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Some of the most successful channel companies owe their achievements to avoiding the well-traveled paths that so many others have chosen.

Whether out of necessity or visionary instinct, building a business around an innovative business model can produce gratifying results despite the inherent risks of trying something new.

And if the model proves successful enough, it won’t be long before others start trying to emulate it.

Just ask Terry Jackson, who 10 years ago decided to turn his computer reselling and services business into a general contractor for IT services. A man ahead of his time, Jackson concluded then that trying to approach the business the same as everybody else was not his best option.

So he decided to adopt a model variations of which have become increasingly popular in the last few years.

His business, NuFocus Inc., of Mishawaka, Ind., relies heavily on partnering with others to provide customers with the services they require. The idea of partnering 10 years ago was something that many in the channel liked to talk about but few were willing to do for fear that whomever they chose as partners might steal their business.

Today a channel company that absolutely refuses to partner is most likely turning its back on a significant amount of business.

Customers like to deal with one IT service provider, a trusted advisor that can take care of all their needs. But addressing every single need of a customer is not something most VARs can do. A VAR may have to turn to another VAR for the security expertise a customer requires or to service the customer at an out-of-reach geographic location.

Through partnerships, the VAR can retain the customer contact, and therefore the business, while addressing all of the customer’s requirements.

So prevalent has partnering become that a New York company,, went into business last year for the sole purpose of facilitating partnerships. The company matches service providers with technicians for customer service calls.

Jackson says NuFocus, which has used periodically, engages with multiple partners at any given time. For instance, the company recently had 10 partners working on short-term customer projects. NuFocus maintains a database of partners on which it draws for help on various projects.

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Much like Jackson, Steve Bender figured out eight years ago there had to be a better way to maintain customer relationships. The common practice was to charge customers for one project at a time.

But Bender figured since his company InhouseIT Inc., of Newport Beach, Calif., found itself getting repeat business from the same customers any way, why not have customers pay a monthly retainer for keeping their IT systems up and running? InhouseIT technicians would make regularly scheduled visits for maintenance and updates.

And so InhouseIT adopted a managed services model long before it became one of the channel’s favorite buzzwords. Today one would be hard-pressed to find a VAR or integrator that hasn’t at least given some thought to moving at least part of its business to a managed services model.

Because tools now are available to provide managed services remotely and securely over the Web, the model has become more and more viable for an increasing number of channel players.

For InhouseIT, when the remote tools became available, it was simply a matter of doing remotely much of what the company was doing on site for customers. The company now is one of managed services platform provider Kaseya Inc.’s highest-volume partners.

InhouseIT and NuFocus prove that following the crowd is not necessarily the best option. At least for these two companies, forging a new path was the way to success. VARs and integrators looking to make their own mark should draw inspiration from these examples and, who knows, perhaps chance upon the next business model that everyone in the channel will be talking about.