SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

As security becomes a more central business issue, and one that features in the public consciousness, the demand for ever more effective, agile and vigilant solutions increases. This growth in the market inevitably attracts funding and fuels innovation

However, just like a typical ‘gold rush’, the number of start-ups will not equate to those who succeed in the long-term. That presents a challenge for the channel and one that Stuart Nairne-Clark, Vendor Alliances Director at Exclusive Networks relishes. How to find, evaluate and nurture the vendors that will provide channel partners with next-generation solutions that work and ones that understand what is needed to invest in and support long-term and sustainable channel relationships. Stuart provides an insight into the vendor alliances role and team and how they constantly strive to add value to channel partners so all can benefit?

BORN TO DISTRIBUTE
Having been ‘born’ into distribution it never ceases to amaze me how vibrant and varied the role of the distributor is. My dad gave me a taste of what was to come when I spent times in the school holidays at a components and electronics business messing around with memory modules, sticking stamps on invoices and counting stock. This lit the fuse and it’s fair to say that I have ever looked back. I told the school careers people that I wanted to go into the IT sector, which in 1990s rural Cambridgeshire was not a common nor easily understood request, and at Uni, having graduated in Business and Management I remember the careers consultant looking a bit perplexed when I said I was not in the least interested in HR, finance, marketing and so on but wanted to go into IT sales. So, I left, saw an ad in the local Sheffield paper, and after a quick holiday I was straight into distribution with Arc Technology.

A variety of sales roles gave me great insight into resellers of all colours and sizes and as we grew and they grew I became acutely aware just how important the vendors and their solutions are to reseller partners wanting to grow a sustainable business, and that they don’t just appear as if by magic. My path into the world of vendor management and relationships had begun.

EVOLUTION IS KEY
So how do we set about securing vendors we believe will provide added value to the channel and reward those partners who are prepared to invest their time and resources in the product and relationship? It goes without saying the number of start-ups and innovative technologies is sometimes bewildering – a recent report identified over 5,000 last year alone – and whilst many have great features and products the vast majority are not complete solutions nor ready to invest in and support a true, mutually beneficial two-tier channel model. We are stringent in our criteria and look to gauge where the market and each segment is moving to, and which technologies not only complement existing tech but help raise the bar and are likely to win out in the medium term. But that is just the technology – to get a real feel for whether we invest our time, effort and money on behalf of our customers we need to understand what the vendor’s investment plan for the channel is. It’s no good to have just one person constantly jetting about Europe, or making the right noises and then discounting a large deal and taking it direct because of the excitement of the moment. We need to see clear strategies set out and resources committed to building, supporting and evolving a reseller channel – it may be the vendor is too early and we agree to revisit a potential relationship later subject to conditions. Once satisfied with the tech, company and plans we need to be as certain as we can that the people and culture of a potential vendor are ones that can adapt and evolve, and work with the channel as opportunities, and issues, arise. Short-termism is no friend of the team here.

COLLABORATION TRUMPS COMPETITION
One thing that underpins everything we do in the Vendor Alliances team is the belief in all – us, our partner and the vendor – working to a common objective. It allows us to add real value and why we believe that sole distribution wins out. We all mutually invest, emotionally and literally, in achieving a sustainable future, are forward looking and not distracted by competing and haggling over price, terms and so on. It is vital end customers trust their partner and they trust us and the vendor to deliver – whether in terms of demonstrations, proof of concepts, bid support, capital support, deployments and so on. We can collaborate to far better effect when we trust and share and work together, and get the right security outcomes for the end customer. Incidentally, my unshakeable belief in the value of teamwork and collaboration has been reinforced by my son and daughter and their love of rugby. As a wannabe footballer my eyes have been opened by the ethos and spirit that runs through their club and sport – camaraderie, respect, teamwork and discipline all come together to give them the best chance of success. This spirit is ingrained in the Vendor Alliances team and once all is in place with a potential new vendor then the real work begins, working to set goals, build strategies, evolve and build the channel, supporting customers, securing investment and support from the vendor and helping us all win out in the long-term.

Technology, vendors, and the channel are constantly evolving and we have to adapt and change to get our customers the right vendors and solutions and yes, it’s a bit of a cliché, but it really is the case at Exclusive Networks that the fittest don’t just survive, they thrive.

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