IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

VARs and MSPs: “You May Think We're Geeky, but We're Not Anti-Social”

We all know stereotypes don't fit reality, but one thing is for sure: Channel pros are increasingly using industry events to network with peers. Find out how you can be more social too. By Geoffrey Oldmixon

If there is any one stereotype of IT professionals that no longer sticks, it’s the “anti-social” label. If channel pros are anything at all, they’re social.

Today’s VARs and MSPs network online and in person at an astounding rate compared with other professionals, and they should: They need tostay abreast of the latest tools and trends, yes, but they also need to remain active and engaged in their professional communities.

Benefits of Togetherness

That there’s power in numbers has long been a viable reason for VARs to participate in group-associated programs. Buying power and pooled resources are not, however, the only reasons that VARs and MSPs band together.

“In all businesses, people like to communicate and connect and learn from people doing something similar,” explains Alan Weinberger, founder and CEO of The ASCII Group, a trade organization founded in 1984. “They have similar problems, and they want to ask other people with similar problems how to solve those problems. It’s a mutual kind of activity.”

In today’s market climate, sociability is especially important, according to Weinberger. “Ten or 15 years ago, the margins were in hardware. Most of these [VARs and MSPs] were hardware and software vendors.” Today, he says, they’re integrators of convergence, and they offer a real cross section of solutions.  

Pat Taylor, the new head of NASBA, the association of channel resellers, adds that there are marketing benefits to association involvement as well. “The unspoken goal,” he says, “is to make sure the channel finds its value-add place in this new economy.”

A Few of the Players

Looking to be a bit more social in the channel? Here are a few starting points:

  • The ASCII Group—Founder Weinberger calls the organization “the reverse of a franchise.” As he explains, “It’s a simple model, with a small monthly fee and 80 different programs from group buying to networking to technology.” With a large e-forum, “VARs can connect about what works in the field,” he notes.
  • NASBA—The Association of Channel Resellers is a trade association geared toward the IT community. Its goals are building “strategic relationships with key VAR, integrator, and solution provider members and leading technology companies.” Longtime channel guru Pat Taylor recently acquired the organization. He says NASBA plans to “become the largest and most progressive channel association in the country.” 
    Read More About Pat Taylor & NASBA
  • CompTIA—This non-profit trade organization is perhaps best known for its education and certification offerings. CompTIA boasts more than 2,000 channel pro members and more than 1,000 business partners.

Contributing to this report are ChannelPro-SMB staffers Elaine Hom, Michael Siggins, and Cecilia Galvin.

GEOFFREY OLDMIXON is a Massachusetts-based business and technology writer.

About the Author

Geoffrey Oldmixon is a freelance writer based in Western Massachusetts.