Ideas Blog

The Chief Partner Officer

After selling my technology-focused agency in 2008, I took some time off from IT in order to explore other business ventures.  About a year ago, craving the adrenaline of the technology industry, I returned.  Much to my shock, not much has changed.

Don’t get me wrong, technology clearly advanced while I was away and innovation, a hallmark of our industry, continues stronger than ever.  Oh yes, and there is the ubiquitous “cloud” and all the disruption that’s caused.  But from a channel management perspective–how we engage with, motivate and support channel partners–it’s business as usual.

I believe now is the time for change. After thinking about it for a long while, I declare that I’m running for the office of Chief Partner Officer (CPO).  To change the status quo of channel management, my platform as the CPO within a technology vendor is as follows:

  • I will use my small business skills, expertise and success to help channel partners systematically improve their businesses
  • I will focus on the channel partners’ businesses and not my company and its products/services
  • I will not only suggest changes, but will have an on-going, business relationship with my channel partners to ensure they make change happen
  • I will have my channel partners’ best interest in mind because I know their success means success for my company
  • I will not carry a quote as a measure of my channel partners’ success or value to my company, but rather be evaluated on the year-over-year percentage growth of my channel partners’ businesses
  • I will have a confidential relationship with my channel partners so that honesty and transparency are the cornerstone of our relationship

As it was before my IT hiatus, so it is now:  most channel partners fail or do not grow adequately due to common business challenges.

For many of the mid-sized and smaller channel partners that typically constitute 45% of a vendor’s channel ecosystem, they are but one bad business decision away from disaster.  Or worse yet, they don’t make the investments to improve or grow their businesses for fear of a disaster.

Hiring, firing, marketing, financial discipline and organization, sales, collections, social media, customer management, growth, payroll, cash flow are a lot of any small business owner to navigate.  However, for our channel partners, the stresses of business are further compounded by the rapid change of technology and vendor policies and procedures.  Often channel partners find themselves alone to face these challenges, with little support from the key vendors on which they’ve built a business.

The vendor’s response?  The infamous channel manager.  An individual whose only interest in the partners’ success is tied to his/her quota.  And, more times than not, a person who’s never owned or operated any type of business.  All too often channel managers are fresh out of college, naively trying to impose finance 101 theories on partners.

For those channel partners who commit to a vendor, they deserve more than a channel manager, some airline miles and sporadic MDF.  Partners are the foundation of any technology vendor’s business.  If valued and properly supported, channel partners will grow their businesses and by default that of their top vendors.

Harsh?  Radical?  Some may think so.  As for me, I believe the time of the CPO is now.  Do I have your vote?