Strategy was so much easier in the 1970’s. Back then the theory was that you set out your “Deliberate” strategy for the next 10 years, followed it through, and “hey presto”, success was achieved.
In the real world that never really worked out of course. And now things change so quickly that many smaller companies have thrown out the idea of any sort of long-term planning at all. That is a mistake. The key to profitability and long-term success is still strategic planning. It just needs to be done differently. This also applies to channel partner strategy. Without clarity of vision and effective channel sales training, the vision will not become a reality.
The research in this area is unsparing in its clarity. According to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), over the lifetime of a business only 39% are profitable, with another 30% of businesses achieving break even, the other 30% lose money and 1% cannot say. Research from PwC confirms that many of the issues facing small and mid-size business come back to a lack of strategic planning, with many caught up with the deluge of every day issues.
The biggest challenge for the leadership of channel partners is to maintain dual perspectives. While the one-to-three year horizon is extremely important, another eye must be kept on the three-to-ten year horizon if the company is ever to break out of a “hand to mouth” existence and achieve true market dominance. Much of the solution comes down to channel partner strategy, but effective channel sales training also has a key role to play.
One approach is to view these horizons in the context of a series of “S-Curves”. The reader may be familiar with the concept of “S-curves” already. Businesses, or their markets that follow an S curve are characterized by a shallow start, where only early adopters and niche marketsbuy the product. Then they experience a rapid growth, and the product or business has a dominant position in the market. After the rapid growth, the business sector (and the resellers playing in it)often see revenues plateau before eventually starting to fall. The key for the successful reseller is to “link” S-curves, jumping from the plateau of one to the rising wave of the next.
In Jumping the S-Curve, Paul Nunes and Tim Breene demonstrate how high performers actively manage to the cresting of three hidden S-curves that reach the end of their lives well before the company’s financial curve reaches its peak. By jumping these three-curves early, while the core business continues to thrive, companies lay the foundation for a successful leap to a new financial S-curve later – and for lasting greatness by executing a series of these moves as outlined in the diagram below.
Of course, every VAR would like to be able to pinpoint exactly when it was time to switch focus and jump to the next curve. Obviously this is easier said than done. This is where a Company’s Vision and Mission come into play.
As the diagram shows, the High Performers know exactly where they want to go. High Performers understand and commit to their “True North”. They may not know exactly how they will get there yet, but they have taken the time to paint a picture of what they want their company and their world to look like in seven, ten or twenty years’ time. Most importantly, they consistently invest to build the resources to get them there and position themselves to take advantage of new innovations and S-Curves that will progress them to their goal.
Each S-Curve can simply be viewed as the Company’s current “Mission”. The Missions change, but the Vision doesn’t. The Mission (S-Curve) may be heavily influenced by customer demand for new technologies and solutions, but that is always counter-balanced by the question: “Is this helping us on our journey to achieve the Company Vision”?
Most channel partners have a good understanding of their current “Mission”. They know what they want to do over the next three years. But the High Performers are already looking (and investing) way beyond that horizon. They have a clear understanding of their Company Vision and Values. This allows them to detect and evaluate new technologies through a formal lens before adopting them. Those that meet the criteria for propelling the company towards its long-term Vision are adopted, which includes channel partner sales training. Those that are deemed exciting, yet a distraction from the Vision are rejected.
The next time a disruptive innovation crosses your path will you immediately jump on it, or do you have a North Star to guide you?