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Vendors the likes of Cisco, Microsoft and IBM have been crooning about creating and enabling peer-to-peer partnerships for the past several years. What vendors say is that connecting local and regional solution providers with synergistic resources and capabilities is a means for enabling two businesses to grow together.

Good theory, but exceedingly difficult to pull off in mass numbers. Microsoft has its Matchmaker service. Cisco and IBM are peering up partners at conferences. And scores of channel account managers play matchmaker with their VARs all the time. The challenge isn’t so much the desire, but the execution. For the longest time I presume that the thing impeding peer-level partnerships was mechanics: calculating revenue splits, division of resources and materials, obstacles in vendor partner program requirements and account protection. The members of the Ingram Micro VentureTech Network Big Apple chapter say it’s more about poker.

Last night, TransNet hosted the monthly meeting of the Big Apple chapter at its headquarters in Somerville, N.J. About 30 representatives of VARs, managed service providers and integrators from lower New York and New Jersey showed up for an evening of discussions on solution building and partnership, as well as some really good food and a friendly game of Texas Hold’em.

What was obvious about the event was the camaraderie among the chapter members. These were people fishing out of the same pond, but collaborating and communicating without fear of another member infringing upon their accounts. Ingram set up VTN as a means of bringing VARs together for peer collaboration, but the infrequency of the national meetings (twice annually, with the next one coming up in Denver in October) made it difficult to build personal relationships. Big Apple members said monthly regional chapter meetings made it possible for them to not only get to know each other’s businesses but make the personal connects. Over time, chapter members transcended being competitors to become colleagues and, eventually, friends.

Deepak Thadani, president of SysIntegrators in Woodside, N.Y., and this year’s Big Apple chapter president, recounted an incident when one of his clients approached a competitor about switching service providers. The competitor was Guy Baroan, another Big Apple member. After discovering the account belonged to Thadani, Baroan helped patch relations between SysIntegrators and the customer rather than claiming the account for himself. Why? Personal connections.

Dan Haurey, president of Exigent Technologies in Mount Arlington, N.J., says he’s made three partnership arrangements through his Big Apple connections. The synergies in technology capabilities and staffing resources made the relationships possible, but Haurey says the fuel behind the partnerships is that people in the Big Apple chapter like each other and want to work together.

At the end of the evening, a bunch of the meeting attendees grabbed fresh beers and sat around card tables and shifted competitive natures from technology to poker. Several people recounted the budding competition between Thadani and Haurey that rivals many of the Vegas matches seen in the World Series of Poker. The friendly competition around the card table makes cooperation in the field so much more palatable. And, it demonstrates that people truly do business with people they like, not just people with money and capabilities. Perhaps that’s the secret to good peer-to-peer partnerships.