Ingram Micro, Heartland Technology Group Partner on Channel Peer GroupsBy Sharon Linsenbach | Posted 2008-12-15 Email Print
The new alliance will open peer business development groups founded by HTG's Arlin Sorenson to members of Ingram Micro's SMB Alliance solution providers.
Ingram Micro has teamed with Heartland Technology Group (HTG) to offer HTG’s proven peer groups to the distributor’s SMB Alliance (SMBA) partners, helping solution providers run smarter operations and overcome common business challenges.
The peer groups were the brainchild of Arlin Sorenson, HTG’s CEO and founder. In 2001, Sorenson’s company was struggling to overcome customers’ Y2K issues and tapped three fellow VARs for advice. The group started meeting regularly and had grown to include about 12 solution provider firms after the first year. By 2005, Sorenson says he felt it was time to start replicating the peer group model.
"The time we spent with other [solution providers] was really valuable, and the group just kept growing organically, through word-of-mouth. Suddenly, we had enough for a second and then a third group," says Sorenson.
Over the last year, however, Sorenson says he found himself spending more and more time running and managing HTG’s peer groups and less running his own business. The partnership with Ingram will allow Sorenson to focus on his core solution provider business while still imparting valuable insight into how to best leverage a peer group.
"We benefit by gaining additional resources, and they have proven expertise working with community building, like with SMB Alliance, Venture Tech Network and others, whereas we know a lot about how to make peer groups work effectively," he says.
The peer groups are open to solution providers participating in Ingram Micro's SMB Alliance partner community, says Ryan Grant, Ingram Micro’s direct of channel marketing. Members will meet four times a year to discuss their top business priorities and goals with an organized network of like-minded solution providers, says Grant.
"These peer groups help [solution providers] to realize others are facing the same challenges and together, they will find creative ways to manage those and create more efficiency within their business," Sorenson says.
Vendor sponsorship is also available for Ingram Micro's SMBA Peer Groups, a relationship which helps both solution providers and vendors, Sorenson says. The peer groups can provide valuable insight for vendors into channel programs and products and can also provide a forum for solution providers to better communicate their needs to vendors.
"I sent out a note to the groups with information on the proposed programs, and within two hours I had receive 66 responses to send back to the vendor. That kind of real-time feedback is crucial if vendors want to best serve solution providers’ needs," Sorenson says.
"Now our vendors can get in front of customers on a more frequent basis so they have a better idea of what they need. This provides a closer touch model with the smaller resellers vendors are trying to reach," Grant adds.
There are, however, strict requirements for solution providers who want to become a part of the peer groups. To join, SMBA members must meet specific membership qualifications, pay a $100 monthly membership fee, and adhere to the operations code established among the SMBA Peer Groups, Grant says.
Each solution provider sets their own goals and milestones at each meeting and is responsible for "doing the homework" required to work toward achieving those goals, says Sorenson. The other members of the group act as a virtual board of directors to whom each solution provider is accountable. And there are consequences if certain requirements aren’t met.
"You can be 'voted off the island’ so to speak, if you don’t do your homework or if you don’t show up to meetings. We’ve had to do that a couple times this quarter," Sorenson says.
While such punishments may seem harsh, without strict accountability, Sorenson says they are necessary to keep the groups focused on fostering growth and progress among active members.
"The commitment level on the reseller’s part is very important. They are going into this as a long-term partnership –so if they’re not cutting it or participating and executing we will remove them," says Grant.