By Julian Lee
There is noooooo shortage of people giving advice to the channel! Here is one more that may help…
Recently I find myself being more personal with business peers since it’s like we are virtually chatting in our homes. Another new business normal? ☺️. My pivot story starts while I was studying sciences and business at University. While grabbing some lunch, a friend told me that computers are the future. It was more how he said it and went back to eating his sandwich that made an impression. This was the moment that I pivoted to computers. A decision that made me who I am today.
You never know when or who will give you that life-changing advice.
After doubling down on my computer skills, I realized that I was just not cut out to be a programmer but I could sell the dream to anyone, so I became a sales rep for Apple Macs. They had me with their slogan “Change the World one person at a time”. I pivoted from programming to selling computers because of a self-assessment of my actual abilities.
I was young and hungry so I accelerated in sales but after a year, I needed to find something better (mainly because I had to argue with the manager to get my commissions every time). With the advice from another random person that changed my life, I went on to becoming a software manufacturer’s rep for Canada and made a good living. After great growth within the first year on my own, I pivoted again to becoming a distributor for all things Apple. I soon expanded from North America to offices across Europe. I made money with simple things like mouse pads and thousands of other cool tech products that I discovered.
After 10 years, I pivoted yet again from distribution to marketing the products through printed catalogs. When the dot-com era came, print was out and online was in. We had to pivot again to e-commerce by providing web stores with digital content of the products to showcase in web stores. Luckily we already had most of the digital content from producing print catalogs! When the dot.com world blew up, we still believed that the Internet and e-commerce was going to be back and bigger than ever. So, we pivoted yet again into becoming one of the first e-commerce developers with real-time integration with Ingram Micro, Tech Data and Synnex. For a long while, Ingram Micro only offered our e-commerce platform. While everyone was running away from e-commerce, we were running towards it.
By this time we are just riding the success wave with no limits in sight. It allowed us to diversify into news media, events and many other areas. Seems like everything we touched turned out good. Today, most of these brands still exist.
Five years ago we pivoted yet again to helping the channel partners to become bigger, better, stronger and smarter. We have been helping vendors to build their partner ecosystem for many years and felt that it was time we started helping MSPs, VARs and ITSPs to improve their businesses. We realized that by helping the channel partners to rock out their business, they were actually able to sell more of the vendor products that we represented. Everyone was happy! However, we still kept doing all of the other channel development activities so we were simply adding and adapting instead of replacing. The combined synergy fueled the growth of every business unit.
Today we have built an awesome playbook for helping channel partners to improve their best business practices that is even more valid today. We have an online assessment for them. We have a resource where they can get advice. We have a resource where they can find any tool or service that they need to run their business. We built a community where they can learn how to build business with peer-group collaboration and coaches. We really went all-in!
Interestingly, a big part of the mission revolves around everything digital which has just become the new business normal. Again, a pivotal point came from an MSP who attended our ChannelNEXT events for years until one day he said we should help resellers with Mastermind Peer-Groups. We finally took his advice and now everything revolves around this program and he is part of it.
For me personally, I pivoted to news media with e-ChannelNEWS. It was the thing that I enjoyed but scared me the most. I felt like an imposter to be a journalist as I never studied this professionally. Eventually after a lot of practice, I found my lane. I am more like half journalist and half talk show host. If you want to see my humble work please subscribe to eChannelNEWS. While this is now my passion, I love everything that TechnoPlanet does and beyond proud of the amazing team that has made it what it is today. I consider all of them as my family and they know it.
I wrote this personal business pivot story to show that in the journey of business, we need to always be ready for a pivot. Sometimes we need to pivot because we want a change and sometimes we have to pivot because we are forced to change. Pivoting is a good thing.
This pandemic crisis is definitely forcing a lot of business people to change. It requires them to pivot into something different. A new digital business normal that we all have to adjust to in real time.
Here is my 4-step plan that has always worked for me:
1. Manage the current crisis to stay afloat and survive. After you are done being scared it is time to start picking yourself up, learn and take action. Someone from VMWare recently shared this graphic that really says it all.
2. Adapt. This is actually part of good management skills. Good managers already know how to adapt to the current situation. I added this into the mix because adapting your business and leadership to this global pandemic crisis is going to take a lot of your strength and skill. How you adapt will determine if you survive and how you come out when the dust settles.
3. Pivot. Look at what you are doing now. Figure out what is working and what is not. Decide what you really want to do and pivot to that new playbook. Consider your health and life happiness when you make this decision. Do what you love to do as life is fragile and comes with an absolute expiry date. Time is everything! Collaborating with a peer-group and some business coaches can help you find your direction in ways you have not yet imagined!
4. Accelerate. Plan to double down on your playbook as you see the light. Use this “down time” to work on your plans and improve what you need to come out stronger than ever. Get ready to pull the trigger when the timing is right.
There are zillions of examples of how this pandemic is disrupting business. So many restaurants never bothered to offer e-commerce and home delivery. They took the bait from UBER and others to give up 30% of their online sales. Now they are scrambling to offer home delivery as it is the only lifeline available. Luckily there are start-up companies like UEAT who are coming to their rescue by getting them online to take orders in 24 hours!
No one is immune to this crisis. Overnight we had to pivot our live ChannelNEXT events to go virtual. It was a monumental task as we never did virtual to such a scale before. However, this is only temporarily until face-to-face gatherings are back and they will be back as humans are social creatures and love to meet, talk, eat, drink a lot and do karaoke (inside joke for those who attend our events). That said, we will probably add more virtual events in the future since digital is the new playground for business.
So… Manage. Adapt. Pivot and Accelerate. It’s all you really need to know to navigate this storm.
If you are in the channel from anywhere and want to work with your peers to get this right, then attend the Mastermind session at our upcoming Virtual ChannelNEXT on April 20. You are not alone!