Never Underestimate the Power of Networking
Solution providers are businesspeople at their core. Yes, some are technology titans, virtualization virtuosos, security sharpshooters, mobile mavens and application artists (you get the drift), but at their very core, they are business owners and operators, and in addition to staying one step ahead of the ever-changing tech industry, they have companies to run.
While their usual focus is on managing clients and projects, they have to worry about staffing, human resources, payroll, leases and all the other little items that come with owning and operating a business. What tend to fall through the cracks in the midst of all this are public relations, marketing and networking opportunities. Most VARs are notoriously bad at promoting themselves and mingling with other industry professionals, mainly because they don’t think they have the time.
Well, I argue that in today’s business environment, these efforts need to move way up on the priority scale. With cloud computing, managed services, virtualization and other hypergrowth specialties, solution providers more than ever need to partner, leverage relationships and maximize industry associations such as CompTIA and the ASCII Group. However, sometimes solution providers get so focused on their own little world, they get tunnel vision and forget they need to constantly be promoting and fronting their business capabilities.
Howard Cohen, formerly of the Computer Factory and Micros to Mainframes and now a channel industry consultant, analyst and advocate (http://www.howardmcohen.com), once told me that smart businesspeople make an effort to reach out to someone at least once a day to stay top of mind. This doesn’t always have to be time out of the office or away from an important project — it can be a phone conversation, e-mail exchange or even a Skype call. Make the effort.
The point is to stay active, stay connected. No networking opportunity is a waste of time, just like no bidding process is a waste of time. In fact, I would argue even the bidding process where no immediate business immediately garnered is actually a huge networking opportunity.
I recently interviewed Rob Richardson, Owner and Founder of ADS-S, a managed print service provider in the Philadelphia area. He was talking to me about a 36-month managed print services project he was servicing for the YMCA of Philadelphia and Vicinity. While he had to go through the bidding process for the YMCA, the reason he was in the running in the first place was due to a previous bid he made for a similar project a good year earlier for Shriners Children’s Hospital. Although that particular bid never amounted to any additional business, the IT director moved over to YMCA and remembered Richardson. A few months later, ADS-S had the contract.
It just proves that no networking opportunity is a waste of time. No bidding process goes unnoticed. Solution providers need to take advantage of any exposure opportunity they can. They need to spend more time promoting themselves because no one else will.
Knock em alive!