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Is your channel business equipped to survive COVID-19?

What steps are you taking to ensure your business stays in good shape during the current crisis?  Peter Olive, CEO, Vortex 6, shares advice on tips to help business leaders.

The current pandemic is forcing firms all over the world to rethink how they do business in 2020 and beyond – the IT channel is no exception.

Channel partners are playing a crucial role during the crisis, ensuring customers’ businesses are fully enabled – in many cases standing up remote workforces almost overnight. Partners have been forced to adapt quickly and some may feel vulnerable during this period of uncertainty.

As a partner, you will have many questions and concerns. Is the budget your customers spend with you likely to be cut? How are we going to be affected by the economic recession? Where should you put your resources? Are there processes that are manual and inefficient that you can automate?  What can you do to ensure your business continues to thrive during COVID-19 and beyond? Here are some approaches to consider:

Planning for the future

It is difficult to make concrete plans when there is so much uncertainty about what form economic recovery will take. But it is important to look at different scenarios and consider what each could mean to your business.

What happens if it is a long recovery? Although a significantly different scenario, if you look at the global financial crisis in 2008, economic recovery took a long time. What type of people do you need? If you must restructure, what does your organization need to look like without affecting your ability to function effectively, particularly once business starts to return to previous levels?

A danger lies in losing people without considering the impact to your partner programmes. What if you let the wrong people go and you fall out of compliance with the partner programme? We have seen several partners relegated from top tier status by a vendor due to this scenario, costing them rebates, discounts and market credibility.

Automate back-end processes

Maintaining compliance with vendor programmes is often a manual and time-consuming activity. By automating that process, it is easier to maintain compliance, as well as keep on top of any special measures that vendors have rolled out to support partners at this time.

For example, many vendors have extended the deadlines for partner programmes, but you must ensure you still meet those requirements at the end of the grace period – you don’t want to end up scrambling to comply.  Also, it makes sense to move employees away from back-end administration tasks and put those resources into the front end, whether that’s into the sales effort, customer success or the way you manage clients.

Adopt an annuity business model

Partners that rely too heavily on new implementations and project-based work may struggle. New projects need budgets to be available and customers that are willing to invest – which in a crisis, they may not. They may also involve physical implementation of the technology and when offices and facilities are locked down, this becomes challenging.

Conversely, partners that have moved to an annuity model will fare much better, as it provides consistency. Month after month, you know what your revenue is. Don’t leave yourself exposed to economic shocks such as the one by relying on project work that can disappear. Accelerate your move to annuity, so that when the next pandemic – or whatever it is – happens, your business is protected.

Look after your customers

During a crisis, you need to go that extra mile for your customers. They will remember the suppliers that were empathetic and treated them fairly during this period. One of the great things to come out of this pandemic is that people are letting their human side show a little bit more and as companies, we need to aim for that somewhat clichéd position of ‘trusted advisor’. We will all be better off in the long-term and enjoy more valuable relationships.

So, in summary: plan for the future, automate where you can, think about increasing your annuity business, improve control, remove risk where you can and continue to provide innovative, supportive services to your customers. It is no more complex than that. These steps should help ensure you come out the other side of this crisis, not just surviving but thriving.