VARs Find Value in Facebook

Whether finding customers on Facebook or drawing inspiration from a business
book, solution providers are finding new ways to stay relevant in a changing
market.

Lloyd Group, an MSP (managed services provider) in New
York, recently closed a deal with a new customer
after an introduction through the Facebook social networking Web site. Baroan
Technologies, an MSP in Elmwood Park, N.J.,
is readying a program for other solution providers inspired by the book
"The E-Myth" by Michael Gerber.

Both MSPs are members of VTN (VentureTech Network), an elite group of
solution providers that source products and services from distributor Ingram
Micro. VTN the week of March 3 is holding in New Orleans
one if its semiannual gatherings, during which members share business know-how
and, often, enter into partnerships with other members. About 350 solution
providers are at the New Orleans
event.

Part of Baroan’s reason for attending the event is to get ideas on how to
improve a program the company has developed to guide VARs through the
transition to the MSP model.

"We’re here because we want to find out what are some of the best
practices people have," said company owner Guy Baroan.

Baroan is launching the program under the name Before Networks. The program
includes software and weekly 1-hour Web seminars to guide VARs through the
steps of setting up the business processes, such as billing, reporting and
technical functions involved in delivering managed services.

Baroan modeled the Before Networks approach on the book "The E-Myth,"
which argues that many small businesses fail because the entrepreneurs that
start them typically neglect the advance planning involved in setting up the
systems and processes that build predictability and efficiency into the running
of the business.

"By setting up processes and systems, you make your business less
susceptible to failure," Baroan said.

Baroan has followed the e-myth principles in his business for about eight
years, and now he is applying that experience to the Before Networks program,
he said.

While other companies have set up MSP transition programs, Baroan’s is
likely the only one inspired by a book on how to do business better. And that
points to the level of creativity that solution providers are employing in
meeting business challenges.

Lloyd Group’s recent customer acquisition through Facebook is an example of
this. CEO Adam Eiseman said the deal came
about when another Facebook member put him in touch with the customer, a hedge
fund manager who has already referred Lloyd Group to other prospective
customers.

Eiseman said his company has set up profiles on the social networking site
for the business and for its LloydCare SMB (small and midsize business) managed
services offering.

In addition to using the site for exposure and customer acquisition, Eiseman
said Lloyd Group also has recruited employees through Facebook.

"We’re recruiting people, we’re getting business off it," he said.
"It’s a great tool for networking."

Social networking sites are emerging as useful tools in the business world,
though originally sites such as MySpace and Facebook were created as a way for
people to connect with each other in a social context. Ingram Micro in fall of
2007 launched its own site, the Zone, which aims to allow VTN members to share
tips and to find partners for specific customer projects.

Eiseman said that while The Zone is useful to find partners, it cannot be
used for customer acquisition or recruiting because the site is exclusive to
VTN.

Using tools such as Facebook is one of the new ways of doing business in the
channel, said Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova, who during a presentation at the
VTN event pointed out that a 24-year-old newcomer to the channel would approach
the business very differently from channel executives who’ve been around for
years.

The newcomer, she said, will put less emphasis on technology and more on
business, forgo overhead and run essentially a virtual business that taps
Facebook and LinkedIn for referrals.

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