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VARs will be happy to hear that Citrix Systems’ new channel chief has walked several miles in their shoes. Tom Flink spent most of his 22-year career working for reseller companies and trying to get the most profit out of manufacturer partner programs.

He says that’s what he wants to help partners do with Citrix’s partner program. And he may be uniquely qualified to help VARs do just that. Before joining Citrix a little over a year ago, Flink served as a senior vice president for MTM Technologies, Citrix’s largest North American reseller partner.

Flink joined Citrix as vice president of worldwide sales and strategy, and headed up channel sales for the organization. This July he was promoted from within to the role of official channel chief — vice president of channels and emerging product sales — when Al Monserrat was elevated to senior vice president of all sales and services for Citrix.

But Flink’s relationship with Citrix goes all the way back to 1994 when his VAR company, Vector, signed up as a Citrix reseller.

“Back then they were creating what we would call blade PCs today,” Flink says. “We quickly became a very dedicated partner, but thought it would be a one- or two-year technology. Instead it became a 10-year relationship.” Flink’s company became the largest Citrix partner in North America and in 1999 the business was sold to a venture capital group. Flink served as president of the company, then renamed Vector ESP, and the VCs bought up a total of seven Citrix resellers on the promise of the ASP (application service provider) model that was all the rage at the turn of the century. Vector ESP was one of the top 500 VARs in the country and had offices in several major cities.

The VCs eventually sold Vector ESP to MTM Technologies, a $300 million VAR. Flink went with the new company. As part of a VAR organization, Flink also has worked with several large manufacturers and suppliers, including EMC and Microsoft.

“But after 22 years of working as a VAR partner I wanted to look at growing my skill set and taking what I’d learned on the VAR side to a manufacturer,” Flink says. “Having spent 10 years working directly with Citrix, it seemed like a good fit for me.”

As a consumer of Citrix’s VAR program for 10 years, does Flink see any big changes that need to be made to better serve the company’s partners?

“I had very few issues with the Citrix channel program,” says Flink. “Citrix did a great job of making sure when we went into an account and did the evangelizing work, we weren’t looking over our shoulders, worried about someone else taking the deal. Citrix has always been a channel-focused company and that’s one of reasons I wanted to work here.”

For Flink — who spent much of his time as a VAR looking at how to get the most profitability out of manufacturer partner programs and deciding which programs to keep and which ones weren’t worth it — profitability for partners is still at top of mind.

“Since I’ve been at Citrix we’ve been looking at expanding how we reach customers by seeding some of our products with OEMs like Dell and HP,” he says. “We’ve recently announced a program to align our channel with that effort.”

Citrix recently expanded its Citrix Advisor Rewards deal registration program to ensure that partners are still rewarded, even when XenServer comes preinstalled as part of an OEM package on Dell and HP machines.

“We want to make sure the partner is paid, even if XenServer comes embedded. So we pay the partner a reward, even if the product was purchased from another partner.”

Citrix Advisor Rewards was initially introduced four years ago to “focus on profitability of the partner and to level the playing field for partners. We pay our partners up to 10 percent of the standard retail price (SRP).”

Flink says he believes that products need to drive services for partners, but that products also need to be profitable in themselves.

And why should a partner push Citrix’s XenServer when VMware has cornered 95 percent of the server virtualization market? “That’s not the market,” says Flink. “They have one product line. They’ve been able to survive with a subpar program. Their partners tolerate it. What we have across our product lines is a system that works together.

“It’s the equivalent of you saying you want to buy a car and going to one place to buy the engine, another place for the transmission, and so on,” says Flink. “You are going to buy all the pieces separately and it’s not going to be optimized. We deliver a broader solution that provides our partners with many more options in terms of delivering into our customer base.”