Zift's Heather Tenuto offers a preview of her important session at the MSP Summit and Channel Partners Leadership Summit.

August 30, 2022

4 Min Read
Profit and Loss

By Heather Tenuto


Heather Tenuto

Here’s something that never changes: People saying the channel is changing. They’re right. It’s been happening at a breakneck pace for at least my entire channel journey, which stretches back into the last millennium.

In nature, changes in the ecosystem cause organisms to adapt. This is no different within partner ecosystems. In our current climate, I contend that the most important adaptation a channel professional should undergo is one toward accounting and finance literacy. While channel roles have always asked for people with highly evolved relationship skills, they may not always ask for traditional “numbers” people.

Unfortunately, what’s been done in the past isn’t necessarily what still works. Today, the most successful channel leaders need to be good at building relationships and at delivering strategies backed by sound financial reporting.  This starts by understanding how your channel metrics impact the company’s P&L (profit and loss statements).

Keep up with all of the speakers, exhibitors and content at the MSP Summit. The event, Sept. 13-16, in Orlando, also features the all-new Channel Partners Leadership Summit. It’s not too late to register!

If acronyms like P&L, COGS, and EBITA don’t come as easily to you as VAR and MSP do, you’re in luck. I’m speaking at the upcoming MSP Summit and Channel Partners Leadership Summit in Orlando. Come to my session for actionable insights into reading financial statements. From there, you can start on the path to making your CFO your BFF.

Ready to learn more about how brushing up on financial literacy matters more in the channel than it ever has before? It’s because …

  1. It’s not “channel for channel sake,” but “channel for revenue’s sake.” “Channel first!” has become a channel chief battle cry. Partners like hearing it but even they know that a channel program won’t last if it’s not the supplier’s most attractive go-to-market strategy. A combination of the profitability, scale, time-to-value and risk status of a channel program needs to stand out from other routes to revenue. The most successful channel leaders will study and master financial reporting to win the hearts of CFOs and partners alike. Demonstrating real return on investment (ROI) is music to a CFO’s heart. Successful channel chiefs focus on proving the value of the channel to the organization.

  2. Private equity has taken an interest in the channel. It’s a particularly active economic time for private equity firms, and we see big investments happening across many industries. Channel companies are no exception. There’s an abundance of PE-backed investment and M&A in tech companies with a strong indirect sales model, in both distributors and technology service brokerages, as well as in channel tech companies. It’s important for channel leaders in companies seeking investment to understand what is attractive to private equity. Then, when private equity inquiry and investment arrive, channel leaders need to be able to answer tough questions about the profitability, sustainability and scalability of channel revenue.

  3. These skills lead to career advancement and flexibility. Climbing the corporate ladder or reaching for roles outside one’s experience takes boardroom prowess. The best feedback I’ve received in my career was that my lack of accounting and financial literacy was holding me back. Imitating a deer-in-headlights when asked how changes in the channel program will affect COGS and SG&A isn’t a good look.  All that to say, I had to adapt. I became what the ecosystem required. Acquiring the financial education I needed put me on  the career path I desired. Simultaneously, I became a real asset to my employers, our customers and the partners we work with.

Bottom line: Admitting you have a gap and starting to fill it is the hardest part.

Throughout her career, Heather Tenuto has helped tech companies accelerate revenue through both direct sales and channel partnerships. Her two passions come together in her role as chief revenue officer at Zift Solutions, where her mission is to help companies achieve real channel success. Previously, Tenuto served at VP of SMB Sales and indirect channels at Office Depot, and vice president of channels at ShoreTel. Prior to ShoreTel’s acquisition of M5 Networks in 2012, she spent five years at the SaaS startup in several roles leading sales and marketing efforts. Before that, Tenuto brought her innovative sales and education experience to businesses in industries including technology, manufacturing, retail, agriculture, and health care in both enablement and direct sales roles. 

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