IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

SMB TechFest Speakers Urge Channel Pros to Adapt to Changing Times

According to presenters at the conference, which took place yesterday in Anaheim, Calif., IT providers must embrace new ideas and lifelong learning to succeed in a time of relentless innovation. By Rich Freeman

Former Microsoft CIO Jim DuBois has sobering news for anyone trying to grow a technology business these days: The IT industry’s relentless pace of innovation opens new opportunities to you, but you’re going to have to up your game to take advantage of them.

“Things are changing so fast,” said DuBois at the first SMB TechFest event of 2019, which took place yesterday in Anaheim, Calif. “The way that we’ve been taught to work for years isn’t going to work.”

Currently a startup advisor and venture partner following 24 years at Microsoft, including four atop Microsoft’s global IT department, DuBois was the keynote speaker at the conference, which is hosted quarterly by Dave Seibert, CIO of IT Innovators Inc., an MSP and solution provider in nearby Irvine, Calif. Like DuBois, Seibert too urges channel pros to adapt to the demands of today’s ever-shifting market conditions, noting that those who wish to remain competitive in the era of cloud computing must be prepared to do business round the clock.

“Nine to five used to be OK. It’s not OK anymore,” he says. “Cloud is always on.”

For most MSPs, at least initially when their staffing is still lean, operating 24/7 means outsourcing some or all of their NOC services. Participants in a panel session on optimizing service delivery, all of whom are experienced managed services veterans, advised the peers in their audience to choose outsourcing vendors very carefully, however.

“If you have a really good external partner, it can be a great relationship. If you have a bad partner, it can be a nightmare,” observed Ryan Gilbert, regional director of field services at Greenwood Village, Colo.-based MSP NexusTek.

Maximizing operational efficiency by minimizing truck rolls is critical as well, noted fellow panelist Erick Simpson, a pioneer of the managed services business model who now heads an MSP consulting service. “Ensuring that all work that can be done remotely is done remotely should be your highest priority,” said Simpson.

Other sessions at yesterday’s conference focused on growing the top line rather than shrinking the bottom one. A panel on marketing best practices, for instance, encouraged channel pros to employ a wide assortment of marketing tactics and execute those tactics continually rather than once in a while.

“You want to get as much visibility in front of your prospects as possible,” said Christina Cala, director of business development at MSP and integrator Strategic Technology Solutions, of Torrance, Calif. Following up with the leads your marketing efforts haul in is essential as well, added Eric Beller, senior vice president of sales at Sandler Partners, a telco and cloud master agent headquartered in Hermosa Beach, Calif.

“I think a lot of people quit before they can connect,” he said.

In the day’s first session, Seibert and Karl Palachuk, owner of consultancy and MSP community operator Small Biz Thoughts, shared tips on locating and establishing relationships with potential customers via LinkedIn. Anyone with a free account can do that effectively, according to Seibert, but investing in paid features like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator service, which lets you identify and research prospects based on extremely granular search criteria, can produce significantly more impressive results.

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