The Key to Winning the Big Game in the Channel? Commitment!

As a long-suffering Buffalo Bills fan, I tend to get in a number of discussions about what it takes to build a successful team. Obviously our franchise hasn’t figured it out and, almost like clockwork (at least for the past 16 years), we find ourselves pondering the possibilities after another draft and training camp.

That brings me to the one thing most fans of losing franchises seem to agree on. Without a solid commitment to winning from the ownership team, our teams may never make it to the big game. That same philosophy applies to an IT services business. Most MSPs not only feel obligated to succeed for their own satisfaction, but know that their families, employees and other partners and investors may be counting on them as well.

Think of it this way. The NFL has 32 teams that compete for a chance to make it to the Super Bowl each year, and only one walks away with the ultimate prize each year ̶ the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And while it’s easy to say they all have the same shot at winning it all, those who follow sports know some owners fail to grasp the concept. They may pay closer attention to getting the most revenue from their fans than bringing in people of great character who have a hunger for victory.

Good owners hire successful coaches and bring in players with that passion. Everyone abides by the winning philosophy, from the strength and conditioning personnel all the way up to the general managers. They hold each other accountable and improve their game execution until they get it right.

IT firms should take a similar approach, though the “big game” may look a lot different. It could involve signing a major client or implementing the final step in a major business transformation plan. Either way, a win is a win, and MSPs, vendors and other channel professionals should be as committed to winning in their organizations as those charged with leading the four remaining NFL playoff teams.

Sounds easy, right? Adding a phrase or two in the company business plans about “commitment” is really simple, but the follow through can sometimes be painful, if not downright expensive. For example, if someone in your company promises a client or a partner that something will be done, ensure it gets done. That should apply whether they committed to implementing a new email solution by a certain date or agreed to get rid of a complicated, yet unnecessary step in the onboarding process. Their word is your word.

More important is the long-term commitment to building a successful business, with happy employees, partners and investors. It is a rather broad term that can be interpreted differently by each constituency. All promises, whether implicit or implied, should always be taken seriously and kept when at all possible. That includes commitments to:

  • Your customers/ partners: job number one for any channel business should be fortitude when it comes to fulfilling the assurances, terms and conditions of contracts. If you share upcoming feature details or outline your services roadmap based on a real need they express, you have to keep them in the loop if issues arise that delay or prevent them from happening. Communication is key. They may still leave, but if you do everything possible to keep them in the loop and the issues are too insurmountable to rectify, you may still earn their admiration (and a chance to win the business back at a later date).
  • Employees: ensure your HR strategies are solid. If your company is generous and committed to the welfare of its team members, recruitment and retention will be so much easier. That goes beyond providing fair hours and wages. Your corporate strategy should include an employee-first philosophy (equal to, if not above customers) that emphasizes their value to the organization. Their rights should be clearly defined in an HT handbook and each should feel empowered to help the organization move forward. Easier said than done, but every employer should take time each week (or day) to assess their commitment to their most valued asset. If employee assessments slide or workers feel like their contributions are not rewarded, their job satisfaction levels often diminish and loyalty disappears. When you show a commitment to them and execute on the promises that were made, team members will typically be more productive and strive to do better.
  • Investors/ community: Does your company have a reputation as a performer and good corporate citizen? Trust takes time and, in most cases, requires the successful fulfillment of many promises. One activity at a time with solid results. Your word becomes an asset when previous commitments are kept. In the event something does go wrong in your organization and you promise to rectify the situation quickly (by a certain point in time), will they believe you? Past performance typically dictates the answer. Those who fulfill their obligations to the community and their investors are more likely to get a little leeway.

That’s what commitment becomes: an almost bankable asset your company has to earn each and every day.  Your  team has to follow through on obligations made to each constituency, including employees, customers and your partners, as well as local community leaders. If that commitment is to deliver quality services and support to channel providers, and your team executes well, your company reputation will likely rise and your chances of gaining additional business will be greatly improved. That’s how you win the “Big Game.”

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