Sunday, August 24, 2008

Some Thoughts on Shots

Vlad Mazek posted a day or two ago about comments that I (meaning HTG) have sold out to Microsoft with our online version of the program since we are making it available to SBSC members exclusively. You can check it out at http://www.vladville.com/2008/08/as-the-sbs-world-turns.html#comment-36677. I have not read the initial comments he refers to but I hear the rumblings through the very healthy grapevine that exists in the SBS channel. I did want to post on my blog the response to this because it is important to understand just how important having strong vendor relationships is to success, both in our individual companies as well as for HTG. So here are my comments posted to Vlad's blog that expresses my feelings on partnering with vendors.

A few of the folks from HTG notified me of your post regarding “selling out” to Microsoft. First let me say thanks for your comments and support. I don’t have or spend much time worrying about what people think of what we do because like you, I understand that not everyone will agree with it anyway. Being an entrepreneur causes one to just get it done and not worry whether it is popular or mainstream. Success comes to those who do - not those who sit on the sidelines as commentators.

Microsoft has stepped up to help us offer something that is of value to those partners who want to grow their business. The online version of HTG is not designed for the masses, because the mass of partners in the channel don’t want to really grow their business. There is an overwhelming majority that want to be lifestyle partners - have enough business to make a good living and be content with that. Some days I sort of wish I was one of them. But because of the entrepreneurial seizures I continue to have, that doesn’t fit me. Having spent 10 years of my 23 year career in this industry as a sole proprietor or with only one employee - I know how hard it is to grow and made a lot of bonehead mistakes trying to figure it out. And I certainly don’t claim to have that done yet but we have grown to over 17M in revenue with 80 employees so we do have some clue what to do.

This program is designed for those partners who really want to grow their company. From my experience, you don’t do that alone. You need to have strong vendor partnerships and leverage those relationships in many ways to be successful in growing. I don’t really consider that selling out - to us it is partnering with the companies we are building our business around. At HTS that is Microsoft, HP and Sonicwall. We go to market everyday with those three and that relationship has treated us very well. Some would say it is selling out - I would tell you it is part of the secret to success.

Microsoft has stepped up to make the online version of HTG possible. No other vendor has been willing to do that. They have basically provided us the backend resources we need as well as rewarding partners who complete the course with enough value to make it FREE (at completion with the copy of SBS2008 you will recieve). I am not sure how that can be a bad thing.

One of the problems in the channel today is partner profitability and growth. We saw it last year in the pilot program we ran (again with Microsoft so this is not new at all - we did it last year as well). We started with 132 partners last year and a mere 68 completed the course. Some would say that is pretty good but certainly not for HTG standards and not in running a successful program. When someone drops out or fails to fully participate it robs the remaining members of the group of the value that spot needs to provide. HTG is about sharing - not getting. It is totally based on the pricipal of giving more than recieving. If you want to somewhat understand our philosophy - read the little book called “The Go Giver” and it will give a glimpse of the attitude HTG members have to have to succeed. So there is a bar to participate that we hope is high enough to keep all but the totally committed from signing up. We don’t make any money offering this - it goes to pay the facilitators, the content development, the administration and the costs of our celebration event next summer at WPC. But our goal is to build strong partners and give to the channel because I have seen over and over in my life the impact of living that principle. Good things come to those who give.

I think the real focus should be on the fact that a multi-billion dollar corporation that has really little to gain is making investments in small partners in SBSC. Let’s be real, and Vlad has pointed it out before, we cause a lot of issues without selling a lot of product. Even at HTS our sales are miniscule in the grand scheme of things for Microsoft. I realize they really don’t need us. But I am very grateful they allow us to build our success on their products and are willing to partner with us to train, market and drive sales. I will continue to “sell out” to Microsoft because that is how good business happens. To me, it will be called partnering and that is the spirit in which it will happen so it can be a win - win for all.

5 comments:

Matt Pardo said...

Great post, Arlin!

karlp said...

Making money by building the right partnership with Microsoft is not selling out.

More comments on my blog

Vlad Mazek said...

There is a large and growing contingent of people out there who literally hate the "need for growth" and the idea that one needs things like partnerships, employees, business plans and profitability margins to grow is just not appealing to them.

On any level.

These people are starting to cling on to the "technical business advisor" roles in the marketplace with customers that are more tech savvy on the low end and far more technically complex on the high end.

As the base for these minimal-effort "IT consultants" dries up as a result of the above trends you're going to see more and more of a bulls eye painted on your back because the more successful people like you and we are, the more wrong they are.

-Vlad

Stuart R. Crawford said...

Hi Arlin

After spending the weekend with you and some of our friends in HTG and locals around Harlan. I decided not to respond in my usual way but seek guidance first and then spend quiet time on this.

You summed it up right my friend, business is all about relationships and having a positive influence on others around you. The Law of Influence comes to mind here and this is what you just achieved.

Stuart Crawford
in Harlan, IA
http://www.stuartcrawford.com

The Peer Guy said...

Vlad is absolutely correct that many do not want to grow - and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, growth certainly does not guarantee success or happiness. HTG is focused on that segment of partners who just can't stand not growing. It is not a statement that everyone has to do it - our mission is not to be a program that fits all partners at all - we are trying to help the group of folks who have a desire to feed their entrepreneurial spirit with building more. If you don't have that bug, don't chase it. If you do - HTG is one tool to help you achieve success. So to be clear - HTG was never designed to fit all partners. We only are looking for a small subset with very specific goals for their businesses. If the shoe doesn't fit, don't try to jam your foot in it. If it does - chase it with all your heart.