The interaction among members has only accelerated recently in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re all facing a whole bunch of things we’ve never seen before,” Sorensen says. “Doing it together is way more comforting than trying to figure it all out alone.”
In a significant shift, those discussions have taken place entirely online. “We’ve been a face-to-face organization for the most part our entire history, so we had to do some quick pivoting in terms of learning how to leverage tools and create value for people in a virtual world,” says Sorensen, who is pleased by the results so far.
In particular, he adds, eliminating the need for participants to travel to in-person meetings and squeeze into a room together has enabled more leaders from member organizations to join in the conversation. Much as businesses of all kinds new to connecting remotely plan to continue doing that even after coronavirus stay-at-home measures become a thing of the past, so too does IT Nation Evolve.
“I think we’ll eventually end up with a somewhat hybrid kind of solution where we are able to do more,” Sorensen says.
That won’t be the organization’s first significant structural change, though. Through the years, Sorensen has added web-based groups to the original face-to-face ones, plus others that combine one-to-many online sessions with smaller in-person breakout groups. Sales leaders and service leaders can join groups specially dedicated to their needs, as can newcomers to the channel and more mature IT providers. Other groups help VARs learn how to become MSPs, and help would-be buyers or sellers of managed service businesses navigate the M&A process.
Joining ConnectWise, according to Sorensen, has allowed him to grow the organization faster. “We were always wrestling with resources and having enough of everything to do what we wanted to do when they acquired us,” he says. “We have significantly grown in pretty much every way you could think of.” Indeed, the number of individual people participating in groups has doubled from roughly 350 to over 700 in a little more than two years.
Thoma Bravo, the private equity firm that bought ConnectWise early last year, has had less impact so far. “We haven’t seen a lot of change,” says Sorensen, noting that the kind of work IT Nation Evolve does isn’t likely to grab an investor’s attention. “We have a lot of stuff going on and a lot of people involved, but it’s not a huge moneymaker. Never has been, likely never will be.”
If that changes, Vice President of Consulting Brad Schow and Director of Partner Success Andre Gilmore will be the main reason why. They’ve assumed day-to-day responsibility for IT Nation Evolve while Sorensen, who is approaching retirement, devotes his time to meeting with groups.
“I get to do the fun stuff that I enjoy, which is really digging in and helping people and facilitating,” he says. “As long as they’ll have me, that’s certainly what I intend to do.”