The Evolving MSP

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The Evolution of Channel Citizenship

Regular readers may remember that this column was called "The Changing Channel" until 2017 when it became apparent, at least to me, that the channel had changed, and many things would need to be redefined as the new generation of managed service providers (MSP) began to evolve.

One of those changes was in how MSPs would need to market themselves and their practices similarly to other professionals -- lawyers, accountants, architects, etc. After all, their businesses are now all about marketing and selling their own services to their customers rather than leading with the products as they had when they were resellers. Postcards, posts, fax blasts and highly-designed e-mails were all becoming things of the past. Networking, professional referrals, speaking engagements and other professional promotion processes will prevail.

The Role of Channel Citizens
For the 40-plus years that I've been a proud citizen of the channel, I've observed that everyone who operates or works at a channel company has chosen a specific level of participation -- i.e., the degree of citizenship they are comfortable with. At one end of the spectrum are those who don't pay any attention to the existence of any "channel." They run their business in isolation and fend for themselves. At the other end are those who show up at every industry show and post endlessly on social media.

I have also proudly served on the boards and steering committees of many of the associations that serve our community. Given the impossibility of mentioning all of them, I will mention none of them here. Suffice it to say, with full transparency, that I respect all of them for their desire to be of service to their communities.

This particular post is primarily addressed to those who may not have yet experienced the value of being a participating citizen of the channel. It's about what there is to gain by giving of yourself to your community and being a truly participant channel citizen.

First and Foremost: Friends
As a channel executive for over 30 years and as a writer for and about the channel for the past 15, my most valuable asset, my greatest resource and the most rewarding value of my long channel citizenship has been my large community of friends. They're wonderful people -- smart, insightful, caring, passionate about their work. It is truly my greatest joy to know and speak with them regularly. I continue to learn so much from them, and I owe all of them any measure of success I have achieved here.

And it is those friendships that are the source of literally everything else, from opportunities to work on amazing projects, to access to extraordinary technologies and intriguing customers, and so much more. They are sources for deeper learning about not only technologies, but also human interactions, marketing and selling strategies, and human-machine and machine-machine relationships.

There has not been a moment in the past 44 years that I haven't felt myself learning and growing. Nothing I can think of beats that.

Living a Life of Service to Others
Anyone who enters any service industry acknowledges their own desire to live a life of service to others, most of all their customers.

But there is also an unbelievable return from serving the channel community that has raised and nurtured me for all my career. Every moment I have invested in serving on councils, participating in programs, attending events, presenting, writing, teaching, consulting and advising my colleagues has paid back incredible dividends to me, including opportunities, recognition and the sincere appreciation of those I have helped along the way.

This is why I live by the credo that appears on all my marketing materials and e-mails: "The more good you do for more people, the more good finds its way back around to you."

If you have not availed yourself of the partnership, allyship and allegiance of the channel community yet, I strongly encourage you to seek out channel organizations that feel right for you and join them. Give to your channel and watch it give back in ways you never dreamed of.

Posted by Howard M. Cohen on April 25, 2024