Top Gun 51 Profile: Fortinet’s Curt Stratton on Building Channel Relationships
Curt Stratton, senior director of channel distribution at Fortinet, the cybersecurity company and endpoint security protection vendor, has strong roots in the channel. Stratton spent a decade at Ingram Micro, where he developed his passion for the channel, working with 500-plus manufacturers, including Apple, Cisco and IBM. In 2004, Stratton took his channel best practices to the manufacturer side and held roles at Oki Data and Adaptec.
Stratton believes in the value of the channel and how distributors and partners play a vital role in helping manufacturers reach scale. Running a successful channel requires balancing revenue growth and profit for all parties, Stratton emphasized.
His passion for building relationships in the channel is a key reason he is a Top Gun 51 award winner. The program recognizes top channel executives who build and execute partner programs to drive partner, customer and supplier success.
Channel Futures: What attributes do you think next-gen channel leaders must have?
Curt Stratton: A handful of attributes come to mind, including the ability to build trust among his or her team, as well as with channel partners. Being a good listener and learning from experience are also keys for success, allowing you to build on one’s knowledge of customer pain points and motivations.
|We recently unveiled our “Top Gun 51,” a list of today’s channel executives who deserve recognition for building and executing programs in a way that drives partner, customer and supplier success.|
CF: Fortinet has been a business leader. What are the qualities of a next-generation channel leader — for those aspiring to leadership in the channel?
CS: Building trust with your team and building relationships with key channel stakeholders is crucial. A trusted leader can really move the needle. He or she needs to feel comfortable taking calculated risks and be able to make tough decisions for the good of their company, ultimately driving positive business outcomes — all this while operating with integrity and humility.
CF: Why is Fortinet different from its competition in the endpoint security protection landscape, and how can others learn from you?
CS: Fortinet is a channel company through and through. We recognize that to continue being a leading cybersecurity company in the global market, we need to maintain a profitable ecosystem of distributors and partners. We focus on the success of our channel and have programs in place that contribute to this, from assessment tools to sales and technical training, deal registration, as well as content that expands their knowledge of our products and the industry.
CF: If you had to sum up the current channel ecosystem in a few sentences, what are they?
CS: Customers are changing the way they consume technology, and the channel ecosystem needs to evolve to keep up with that change. Whether it’s providing cloud-based solutions or an “as a service” model, distributors and partners who don’t keep up will face challenges.
CF: Can you share channel strategies that have worked over the years, those that don’t serve the channel anymore, and what’s new?
CS: As the channel evolves, goods and services may change and how we deliver them to our customers may evolve as well, but ultimately people are buying relationships. I believe that even with the best product strategy, if you don’t have a channel that’s built on mutual respect and true partnership, you won’t be successful. The most ethical companies are the most successful in the long term. Over the years, this has proven true in case study after case study.
CF: If you could give one piece of advice to partners, what would it be?
CS: Don’t get left behind; invest to develop a services practice now. Fortinet can help. Training your employees with sales and technical skills is also critical. Fortinet has the Network Security Expert (NSE) training and certification program for our partners. Through our NSE training and certification program we provide tools, education, expertise and services to ensure the success of our partners.