Check the Mirror for Channel SuccessBy Michael Vizard | Posted 2008-05-24 Email Print
Solution providers need to look in the mirror when they don't meet goals.
The thing that distinguishes successful solution providers from the many that fail has much more to do with intangibles than any special knowledge about products or vendor channel programs.
That's basically the core conclusion of a new book called "Mastering a Culture of Accountability," by Chris Winter and Larry Kesslin. If you're not familiar with either author, don't be surprised. They have been running an exclusive consulting company for the last 10 years, called 4-Profit, that chooses to work with only a handful of solution providers each year. Now 4-Profit is attempting to create a more scalable consulting model by building out a Web site that will include comparative business benchmark data and a central repository with a series of handbooks containing business advice for solution providers.
Much of the advice in Winter's and Kesslin's book might seem rudimentary and obvious to many, but the fact is that many executives running solution provider companies are accidental entrepreneurs. As a result, many of them don't have a huge amount of business experience, so they frequently rely on their instincts.
Winter and Kesslin have laid out a basic set of guiding principles around the concepts of leadership, communications, process and systems, and, finally, measurement and monitoring. The authors stress there isn't a single best business model in the channel. Any number of models can be successful. What differentiates those who succeed versus those who fail is their ability to focus on executing against whatever business model they establish.
The problem, say the authors, is that business owners too often fail to distinguish between the daily drama of the business, which in the grand scheme of things may be unimportant, versus recognizing what is truly urgent and important. The end result is that in hindsight, many business owners feel their time is not being used on the highest-value activities of their companies. The authors challenge channel business owners to simply look at their upcoming calendars. What most will discover is that only about 20 percent of their time is dedicated to the 80 percent of things that drive the valuation of their company.
Ultimately, this leads to a culture of procrastination and inefficiency. So when the owners of solution providers lament the inability to meet corporate goals, the authors would argue they need not look further than the mirror to find the culprit.
As important as accountability is, the authors also add a company won't succeed without optimism and passion. All the processes and the metrics in the world cannot compensate for a lethargic work force, which takes its cues from management. So if the business leadership is defeated before it gets out of bed each morning, chances are the staff is not going to rally around the cause at hand.
Once you get the morale equation right, the next step is to constantly communicate to the staff that the role of a solution provider is not to sell product but rather deliver a service that has value to the customer. That means employees need to understand not only technology, but also what business your customers are actually in. After that, it is really a matter of putting the right processes in place. Copies of "Mastering a Culture of Accountability" are available at www.4-Profit.com.
Michael Vizard is Stategic Content Expert for Ziff Davis Enterprise. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.