By: Jim Roddy, VP of Sales & Marketing at the RSPA
Two principles guide me as a VAR/ISV Business Advisor for RSPA members: (1) mobilize the expertise of others and (2) share their collective wisdom. Today, instead of rationing insights one phone call/videoconference at a time, I’ll detail what I’m hearing and learning from my Strategy Sessions with reseller and software developer executives:
- Holy cow is the retail IT channel interested in the cannabis vertical! A significant percent of emails and phone calls I’ve received the last 30 days have been folks expressing interest in joining the new RSPA Cannabis Community. While most are motivated by the opportunity, many are inquiring out of fear for the future of their current vertical, especially if they serve restaurants. Many of their customers remain shuttered and the degree of difficulty selling prospects has increased significantly because merchants are avoiding face-to-face meetings. The lesson here for solution providers is to keep your head on a swivel and look for the best opportunities for your organization. There isn’t one standard answer where you should move next. But you best not be standing still.
- Resellers are investing more in digital marketing, which I think is a wise move. I’ve fielded several calls looking for advice on video shoots, content creation, podcasts, blogs, and more. VARs understand that business cards and brochures are no longer the “front porch” of your business; your website is. When prospects land there, they need to be impressed by your professionalism and expertise – or else they’ll search somewhere else. This is a good opportunity for me to show off the stellar websites of two RSPA reseller members: Anthem Business Solutions in Tulsa, OK, and the blog of Global Business Technologies in Palmview, TX, on the US/Mexico border.
- Hiring continues to be a struggle for many RSPA members. Prior to the pandemic, the obstacle was sourcing candidates. Now VARs and ISVs have lots of resumes to review, but they’re disappointed in the quality of candidates. “We got a bunch of applicants and I interviewed eight of them,” one VAR told me. “But I didn’t hire any of them – none of them even came close to having what we needed.” My advice is that hiring your next employee isn’t a sprint, and it’s not even a marathon. You know that Ironman Triathlon where competitors swim for two miles, then run 26 miles, then bike for 100+ more? Hiring for the right fit is like that. Hold out for all the qualities you require. Don’t hire the “least worst” person who applies for the job.
- ISVs continue to be super aggressive even during this economic downturn. Many new software startups have joined the RSPA in 2020, and tenured software companies continue to adapt and innovate to stay competitive. A guiding question for their orgs continues to be “what’s next?” Good question to ask yourself and your team if you haven’t done that lately. (If you want to meet these new ISV members, email Membership@GoRSPA.org.)
- I’m also learning work from home isn’t the utopia some believed it would be. That’s a perspective shared by both solution provider executives and their staff. Many VAR and ISV leaders are feeling an increasing stress of their workforce not being co-located in the same building. The business ran okay for the first few months, but after half a year apart they’re seeing signs of fraying. Spontaneous discussions and personal connections are at an all-time low, plus it’s hard to bring everyone together for a good old-fashioned morale boost. From an employee standpoint, they’re tired of the monotony of staring at a screen. Additionally, for many employees, their kids are being forced to (attempt to) learn remotely which is proving to be a major stressor. It’s one thing if your child is in middle school or older, but how can a kindergartner learn without an adult constantly entertaining them and/or reminding them to sit still? Being a homeschool teacher while holding down a full-time job isn’t what your employees signed up for. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, but you can improve your employees’ circumstances by following this principle: there’s no substitute for a competent manager getting closer to a situation. Talk one-on-one with your employees on a regular basis. Ask them how they’re coping with work from home and how you can help. Ask for ideas to keep the team on the same page and alleviate some of that stress. Can you host a virtual party? Plan a virtual team workshop? Watch educational content as a team? Offer one “mental health day” each month? This isn’t business as usual, so don’t act like it is.
- ISVs are moving away from the “Race To 500 Resellers” and are being far more selective about who they partner with. Software developers are looking for VARs with these qualities: high-initiative, growth-oriented, strong management team, established internal systems, a professional sales force, and vertically aligned. I used to hear ISVs describe their reseller channel as following the 80/20 rule. Now they’re saying, “Why do I need the 80 if the 20 are doing all the work?” If you’re a reseller, shore up your business so you are regarded as a dealer of choice when ISVs are looking to recruit.