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You might have your own organizational framework and culture, and that’s just fine — just don’t lose focus on what’s most important.

August 20, 2018

5 Min Read
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By Kevin Casey

Congratulations: You survived the trials and tribulations of your company’s startup phase. You’re growing (and hiring), you’ve got well-established revenue streams (and hopefully, profits), and you’ve got a solid, loyal customer base.

Time to kick back and count the money rolling in, right?

On the really good days, it might feel like that. But even mature businesses make mistakes, and channel partners are no exception. In a highly competitive environment – not to mention an IT landscape that’s constantly evolving – sustained success requires sustained diligence. Feeling a little too good about your company can be akin to burying your head in the sand. Before you know it, the organization is faltering while you keep assuming your continued success is all but guaranteed.

Maturing and well-established companies can make some common, critical mistakes, including several specific to partners. Proactively watching out for them can help you stay on course, so let’s unpack the big ones.

1. You become rigid and inflexible in your ways.

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”  — William Bruce Cameron

This quote (which is sometimes misattributed to Albert Einstein) was suggested to us by Michael Stolarczyk, vice president, cloud managed services, at Veristor. Veristor was founded back in 2001; today, it ranks No. 35 on Channel Futures’ 2018 MSP 501 Worldwide Rankings and is also a regular on the Inc. 5000 list, which tracks the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.

It’s a good quote and appears regularly in business and motivational speaking contexts. Problem is, according to Stolarczyk, that too many companies ignore its message.

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Michael Stolarczyk

Michael Stolarczyk

“Mature organizations forget this, or more accurately, they try to document and account for every decision,” Stolarczyk explains. “They lose their ability to think, adapt and evolve in a rapidly changing environment.”

Longstanding organizations too often become too set in their ways, forever wed to the processes and strategies that got them to where they are. In today’s age of digital transformation and disruption, that can be a killer.

“They fall into a trance-like state of just providing oversight within their organization,” Stolarczyk says. “They forget that insight, foresight and the ability to act upon [the] same, within leadership roles and down through their corporate culture, is tantamount to long-term success. We are in the middle of an intention-driven economy, and to succeed within it, an organization needs to focus on empathy and collaboration.”

2. You ignore your hiring and retention strategy.

 Anurag Agrawal, principal analyst at research firm Techaisle, sees partners commonly make several mistakes as they mature, and this tops his list: never adapting your hiring strategy as the company grows. He offers a specific example:

“They continue to focus on hiring post-sales support talent instead of pre-sales support and architects,” Agrawal says.

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Anurag Agrawal

Anurag Agrawal

The latter become especially important for evolving from transactional sales to a solutions-oriented approach that is both scalable and repeatable for a growing customer base and also more likely to open up recurring revenue streams.

In a related vein, Agrawal also sees partners fail to optimize their compensation model as they grow and mature.

“Create a compensation model that supports growth and rewards talent [in alignment with] recurring revenue streams,” he says.

If you’re not revisiting compensation as your company grows, you’ll almost inevitably begin to lose good people — and struggle to attract new talent to the team.

3. You fall into the gap between marketing hype and technology reality.

Stolarczyk sees the majority of mistakes that MSPs and other partners make arise from a separation between how services and technologies are marketed and the actual realities of how they’re implemented and managed. When that gap is more like a chasm, problems arise, and Stolarczyk notes that this tends to happen when C-level execs lead by fiat rather than strategic focus.

“MSPs and their partners must build value through vested collaboration, not just by deploying the latest, greatest technology platform,” he says. “People and process need to be vetted, consistent, measured, and be driven by common sense, before any technology platform can be deployed to support the organization.”

4. You don’t seek out recurring revenue streams.

The IT industry has undergone significant changes and the channel is no exception. In Agrawal’s view, successful partners must evolve from a transaction focus on, say, hardware sales, to a broader services-and-solutions approach that creates steadily recurring revenues streams. Some mature companies make the mistake of ignoring this trend.

“They continue to have a transactional approach to business, which is detrimental to the organization,” Agrawal says.

5. You travel without a road map.

Some of the mistakes Agrawal sees partners make speak to a lack of long-term planning and – almost paradoxically – a lack of adaptability. These include:

  • A failure to create an ongoing go-to-market strategy, which Agrawal describes as “creating a relevant customer segmentation and building a road map of customer acquisition.”

  • An inability to strike a proper balance between selling services and products. This might be especially important for partners with a significant hardware footprint in the past who want to evolve into a services-oriented approach without cannibalizing their product resale revenues.

  • A loss of focus on optimizing and delivering tightly defined, standardized services to multiple customers.

If this all seems a bit doom-and-gloomy, rest assured that’s not the point; rather, recognizing these mistakes can help you avoid them. And we end on a positive note: Stolarczyk shares what he refers to as the “STAR process” for fostering a culture of long-term success.

  • Speed: “Exude a sense of urgency, thrive on change, desire to meet the situational requirements quickly, efficiently, accurately … every time.”

  • Trust: “Facilitate a sense of trust, reliability and security in your partner’s mind by being THE consistent, stabilizing factor in their business world. Create a quality of business life!

  • Accountability: Empower person and partner, and with that, hold them accountable to reach technology, service, support and budget targets.

  • Rapport: “Initiate, foster, expand and enrich internal and external relationships through honest, open, transparent communication.” (This is what Stolarczyk means when he says “vested collaboration” above.) “Don’t create a zero-sum game atmosphere.”

You might have your own organizational framework and culture, and that’s just fine — just don’t lose focus on what’s most important.

“To create client-aligned, client-attuned solutions, always lead with a question, and then actively listen,” Stolarczyk says. “Create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable to share new ideas and thoughts. The MSP needs to live and breathe this, and then create that vested collaboration.”

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