Monday, October 20, 2008

Community Power Trumps Gold Cert

Jim Locke was on the SMB Conference Call last week. He told a great story that needs a little broader distribution. So here we go.

Jim didn't give the partner's name on the call, so I asked for details. Turns out it was Jim Sterling from Sterling Networks.

Jim Sterling had a potential new client. Was bidding a new network for approx 275 agents located in 7 offices (real estate). After preparing the proposal, one of the owners (there were 5) gave the proposal to the copy guy who says "We can take care of your network. After all, we're a Gold Certified Partner. Jim is just one guy. He can't handle big jobs."

So the client goes to Jim and says they're thinking of going with Schmoe the Gold Certified Partner / copier company. What does Jim have to say in response? After all, he's just one person. How many people can he bring to the table?


Turns out, Jim's a member of SMBTN. So Jim gets on the phone and calls a bunch of partners. "If I need you to back me up, will you show up at a meeting with the client?" Of course they all say yes.

Now Jim goes back to the potential client and says "We're not just one guy standing alone. I have all the backup I need to address any problem you have."

Jim proposes that he will get 50 Partners to show up at a meeting at the client's office -- IF the gold certified partner will do the same. The gold partner refuses to participate.

Obviously Jim landed the client.

This client has been sold 3 times since then, and split up into 2 different companies. Sterling Networks still has both companies under contract.

- - - - -

Two lessons pop out here.

First, it pays dividends to belong to -- and participate in -- the community. Whether it's SMBTN, online groups, or your local User Group. Get to know other technicians. Call on them, and be there for them.

Even at the simplest level, having extra hands on a job goes a long ways. I have either hired or been hired by at least a dozen User Group members. Even with a staff of seven, the fastest way for me to take on large deployment is to call on people who have already proven that they're competent and engaged.

Second, there's a tendency for larger companies to get arrogant well before it's justified. One side effect of this arrogance is a belief that they have nothing to gain from participating in the user groups. I can't tell you how many times I've invited someone from a larger firm to the user group and they've said, "We don't really . . . do . . . that."

You don't do what? You don't learn about what's going on in your profession? You don't engage with vendors like Microsoft and Sonicwall? You don't take advantage of discounts on trainings or certifications? You don't have a group of people to call on when you need advice or expertise?

Not all Gold Certified Partners are like this, but many are. They have one or two superstars plus a gaggle of uninterested, bored technicians who are NOT engaged in improving their skills or keeping up on the technology.

Interestingly, I will bet that some of the people Jim called on for help were from Gold Certified Partners. After all, we have plenty of them in the community, and in SMBTN.

It's not really about being Gold or not being Gold. It's about being engaged in the community or not being engaged.

It pays to participate. Membership, as they say, has it's privileges.


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