Recession or not, it has always been hard to reach the SMB customer in Canada, which is one of the reasons why partner networks, such as Tech Data’s TechSelect and Ingram Micro’s VentureTech Network exist. These exclusive clubs bring together solution providers across the country to share best practices, create informal alliances and cooperate on joint business opportunities.
But, for TechSelect members, that informal nature may change. Earlier this month, at Tech Data’s TechSelect Partner Conference, there was talk of creating a formalized services network, called the TechSelect Integrated Services Network to develop the TechSelect brand in Canada.
TechSelect is a community of about 50 VARs, primarily targeting the SMB space, that have a strong hardware, software and services business, with a geographic focus and expertise in deploying business solutions. Members have partnered with each other in the past, but on a more informal one-to-one basis – sharing best practices and discussing new technologies, and in some cases providing services for organizations with multiple locations across Canada.
The goal of the TechSelect Integrated Services Network, however, is to formalize this process so members can be viewed as a nationwide IT services entity. This would include a referral service to pass on active leads and, ultimately, increase their services business.In theory, this idea makes a lot of sense – the network already exists, so building a formal structure to strengthen that network could lead to increased business opportunities.
But to succeed, they’ll need to build a strong foundation. This includes figuring out who owns the intellectual property of a project (and therefore the customer) and what rates they should be charging. A structure would have to be created to ensure no clients are stolen and that members follow a code of conduct.
It sounds like members of TechSelect are up to this task. There’s talk of bringing in a third-party company to ensure quality control, so each member provides a consistent level of quality across the board.
This is not to say informal collaboration would cease, because that would be unrealistic. But a formalized network could boost TechSelect’s brand and reputation in the Canadian market.
TechSelect members in the U.S. started a similar process last year by announcing a branding program that allows them to take advantage of the TechSelect Partner logo and supporting branding materials to market their business in multiple ways – to customers, to resellers and to vendors. A reseller in the U.S., then, can show customers that he has the backing of 450 peers across the country.
It’s irrelevant whether times are tough. Running your business in isolation deprives you of the knowledge, know-how and business opportunities that only a peer network can bring. And now is a perfect time to strengthen those bonds.