake. I think that partners ought to view co-sell as frosting on the cake, not the cake itself.

My suggested core sales motion is for partners to approach customers directly, or indirectly through other partners, and to use co-sell as an additional opportunity. Co-sell can help you win new customers, and it can also help you win the attention of potential partners to act as your resellers and/or implementers.

It is also important to build personal relations with Microsoft's field sellers. When you get a request from a Microsoft field seller, it is important to follow up and to invest time to close the deal together. Being a great partner to Microsoft's field will pay off. You want to be easy to deal with and build a reputation for being very attentive.

Think of Microsoft's field as an ecosystem of its own. When you create mutual success, you will be able to ask for introductions to other Microsoft field sellers in the same country/region or in the same vertical. Of course, you should document your success and use it in your marketing. And saying "thank you" is never bad -- send those e-mails up the chain to senior leaders.

It is worth mentioning that AppSource is growing in importance as Microsoft's marketplace for B2B apps. It makes sense for you to make sure that you are part of it and that you optimize your presence there. AppSource is the starting point for your co-sell efforts and it also helps you get visibility from customers and fellow partners. Remember to keep your value proposition short and sweet; a maximum of 20 words seems to be what is working.

The message at Inspire in Las Vegas was loud and clear: Microsoft and partners are driving innovation, and by working together, we will achieve joint success. You could feel it everywhere -- on the big stage, in breakout sessions, in the expo hall and in casual discussions over dinner and drinks. The relationship between Microsoft and partners has never been better, and there is a great degree of optimism about the opportunities ahead.

Posted by Per Werngren on August 30, 2018 at 12:35 PM0 comments


Profiles in Partnering: The Power of P2P To Bring Income to Your Inbox

How long does an opportunity last?

Whatever answer came to mind, it's a good bet it isn't very long. You receive a call or an e-mail or some other form of request for quotation from a customer and a very, very short clock starts ticking in your mind. You need to be the first and best response to that request, because you know it's been made of others, as well.

Making matters worse, the request includes skills you simply don't have on your staff, or geographies you can't easily reach. You know you're going to need partners to get that part done, so you're going to have to find qualified partners.

How quickly should you find those partners? Immediately. Right now, if not sooner.

You're In a Rush
When are you most likely to make mistakes? When you're in a rush. And now you're in a rush to find qualified partners to help you respond to and fulfill this opportunity.


Are you a Microsoft partner looking to collaborate with another partner on a customer project? Send your details to RCP2P@rcpmag.com and we'll help you connect with other Microsoft partners.

Where will you look? Portals, search engines, lists? How long will that take? How long will it take you to get in touch with these potential partners, and to reach the right person at each company? That clock just keeps ticking louder.

How will you know how trustworthy the reviews are? How will you know how trustworthy these partners are? You'll want to talk to a few of their customers. Right -- like that's going to be easy.

Our Shortcut: The RCP2P Trust Community
Here's how you find the right partners fast.

In my first "Profiles in Partnering" article, I recalled the launch of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) and how it compelled Microsoft partners to declare their best expertise, their specialties. This was of great service to customers by providing the "best of the best" for every technology initiative. It also meant that multiple partners would be needed to perform larger projects.

Finding the right partners to work with became a challenge. You didn't want to do it in a rush, and you didn't want to choose the wrong partner. But searching for the right partner took forever.

With RCP2P, our subscribers can simply send an e-mail to RCP2P@rcpmag.com detailing the skills they need for their customer's project. Whether the work needs to be done in faraway places or requires skills you simply don't have on your team, tell RCP2P and we'll publish the need in our next newsletter, which comes out three times each week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays)!

Thousands of RCP readers will see your need and will simply respond via e-mail telling you why you should choose them to partner with. All of those e-mails are forwarded directly to you, and you pick and choose who you want to talk to about partnering on the opportunity.

Here's why you'll love using the RCP2P Skill Sharing Opportunity Accelerator:

  1. No "portals" to go checking constantly in hopes of finding opportunities.
  2. All you need do is open the RCP Update Newsletter when it shows up in your inbox.
  3. No hunting through ancient opportunities. Each only appears once because opportunities must be responded to quickly or they will be lost.
  4. All you need to do is reply to RCP2P@rcpmag.com with an e-mail indicating which opportunity you're interested in and why you should be chosen.
  5. This service costs you nothing.
  6. Opportunities show up in your inbox.

RCP readers are all Microsoft partners with extraordinary skills. This is the best community to tap into to find the kind of partner you can trust to get the job done for your customer. Give it a try!

Profiles in Partnering will regularly highlight the success stories of partners who have partnered with others to provide superior solutions to customers while growing their own businesses. Welcome to the RCP2P Program. Let's get started.

Posted by Howard M. Cohen on July 31, 2018 at 2:10 PM0 comments


Profiles in Partnering: Realizing the Goals of the Microsoft Partner Network

What's your plan for the future? If your response is that you don't have one, please remember what Benjamin Franklin told us: "Failing to plan is planning to fail." Especially now in the partner ecosystem.

Unless you're one of the few that have advanced beyond the curve, you simply cannot keep on doing what you've always done. Zig Ziglar said that "If you're doing what you've always done, you're probably getting what you always got," but even that is no longer true. Whether you still call yourself a VAR or a reseller or an MSP, you can't just sit there. Stay still at your own peril.

In 2009, the Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP) was ending its eighth year and Microsoft replaced it with the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), which was not just something you sign up for -- it was something you become part of.

For the purposes of this discussion, we're just going to focus on one component of the MPN that represented the most significant change and challenge to Microsoft partners: the "exclusivity" or "uniqueness" rule that said that each gold competency you pursued required four unique individuals to pass tests. You could not use the same people to pass test for more than one gold competency. At the time, the No. 1 partner out of the over 118,000 listed in the partner directory held 29 out of 30 possible competencies. That entire company consisted of 17 people in total. Now, with the MPN, it could possibly hold on to four if the company had nothing but techs, which was hardly the case. To attain all 30 would require a minimum technical staff of 120.

Do you think Microsoft was only interested in having large partners? Hmm. Maybe.

The architects of the MPN explained that their goal was to remove "jack-of-all-trades" partners and have everyone declare their core competencies, thus "raising the bar." This would enable Microsoft to recommend the best possible partners for each project, knowing and certifying their capabilities. Customers would most certainly appreciate having the best of the best doing the work.

To their credit, the architects of the MPN relented and gave partners an extra year to fulfill all the new obligations spelled out in the 2009 rules. Since then, the raised bar has been the rule.

How Did That Go for You?
This year, the MPN becomes a longer-lasting program than MSPP, and the more highly specialized environment created by it has become the norm. In fact, only the largest Microsoft partners, generally those at Tier I of the Cloud Solutions Partner (CSP) program, continue to be "all things to all people," while smaller partners focus on specific areas of technology.

According to Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of One Commercial Partner at Microsoft, "The Microsoft partner ecosystem has continued to expand and thrive. We have had great success continuing to grow Microsoft's business through our partners. As a matter of fact, more than 90 percent of Microsoft's revenue is supported by our partners."

As a Microsoft employee for decades, Schuster witnessed the transition from MSPP to MPN, and from being a Gold or Certified Partner to having gold or silver competencies -- an interesting distinction introduced by MPN. Her observation, after nine years of the MPN: "We understand that change is difficult. Overall, we've found that this approach has proven to be popular with our partners. In fact, we see 7,000 partners coming into the Microsoft ecosystem every month -- nearly double the rate we saw just two years ago, and now we have 80,000 partners doing business in the cloud. Customers have shown they appreciate and prefer working with partners that have proven their expert knowledge by attaining gold and/or silver status with Microsoft."

Schuster also emphasizes the need for partners to distinguish themselves from other partners by branding their offerings and emphasizing expertise. "Having a competency allows partners to offer highly differentiated value to their customers. We are optimizing our competency portfolio to help enable partners to successfully connect with and serve their market," she said.

Driving the Need for Partners to Partner with Other Partners (P2P)
One major impact of the MPN is that if you agree that customers care about gold and silver competencies, it has to take more than one partner to fulfill most large project requests (since most projects involve multiple competencies). Partners would have to partner effectively with other partners to provide comprehensive services to most customers.

Partner-to-partner (P2P) partnering has long been a major emphasis for Microsoft partners. Many organizations have been created to assist partners in finding capable partners to work with on broader projects, including:

  • The Microsoft Partner Community, a great resource for partners to connect with other partners, as well as with Microsoft contacts. The community offers answers to FAQs, forums where partners can ask for help and advice, and many other resources. There are also a myriad of community groups focusing on different technologies and business models, including hosting and open source.

  • The International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), which also assists members in business development, offering business opportunities through partnerships with the global community of its members. IAMCP membership also allows partners to get early access to trainings at reduced costs.

  • The IAMCP also supports a Women in Technology (WIT) chapter that Microsoft highly encourages partners to get involved with in order to hire and nurture creative, innovative and hardworking women in the channel. WIT connects women in the Microsoft ecosystem and provides mutual support in achieving professional and personal goals while attracting and retaining women into IT roles.

Microsoft Inspire, the annual global partner conference that's taking place right now in Las Vegas, is also a great opportunity for partners to meet together and make connections with partners from around the world.

RCP2P
Those of you who have been regular readers of Redmond Channel Partner for many years know that my regular column, The Changing Channel, ended about a year ago mainly because we felt it really wasn't so much a channel anymore as it was a professional community. The channel was about moving a product from manufacturer to distributor to reseller to customer. Today's IT community is about helping organizations improve through the innovative use of technologies.

Given that we ultimately agree with Microsoft that a professional community consists more of specialists than generalists, this new blog series, "Profiles in Partnering" is dedicated to helping partners learn how to select partners, align with them, create synergies with them, and bring customers the best of the best from cohesive partnerships among the best.


Are you a Microsoft partner looking to collaborate with another partner on a customer project? Send your details to RCP2P@rcpmag.com and we'll help you connect with other Microsoft partners.

In my next post, "Income in Your Inbox," you'll learn about a new program we're introducing called RCP2P, which is a more common-sense, direct approach to making it far easier for you to find the right partners that will complete the proposals and the projects you deliver to customers with expertise and devotion to excellence commensurate with your own. Rather than depend on inconsistently maintained portals, we take the direct path right into your inbox with opportunities from other partners who need your skills to complement theirs. They've done the selling. They need you to help do the work, and they'll pay you to do it.

That's the sacred heart of mutually beneficial partnering. It is our hope to contribute to your continued growth as you wrestle with other top-of-mind issues like what you're going to do next now that there's no future in just selling stuff, and everybody and their brother-in-law is calling themselves an MSP. We'll be suggesting many viable alternatives in this blog, including advice on how to most effectively build your own channels to pave a faster path to more customers through proactive partnering.

Stay tuned, and please participate in the conversation!

Posted by Howard M. Cohen on July 18, 2018 at 2:07 PM0 comments


How Microsoft Partners Can Drive Diversity To Build Great Businesses

We all struggle with finding talent, nurturing leaders and better understanding our customers. I believe that part of the resolution for these three problems is to make a serious bet on embracing and driving diversity.

Diversity for me is about making sure that the people who are working for you, and with you, do not come in the same shape. It is about actively hiring people who do not look the same as the ones already working for you. Embracing diversity is about actively recruiting women, young people, older people, people with different faiths, people from different cultures and countries, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.

I strongly believe in giving mothers and fathers of young children the flexibility they need so they can work part-time or work flexible hours. This eliminates a problem that, in some cases, ends in the mothers staying at home full-time and never returning to work or returning at a much lower level. A few of my best performers over the years have been mothers with toddlers who had the flexibility they needed.

By making sure that you drive diversity in your recruitment policy, you will be able to recruit from a much larger talent pool. You will be able to more easily find top performers when you fish in a larger sea than just in a small pond. You tap into a much larger talent pool!

When I was running one of the largest cloud hosting providers in northern Europe, we had an advantage over many of our competitors because we actively embraced hiring people who came from other countries as long as they could speak a decent level of English. We didn't care at all if they were able to speak our local language or not. In fact, we had 18 languages spoken in our company and, as we serviced customers worldwide, it became an advantage that our people often spoke the same languages as our customers. I believe that we sealed the deal with the iconic Italian pasta maker Barilla when their CIO visited our office and he was able speak Italian with two of our specialists and with our vice president of cloud services.

For me as a leader, it has always been more rewarding to work in environments with a diverse group of people, as it is really enriching and I learn a lot while also having more fun.

Driving diversity doesn't stop with the hiring; in fact, that's only the start of the journey. Equally important is to give equal opportunities to everyone and to have a plan for how to create more diverse leadership at all levels, including at the most senior level. Senior leaders can mentor junior leaders, and everyone should understand that there is huge value in having diverse leadership teams because they will help you better understand your customers. After all, your customers are diverse, too. If everyone looks the same, you will get fewer perspectives and views, which might harm your business in the long run.

It's not only what you say that counts. Even more important is to lead by example and make sure that you take responsibility for diversity in promotions. When you set the example, others will follow, both inside your company and in our ecosystem.

I'm not talking about salaries as that is a given. Fair compensation is about paying for performance and actively making sure that a certain group is not underpaid compared to others. It is your duty to make sure that people at the same level, with equal responsibilities and performance, are paid the same regardless of gender, culture, faith, et cetera.

Whenever a leadership position needs to be filled, you should especially look to promote someone who is different from the rest of that team. In leadership teams, it is often about actively finding women and people from other cultures/countries. Sometimes they need a little bit of extra push to be willing to take a step up the ladder to a higher leadership position, but it's your duty as a leader to make them feel comfortable and be willing to make the step.

I believe that we as Microsoft partners can step it up a notch. We can become leaders in driving diversity. Microsoft is a great source for inspiration as it has come far in this field, and it is being very proactive about embracing and driving diversity, which has paid off well for it. Let's make sure that we as Microsoft partners become equally great in driving diversity.

Who is going to thank you? Your children will thank you, your spouse will thank you, your shareholders will thank you, your employees will thank you, your customers will thank you and our society will thank you for driving positive change and making sure that we are all equal.

We can all drive diversity and the time is now to make it happen!

Posted by Per Werngren on July 09, 2018 at 2:53 PM0 comments


How to Increase Your Business Valuation

If you are a Microsoft partner looking to sell your business, you're in the right place at the right time. The most recent Equiteq survey found that Microsoft technology expertise continues to be the largest vendor capability associated with IT consulting M&A deals.

However, it's important to know that buyers today are more sophisticated, more selective and savvier than ever before. They can smell a bad deal from a long way off.

Buyers today have their antennae set on high alert for companies that fit specific profiles that are accretive to their overall valuation, and that are aligned with already-established expansion strategies and culture.

While there is no wiggle room for mistakes, many Microsoft partners already have a head start on positioning their companies to attract even the most selective buyers.

What Buyers Want
Want to see if your business will capture the attention of today's buying community? Here's a checklist of characteristics attractive to the types of companies that will pay well for what you've built. Assess your organization carefully to determine if you offer:

SMAC solutions. Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud offerings are non-negotiable -- make sure you offer solutions in these areas to attract buyers.

Depth of vertical market and domain expertise. Having a proven track record of expertise is invaluable. Strive to keep your business at the intersection of deep vertical market expertise and deep technical expertise that will service the needs of that market.

Clearly differentiated offering. Ideally, you'll want that offering positioned as No. 1 or No. 2 in the market you serve.

Double-digit annual growth. Buyers will want to see it in both your revenue and profit.

The ability to create and market IP offerings. These should flow naturally out of your specialized expertise. Future attractiveness to both technology buyers and consulting firm buyers may well depend on this.

A healthy balance sheet. You'll want to show strong retained earnings and minimal debt.

Marketable IP. Buyers will want to know that you have offerings that can drive additional service sales that are complementary to the core service being offered.

Recurring or subscription revenue. Make sure that your recurring or subscription revenue is at least 30 percent of total revenue. More is better.

A continuous stream of one new breakthrough expansion strategy per year. Maybe it's an expansion into a new geography. Or getting into a new service line. Or a new delivery system. However you do it, show some vitality.

Bold expansion strategies. Demonstrate your company's vision for the future. Is your organization caught in the grind of managing day-to-day operations, or have you positioned yourself to focus on growth?

What Buyers DON'T Want
On the flip side, the top four factors that deter buyers are:

Poor cultural fit. Why struggle to make the merger work if your employees and customers are coming in with very different expectations? It's much easier for buyers to find one where everyone's on the same page -- or at least the same book -- to begin with.

Diversity of service offerings. The more broad the spectrum of services, the less likely they are to be interested.

Market generalist focused only on technology. Today's problems are often very industry and business-specific, and so are the solutions, so deep, specialized knowledge may be more attractive. Often, buyers are looking for someone to complement capabilities they already have; broad and overlapping expertise lead them away from you.

Poor growth and profitability. Even if you have skills and expertise, buyers are looking for an extra sail, not an additional anchor. Demonstrating sound business knowledge can be as important as showcasing technical know-how.

As we said above, many Microsoft partners are already well-positioned to attract buyers. Not only do you offer solutions and expertise customers want, but you have access to the vast partner network and the resources Microsoft offers.

Continue to nurture both those partnerships and your business acumen, and one day you may well hear: "Hey there, we like the way you've built your business; we like how you've positioned yourself in the market, how you've smartly driven revenue and profit, and how you've invested for the future. We have an interested buyer. Can we talk?"

Posted by Mike Harvath on June 20, 2018 at 10:28 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Place the Right Bets

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including PER WERNGREN, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, REDMOND CHANNEL PARTNER MAGAZINE. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

Every year someone is moving the cheese. To be successful you will need to identify what has changed and determine how to act.

Being a Microsoft partner in 2018 will be great as Microsoft continues to bet heavily on innovation and to embrace the partner channel. But it is important that partners also make an effort to innovate on their own because doing that in combination with Microsoft's investments will help us all to grow our collective market share. We need to win more in Apple-land and Google-land. The economy is expected to grow throughout 2018 and parts of 2019, and IT is being integrated even more with how to drive a successful business. These are great times to be in IT as long as you place your bets right!

In the past, the Microsoft partner conversation was often about Microsoft Competencies (i.e. practice types). But now we see a big change as we care more about which verticals we serve. Several verticals are underserved and have a great demand that is driven out of Digital Transformation. I am personally convinced that health care, finance and public sector are great bets from a vertical perspective. Be aware, though, that if you're new to public sector, the processes associated with selling within that vertical are often slow and complicated.

From a practice and technology perspective I am convinced that artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented/virtual reality are truly safe bets for the future. There is a great demand from customers in these areas and investors are eager to jump on the bandwagon and support such companies. But competition is stiffening, and it is important to not only have great knowledge. You will also need to make sure that you know how to go to market and sell your products or services. Marketing and selling is often a weak point for Microsoft partners as many have not fully embraced digital marketing and learned how to sell without sending out guys in suits to make expensive customer calls.

When you combine the right vertical with a deep knowledge and great technology offerings you will have a very successful combination. And don't forget that subscription-based recurring revenue models are always more fun than repeatedly having to sell projects.

Where not to bet? This sounds negative but it is important to recognize that there are several areas that will not be successful going forward. One of them is to be to general as this is the era of specialization. Customers wants to deal with partners that are great at something rather than good at everything. Try to narrow down your portfolio of offerings and find partners that can help you with the areas that are outside your own scope. I would be negative to traditional infrastructure practices unless you have carved out a very special niche.

Setting up and managing servers with a focus on hardware and operating system is an area that is best handled in the cloud where tasks that previously demanded specialized staff are now commoditized and can be handled by less skilled people (or even automated). Many traditional systems integrators will need to either retrain their staff or downsize if they don't find out how to be relevant dealing with services in the cloud.

Another pitfall is if you just resell without adding any additional value. Without adding your own IP, reselling is a race to the bottom. Customers will no longer do business with you just because you are a nice guy. Instead they want to deal with someone who can truly provide value. If they just want a reseller, you will face competition that will be hard to beat and leave you with a less than acceptable margin.

Everything above is important also for the ones that see 2018 as the year for them to merge or make an exit. In order to attract someone to invest in your company you should make sure that you are geared for the future and not stuck in the past as that will help you get a premium offer. Investors love someone that has a clear vision of their position in the future.

Lastly, I think that cybersecurity will continue to grow in importance and there are great opportunities for managed service providers as the villains becomes savvier and customers need proactive protection. This market is enormous as everyone needs to protect themselves – both companies and households which means that you can easily find a sweet spot in the market to address.

There's opportunity out there this year. Enjoy!

Per Werngren is a serial IT entrepreneur based in Sweden and a staunch advocate of partner-to-partner relationships in the Microsoft ecosystem. He has held many roles at the worldwide level of the IAMCP, including chairman and president.

Posted by Per Werngren on March 22, 2018 at 8:43 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Define a Personal Wealth Target and a Business Value Target

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including ARLIN SORENSEN, VICE PRESIDENT, PEER GROUPS, CONNECTWISE. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

When I think about the most important piece of advice I can offer, it is the importance of defining two key numbers. These are the financial success metrics of personal and business legacy and, unfortunately, too many do not focus here until far too late in their journey.

Every person needs to define their personal wealth target (PWT) or the number they need to accumulate during their working career that enables them to live their ideal life after they receive their final paycheck.

If you are a business owner, there is a second number that matters called business value target (BVT), or the number you need to create in business value to provide the outcome shareholders expect and need. In most cases, the outcome of business value is what flows into an owner's personal wealth and will hopefully provide the dollars to close the gap between where an individual is today and where they need to be in the future.

Personal Wealth Target (PWT) ___________________
Current Personal Wealth ___________________
GAP ___________________

For most business owners, their portion of the company BVT needs to be enough to close the gap, as they have typically put all their eggs in that basket for their future.

Too many wait far too long to define these two key numbers and create a strategy to assure they achieve them. That's what HTG is helping shine a light on and provide accountability and strategy to assure legacy success.

Arlin Sorensen is vice president of Peer Groups at ConnectWise. Sorensen was the founder of Heartland Technology Groups (HTG), which served more than 600 members from 500 unique companies in North America, Europe and New Zealand. ConnectWise acquired HTG in January.

Posted by Arlin Sorensen on March 07, 2018 at 9:04 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Do Something Different or You're Done

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including HOWARD M. COHEN, SENIOR RESULTANT, THE TECH CHANNEL PARTNERS' RESULTS GROUP. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

Burn the word "value" into your mind, along with the word "innovate."

Famed sales motivator Zig Ziglar warned us, "If you're doing what you've always done, you're probably getting what you always got," but that's no longer the case for the IT channel. Now, if you're doing what you've always done, you've been getting less and less, and this year, you're probably done.

The only way to avoid that dismal fate is to recognize three things:

  • Customers are only interested in the value you bring to them, so you need to have all of your marketing and messaging focus only on that. Don't talk about the great products and services you offer. Talk about the value of what you provide brings to your customer.
  • Recognize that your customers' needs are constantly evolving and changing, so what you provide must constantly be evolving along with them. You must always innovate value.
  • Note that I keep referring to what you provide, not just what you do. We've evolved from a partner channel to a channel of partners.

Always define everything in terms of the business value it brings to your customer. Talk about their gains in their language. How do you increase their profits? You must identify new products and platforms that allow you to constantly innovate new value for your customers, or they will forget about you.

The channel has finally completely changed. No longer is it about a product produced by a manufacturer, distributed by a distributor to resellers who sell it to customers. It is now about you. You are the starting point of the channel that delivers value to customers. You pull in services and software from partners you carefully select and vet to provide maximum innovation and value to your customers.

These are not marching orders. They are survival strategies. Others talk about "shadow channels" that simply don't exist. There is no channel. There is you. Your insight, your innovations -- these are what your customers are buying from you. If you're doing something new, you're probably getting more than you ever got.

Posted by Howard M. Cohen on March 07, 2018 at 9:18 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Exit Strategy

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including MIKE HARVATH, PRESIDENT & CEO, REVENUE ROCKET. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

2018 is the year of partner transformation and to that end, we recommend that you focus on specialization, verticalization and productization." We call it SVP.

We recommend if you haven't done so already, that you specialize on the one area of the Microsoft stack/cloud offering set where you are an expert, that you pick one vertical market to specialize in and leverage the development of your process and tech-based expertise and IP.

If you're a partner that has more than $35 million in revenue you can focus on more than one market/practice area following this formula. Here are some very tangible benefits of following our methodology:

  • This approach will allow you to be in the elite club of the top 20% of your Microsoft partner peers.
  • It will provide the fuel to dramatically accelerate your growth of revenue and profit in 2018 and beyond.
  • Microsoft partners that successfully implement this model have options to grow their businesses in ways they didn't before, can further build and fortify the business and can buy another partner business or sell the business.
  • Partner companies that have successfully implemented this business model are in high demand and are commanding a premium valuation.

Mike Harvath has spent his entire 30-year career advising partner companies on implementing winning growth strategies and facilitating mergers and acquisitions. As president and CEO of Revenue Rocket, he and his team have advised over 500 partner companies on reaching their growth goals.

Posted by Mike Harvath on March 07, 2018 at 9:34 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Make it Personal

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including CHRISTINE D. BONGARD, DIRECTOR, PARTNER ALLIANCES, ATSG. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

We are living in an exciting time of technological advances and shifts in our industry. Over my 25-year career, I have seen trends shift and then, eventually shift back. My one take away for success in 2018 is to keep things personal.

Due to these advancements in technology and efficiencies with process, we've gotten to a point where people don't need to meet in person. No more looking each other in the eye or shaking hands. No more bonding over family pics and other oddities in our offices. If most people buy because they trust their provider, and people never meet anymore, how is this possible?

I encourage people to get back out in the field and meet with your customers. Bring them a cup of coffee or some flowers. Ask them how their project/service with your company is going. This also goes for your team. Visit your team in their offices and have a cup of coffee with people. Look people in the eye and ask them how things are going. Then, follow up on whatever you commit to doing.

Also, send personal notes, not e-mails, with two to three sentences on why you're happy that person is a client or an employee.

I guarantee you will stand out with class because people yearn to feel appreciated. These small personal touches cost little but yield great results for your relationships, which all support the success of your business.

Christine Bongard manages Strategic Partner Alliances for ATSG, a 20-year Microsoft Gold Partner in the New York metro area. She develops processes and programs to ensure that partners, customers and employees are delighted with their ATSG experience. She also serves as the Global Chairperson for IAMCP Women in Technology.

Posted by Christine D. Bongard on March 05, 2018 at 11:47 AM0 comments


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