TBI Partners, Customers See New Norms Shaping Post COVID-19 Tech Priorities

TBI channel partners and customers are recalibrating for post COVID-19 realities.

Jeffrey Schwartz

June 1, 2020

5 Min Read

As workplaces gradually get clearances to reopen, TBI channel partners and customers are recalibrating for post COVID-19 realities. The master agent, some of its partners and customers recently shared how they have adjusted to COVID-19’s impact.


TBI’s Bryan Reynolds

“We’ve had to adapt pretty quickly,” said Bryan Reynolds, TBI’s director of sales operations. “And we’ve had to be pretty creative and progressive in the way that we conduct business.”

Reynolds led a discussion with TBI colleagues during its NexGen Connect event. Originally scheduled for Chicago, the company held the event as a webinar with TBI partners and customers due to COVID-19.

In early March, as local governments issued stay-at-home orders, TBI officials said an earlier experience somewhat prepared them. Chicago, known to have harsh winters, experienced a polar vortex last year that required people to work at home.

“We already had a plan in place to handle inclement weather so key workers could work from home,” said TBI VP of technology and security Steve Roos.

TBI did periodic tests, installed a modern VPN appliance, and created instructions for employees on how to package their systems.


TBI’s Steve Roos

“One area that really helped is that TBI, a few years back, invested heavily in cloud applications,” Roos said. “That obviously made the process much easier. It was an overnight transition.”

Pete Shah, TBI’s SVP of finance, recalled the uncertainty in early March before it became clear everything would shut down.

“At a point in early March, I don’t think anyone was even talking about flipping to work from home,” Shah said. “It moved fast. I mean, there was a point where we were still debating if Channel Partners [Conference & Expo] was going to happen or not. And within a week that it was canceled, we started the process of moving to the work-from-home environment.”

Corey Cohen, TBI’s VP of marketing, shifted her outreach to address the sudden change in requirements. Much to her surprise, Cohen said TBI partners and customers responded positively to the master agent’s online content and webinars.


TBI’s Corey Cohen

“Online content is surging, people are yearning for it,” Cohen said.

TBI marketing quickly pivoted to provide COVID-related content, she added. Content focused on topics such as how to secure a remote workforce, and collaboration.

“These are things that we gave playbooks to,” she said.

It also included new collateral and white-labeled materials that partners could use.

Everlasting Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on business, and hence, IT projects. As soon as the crisis hit, customers tabled many projects. Coming out of it, many projects might remain on hold and some outright canceled. TBI partners participating in the event are bracing for some customers to disappear or unable to pay their bills.


The Bandwidth Team’s Robert Powell

“We believe 10-20% will be impacted, either go out of business, etc.,” said Robert Powell, VP of business development at The Bandwidth Team. “But we think we will sell through that and go deeper within our existing base.”

How? Powell said his company has educated its team on newer technologies that are suited to environments where people work remotely for extended amounts of time.

“We’re extremely optimistic and will embrace this change,” he said. “We have to portray to our clients how they need to change their businesses, whether it’s digital transformation, whether it’s …

… enabling work from home,” Powell added. “They need to also be out in front of this as much as we are trying to get out in front of it ourselves.”

Another TBI partner, CXT180, is going down the same path. “We had quite a few RFPs that were out for infrastructure, but those have all been tabled,” said Carla Looper, CXT180 principal and managing partner. “Suddenly everyone wants to talk about IoT or digital transformation. We’re looking at video intelligence and thermal imaging from AT&T and CBTS.”

Mark Stackpoole, CEO of Global Telecom Solutions (GTS) agreed. Stackpoole said the key to thriving as businesses reopen is being open to new technology.

“As shops start to open up, they’re going to be looking for technologies that some of us have never sold,” Stackpoole said. “So really grab that stuff, embrace it … have confidence in something you’re excited to talk to your customers about.”

TBI partners and customers – at least some – are on the same page. As the crisis unfolded, Krista Parin, senior manager of consumer experience at Whirlpool, recalled how she requested a supplier leave a sink she ordered for a home renovation in her garage without her having to sign for the delivery.

“It was a totally touchless delivery,” Parin said.

An hour later, on a call with Whirlpool’s senior leaders, she suggested the company offer that capability with its appliances.

“He said absolutely no way,” Parin said.

But within 24 hours, the exec reached out to her asking for more information.

“That would have taken us years,” she said. “But because of this, we’re able to pivot really fast.”

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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