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At this point, we are all sick and tired of recounting what an abysmal year 2009 was. Layoffs, cost-cutting, worst recession ever… ENOUGH already.

Believe it or not, there are positives to talk about. This year, while incredibly challenging, has spawned pockets of innovation, sparked the creative use of resources and accelerated strategic thinking across the solution provider community, technology vendors, industry associations and distributors. Lest we forget, it’s easy to perform well when times are good, but businesses that not only keep their heads above water but also thrive during the roughest of tides are the real beacons of success.

These best and brightest companies are precisely the ones that Channel Insider is recognizing with its first annual Bull’s Eye awards. Across 30 categories, we have identified more than 80 companies that exemplify the best of what our industry has to offer across human resources, technology products and solutions, sales and marketing, channel public relations, executive leadership and program development.

It’s truly been an inspiring experience to study and assess the more than 400 nominating submissions that we received as part of the awards process. These were not easy decisions to make. Many companies not making the final cut deserve recognition as well. If the submissions told us anything it’s that we truly inhabit a creative and innovative community.

A little insight into process, if you will. Channel Insider accepted online nomination submissions over several weeks this fall, then assembled a panel of judges including editors, IT consultants/analysts, solution provider executives and industry association leaders. Over several weeks we reviewed the mass of nominations, applied our own experience and insight, held spirited discussions and finally settled upon our winners.

Rather than go with the First Place, Second Place, Third Place convention, we chose to designate the winners – yes, they are all winners – in terms of where they sat on the spectrum of characteristics we evaluated. So in each category, we selected the Champion, the company, individual or product we found to best represent those characteristics; the Contender, a close No. 2 that on some fronts is on par with the Champion; and the Challenger, a very strong one to watch.

Please, I encourage you to go to our Bull’s Eye awards home page and take a look at all the deserving winners in each category. They are role models for the industry and it will be interesting to watch how they fare as we wind our way through 2010, a year that we all hope will be paved with economic recovery.

Happy Holidays…