Thursday, November 12, 2009

HTS Annual Vendor Planning Meeting

Today we held our 5th annual HTS planning meeting. We huddled in the KC Microsoft office with our field reps from Microsoft, SonicWALL, Ingram Micro, HP and Altigen. The goal was to review our performance from 2009, evaluate what we could have done better, and then create a joint plan across all our vendor partners for 2010. When we started doing this 5 years ago, there was a lot of question and concern. "You really expect us to sit in a room with competitive vendors and share our thinking and plans for next year?". I have always had a simple answer. "It is up to you. You only have to participate if you want to do business with us next year." This is not an optional activity. It is about partnering and creating solutions across our vendor partners to drive business. No one has ever failed to show up. And each year it gets better and better and the walls have come down and we are working to build cross vendor solutions we can take to our markets.

We come away with joint training plans, joint sales models, joint marketing programs - just a unified approach to making HTS and our vendor partners successful. We started our event last night with a dinner for all our vendor participants to allow some pre-game activity - tailgating if you will to help warm up the crowd. Had a nice time at On the Border eating and sharing about life. Today we dove in early - reported on our YTD status - and shared specific information with our vendors. In fact, we give them all our data on our customers and sales activity. Many would say we are crazy to trust a vendor with the keys to our kingdom. Our feeling is that it is only when we truly partner and work together that we will succeed. Jane Cage, our COO and pivot table queen, is able to slice and dice our data in dozens of ways. Our vendor partners can see things in that data we would never see because they work with many different partners in many different markets. We look to them for guidance and best practices they learn from watching others. It is a very valuable experience and well worth the risk in our opinion.

Our team left today with a list a mile long for us to consider as we write our 2010 business plan. And our vendors left with a list we had for each of them for commitments we expect them to execute for us next year. It is a two way street. Both of us are accountable in this, and we will review mid year to make sure everyone is executing. If you aren't planning with your vendors and distribution partners, you are really missing something special. It truly can propel your business. It will put you in a very elite class of partners - not many are willing to be transparent and go to the work of pulling together an event like this. But it is well worth the effort and can help you grow in ways you will never be able to do any other way. As I say over and over - the differentiator between partners is not sales or technical skills - it is understanding the power of strategic relationship management. That begins with planning with your vendors and disty partners. If you want to be status quo - try and do it yourself. If you want to be one of the elite partners in the channel - get over yourself - reach out and work with the folks who can propel you to the next level!

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