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April 28, 2009

4 Min Read
I Shovel Very Well

“Mystery Men” fans will recognize the immortal words of the “super hero” the Shoveler: “I shovel well. I shovel very well.”

Besides being delivered perfectly dead pan by William H. Macy, I love this line because it so aptly describes someone committed to a singular purpose. We can argue all day about what he is shoveling and why, but he does it well regardless.

Might the Shoveler be a good model for today’s agent? Especially considering the unprecedented economic conditions, should agents focus on core products and deliverables, shedding the extras (in this analogy, raking or hoeing, might qualify)?

In a recent PHONE+ interview, Motorola’s Channel Chief Janet Schijns, said focus was imperative for channel partners. “The partners that continue to try to be everything to everyone will have difficulties this year,” she said. “There are very few partners that can sustain that model and use every strategic area in their business. There has to be a renewed effort on focusing resources, time and money. At the end of the day, channel partners have a limited capacity. Every company has a limited capacity based on resources. You have to focus those on areas that are sustainable. I think we’ll see a consolidation of efforts. The partners who do that will be very successful. They will take share. Historically that’s been the case.”

She illustrates her point by contrasting the sun with a laser. “The sun has more energy power than a laser. But the sun is big ball of light that heats everything slowly. It would take an extended period of time on a very difficult surface to fry an egg or put a hole in a piece of concrete. A laser with significantly less power than the sun — about a millionth less power — can actually burn a hole in concrete because its energy force is focused.”

The takeaway, then, is to “Be the laser.”

OK. Got it.

So, we asked PHONE+ readers what they thought in an online poll: How Should Agents Respond to the Recession? The choices were:

  • Focus only on core products.

  • Diversify to spread risk across products.

  • Maintain status quo and wait it out.

More than one in three (39 percent) voters agreed with Schijns. But one in two said “diversify.”

Now, this was hardly a scientific poll, so I don’t want to give it undue weight. However, a recent study from Channel Insider seems to agree with the poll results, contending that the solutions providers who were more optimistic about their chances for surviving the downturn were those that were NOT settling for the status quo, but were embracing nontraditional models. New models may not necessarily mean diversifying products, but in this case it was the addition of professional services, managed services and consultative services that were cited as business model changes. You could argue that these are diversification strategies and in fact, many agents view them as diversification strategies – at least in that they are diversifying their revenue streams away from carrier commissions.

We also asked PHONE+ readers what they thought in an online poll: Are you diversifying away from carrier revenue? The choices were:

  • No. Carrier commissions are still the best revenue model for my business.

  • No, but I have diversified my carrier portfolio so my eggs are not in one basket.

  • Yes. I am compensated by vendors other than carriers.

  • Yes. I am charging clients for my own professional or managed service.

More than half (53 percent) said they were diversifying away from carrier commissions. Of those, 40 percent said they were embracing vendors other than carriers; 60 percent said they were charging for their own professional or managed services.

So the takeaway is diversify?

I am not sure that there is a right answer, but I think there is some wisdom to be found in not standing still, e.g. doing something – whether it’s focusing on core competencies, evolving delivery strategies or adding new products.

Another recent PHONE+ Poll bears that out. We asked: Are You A Business Optimist? The choices were:

  • Yes. I am investing in my company to be positioned for the economic rebound.

  • Yes. I am evolving to a next-generation business model in an effort to weather the recession.

  • No. I think it is better to stay the course until the economic storm clears.

  • No. I think it is foolish to spend on business development when the return is uncertain.

Two-thirds (63 percent) said they were investing in their companies in anticipation of the rebound. Not one said it was foolish to spend on business development.

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