IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

The ASCII Group’s 35-Year Balancing Act

Founded in 1984, the IT community remains as relevant as ever in an industry defined by unceasing change. By Rich Freeman
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THE ASCII GROUP is celebrating its 35th year thanks to a long-standing knack for balancing seemingly irreconcilable forces.
THOSE INCLUDE THE POWER of collective bargaining on one hand and entrepreneurial autonomy on the other.
ASCII’S INTERMEDIARY ROLE between vendors and channel pros has helped each get more of what it needs from the other.
THE ORGANIZATION BOTH LISTENS to what members want and educates them on what’s next in IT.

TO CALL THE ASCII GROUP an IT community is to be reminded just how much IT has changed since the organization’s founding in 1984.

Back then, most members sold PC hardware and software. Today, most provide managed and cloud services. Yet for 35 years, all of them have shared common aspirations and common challenges, and The ASCII Group has been providing relevant, appreciated answers.

It’s an impressive feat given how many one-time industry heavyweights have vanished in that time span. Speak with members, though, and it soon becomes clear that The ASCII Group has something most companies, both inside and outside IT, lack: an exquisite sense of balance between seemingly irreconcilable forces.

Between the Power of Many and the Autonomy of One

Fundamentally, The ASCII Group’s mission is to help channel pros get more, be more, and go further than they can on their own. Leveraging the collective clout of its members, ASCII negotiates discounts on marketing services, software, shipping, cyber insurance, credit card processing, and more, not to mention favorable terms with distributors.

“That’s something that a one-man shop without an ASCII is going to really struggle with getting, or is going to pay a significantly higher amount for, because they don’t have that entirety of the community and our buying power,” observes Stephen Monk (pictured at top, left), CEO of Roseville, Calif.-based solution provider Noverus Innovations.

The ASCII Group’s Jerry Koutavas, president, and Alan Weinberger, CEO and founder

That community is a source of collective wisdom as well as price breaks. Through resources like the ASCII-Link online forum, for example, members trade advice on products, troubleshooting, and other technical matters.

“I don’t have to wait days or weeks to try to get this info. I can get it within hours or minutes,” says Monk, who leaned heavily on member comments several years ago before making the jump to a new networking platform. “That was only something I felt comfortable doing after getting feedback from the group on its reliability, how to use it, and how to set it up.”

Many members prize the business counsel they get from peers even more highly than the technical insights. David Stinner, for example, regularly bounces ideas for growth strategies and operational enhancements off other ASCII-Link users. “That’s one of the best benefits for me,” says Stinner, who is president of US itek, an MSP and system builder in Tonawanda, N.Y. “I can just find somebody who’s already done it or is doing it right now and ask them for their advice, and hopefully not make the same mistakes they’ve made.”

Members share more than just thoughts, however. With assistance from ASCII, those who need access points deployed at a customer’s branch office 1,000 miles away, for example, can farm the work out to a fellow community member without fear of having their account stolen.

“A couple years ago, we had a big project with a national company, and they have basically 350 offices throughout the U.S.,” recalls Shawn Scott, president of Advanced Computer Solutions Inc., an MSP in Fishersville, Va. The ASCII Group helped him assemble the army of partners he needed to complete the job. “We couldn’t have done it without them,” Scott says.

About the Author

Rich Freeman's picture

Rich Freeman is ChannelPro's Executive Editor

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