The CEO of Bowman Williams has tips for MSP owners struggling with the hiring process.

Kris Blackmon, Head of Channel Communities

February 12, 2019

4 Min Read
Job interview candidates

The channel is notorious for fighting to grab top talent from competitors. Service providers are constantly jockeying over top-producing channel sales reps, confidence-inspiring vCIOs, revenue-generating solution engineers and visionary partner managers. Without the proper game plan to source, hire and retain, that ongoing battle can become a bottleneck to scaling business. How do you spot rising stars, lasso top players and retain that talent?

This is the question that John Davenjay, founder and CEO of MSP staffing firm Bowman Williams, will answer at his session, Catching and Keeping Rising Stars, April 10, part of the business strategy conference track, sponsored by Nextiva, at the Channel Partners Conference and Expo. Ranked No. 137 by Forbes in 2018 for being one of the best recruiting firms in America, Bowman Williams is a staffing partner for more than 300 IT managed cloud service providers in the U.S.


Bowman Williams’ John Davenjay

We sat down with Davenjay to get a sneak peek at the tips and insights he’ll reveal in April.

Channel Futures: What is the biggest pain point when it comes to staffing in the 2019 channel?

John Davenjay: The biggest pain point when it comes to staffing in the 2019 channel is being able to successfully attract and hire the top talent that has both of the “holy grail” job requirements: a pristine client-facing presentation/communication style coupled with a well-rounded SMB technology skill set. This is because channel partners have continued the industry transition to more of a centralized support model, while limiting client interactions to a key select number of employees that excel at being a liaison to their clients. This is creating demand for a specific breed of candidate that is both highly client-facing and technical, which ultimately results in 1) service providers jockeying for the same top 10 percent of talent that possess solid technical and superb client-facing skills, and 2) an increase in the average starting salary ranges for those positions — these people are becoming more expensive.

CF: How have the desired skills for sales and marketing professionals changed over the last five years?

Hear from Davenjay and 100+ industry-leading speakers at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, April 9-12, 2019, in Las Vegas. Register now!

JD: The demand for sales and marketing positions has always been high, and the number of open sales and marketing jobs has been steadily increasing over the last five years. Sales and marketing professionals are non-revenue generating roles — they aren’t billable employees until they start to close deals. This makes them potentially a risky hire, coupled with the fact that most service providers will employee a small number of sales and marketing professionals with respect to the number of billable technicians they employ. This creates a super-high demand for these skills because of the inherently low number of channel-experienced sales and marketing professionals even in existence. Many service providers end up hiring sales and marketing professionals with supplemental industry experience, such as selling insurance to C-levels.

CF: Where do partners fall down the most when it comes to employee retention?

JD: Outlining a career track that continually leads employees to the next logical step in their career by outlining the benchmarks for promotions and increased job responsibilities. Typically, the large majority of a partner’s staff will be comprised of Tier 1s and Tier 2s. Tier 1s and Tier 2s are often getting exposed to new technologies and new scenarios much more frequently than a Tier 3 — because by the time you reach Tier 3 status, you’ve already seen it all. So it’s much more difficult for a channel partner to maintain that continual stimulation for their Tier 1s and 2s so that they feel like they are learning at a comparable rate year-over-year. The best way to combat turnover is to focus on the bulk of your staff and provide a clear, concise career track for Tier 1s and Tier 2s.

CF: What are some skills partners should look for that maybe aren’t as obvious as others?

JD: Culture fit. Partners should focus on finding someone who fits their company culture and exudes drive or natural curiosity during the interview process. This means hiring based on an individual’s aptitude and overarching industry knowledge before technical skills, then plugging those raw skills into an effective training program that ramps them up to utilization faster. Many partners will focus on finding the perfect technical skill set without considering how much they might love or hate their work environment, day-to-day or career track.

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About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions

Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.

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