We’ve all heard the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none,” and there is no shortage of this type of solution provider in the IT industry. There are always new vendors, innovative technologies being developed, and an incredible number of verticals, each requiring a high level of time and knowledge on the part of channel pros to remain competitive. Yet some people try to do it all, often spending dozens of hours searching for the right solutions and still not providing what best serves their clients.
One of the encouraging developments in the industry is the increasing willingness of solution providers to partner with one another. In my 20 years of working with solution providers I’ve found that the most successful ones are those who focus on what they’re good at, and find suitable partners when situations dictate that someone with more expertise in a particular product or vertical be called in. It leads to new business for all parties involved and helps you provide the solution that best meets your clients’ needs.
Finding someone to help out when we’re not an expert at something is not a new idea. Homeowners have been doing it for years. Not a plumber? Call in an expert. Likewise, if you’re not an expert in HIPAA, for example, and do not plan to be heavily involved in the healthcare field, why wouldn’t you find a HIPAA expert if your client has that need?
I have often gotten pushback on the idea of partnering. Some solution providers worry that their clients will question their technology chops, or their partner will take business away from them. This fear is unfounded. I’ve created hundreds of such partnerships, and with rare exception they have been positive experiences that benefited both parties.
While you need to set the parameters of the partnership in advance, in writing, engaging with other solution providers allows you to focus on your areas of expertise, have a larger geographic footprint, and win new business—including new satellite offices of existing clients—as you trade opportunities back and forth. We have a member in our organization who doesn’t want to do any VoIP work, and he met another member who only wants to do VoIP. They have formed a close partnership and refer business to each other as opportunities arise.
Also, consider forming relationships with companies that have expertise with products or solutions for which you are not authorized. Again, it gives you a competitive advantage in meeting all of your clients’ technology needs, and ensures you won’t be in a position of turning away new business because you can’t get your hands on a product.
Finding a trustworthy partner is not difficult if you use available resources. There are numerous conferences you can attend that give you an opportunity to meet other solution providers, for example, and there also many IT communities you can join. Or it may be as simple as talking to solution providers you already know and asking them who they work with in situations when they need a partner.
Finally, once you have a partnership network in place, let your clients know through your marketing that you have created the necessary business relationships to handle any of their IT needs. They will view you as having the brainpower of multiple companies to create the best solutions for them.
DOUG YOUNG is COO and senior vice president of Bethesda, Md.-based The ASCII Group Inc., an organization of independent IT solution providers, MSPs, integrators, and VARs.