You might think you’re having a more productive week in your office compared with the resellers attending the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) annual Inspire winter conference in sunny Curacao. You’re at your desk, in meetings, or on the road while these resellers attend a morning workshop then hit the pool, golf course, or ocean.
But Inspire has proven once again to go beyond the fun and games. The 30 or so resellers attending this event are among the most successful in the retail IT industry, and their actions I’ve observed over the first two days of the conference offer a glimpse why. Resellers who want to improve their business could learn a thing or two – or four – from these VARs:
Partner with other resellers – pool your resources to most effectively serve your customers. At dinner last night, the retail IT resellers sitting on either side of me talked about how their service responses and profits improved when they outsourced their help desk to a larger VAR who had already established that infrastructure inside his business. Not only was the systems/processes already established, the vertical market and technological expertise were in place. Geography is not a barrier here. The three resellers participating in this activity are from the northwest, southwest, and midwest United States.
Investigate transitioning from break/fix to a services model. At Business Solutions, we’re working on being the best source to educate VARs on this transition but we know we’re not the only source. Resellers at Inspire – all of them BSM subscribers by the way – are complementing what they’ve read by gathering data at this event. They’re asking the RSPA to develop a toolkit their reseller members can use to make the transition. They’re identifying business model pitfalls and transition pains. They’re establishing KPIs to monitor the results of their company’s transition. They’re sharing war stories of obstacles they’ve encountered and success stories of how their business is thriving.
Ask questions. Lots of questions. Ask questions until you’re hoarse. Day 2 of the education workshop opened with speaker Tom Bouwer asking, “Who has questions from what we learned yesterday?” You know how that usually goes. Nobody says anything, the speaker makes a joke about everyone being asleep/needing more coffee, and then the presentation begins. But at Inspire, Bouwer fielded questions for an hour straight, most of them from curious resellers. And for the rest of the morning Bouwer didn’t go for a 10-minute stretch where he wasn’t interrupted by a raised hand. The questions aren’t limited to the classroom. During the social events, there’s plenty of conversation about tablets, SaaS, new products seen at NRF, channel sustainability, staffing, PCI, EMV, KPIs, digital signage, security, and margins. And when the VARs get hoarse from asking so many questions, there are plenty of bars and beverages at the resort to quench their thirst.
Have honest, in-depth conversations with your vendors and distributors. Do you have an “us vs. them” attitude about your vendor partners? Drop it. (Or drop your vendor.) The resellers at Inspire are engaging with their suppliers so everyone has a better understanding how they can work together to make our channel thrive. At an Inspire event a few years ago, ScanSource POS/Bar Coding President Paul Constantine said, “We just want y’all to sell more.” His point has been repeated often by executives here, including by Steve Cuntz, the President/CEO of BlueStar who is major competitor with ScanSource. Resellers here understand that the suppliers who support and attend this event are cooperative, working together in earnest for the betterment of our channel.
It’s too late for you to catch a plane to Curacao and attend Inspire 2013, but it’s not too late to embrace the lessons exemplified by the resellers engaged in this year’s event.