BoB Conference: Solution Providers Need To 'Adapt, Change Or Die'1:18 PM EST Tue. Oct. 16, 2012
Adapt, change, or die.
That was the message Tuesday from noted author, speaker and former Eastman Kodak executive Jeffrey Hayzlett, who urged solution provider attendees at UBM Channel's Best of Breed conference to take a hard look at their businesses, people and processes and figure out how to evolve, whether it's becoming not so fearful of market transitions or being more transparent in their inter-company relationships.
Best of Breed attendees, which includes C-level executives from many of North America's best-known solution providers, gathered in Tampa this week to talk about the future of the IT channel model and what partners are going to look like two, five and 10 years from now. Hayzlett said that starts with understanding just how transformative market trends like cloud and mobility truly are and how fast they're moving.
"You can adapt, change or die," Hayzlett said. "It's really that simple. The world is constant change. If anyone should be leading that, it's you."
Hayzlett, who leads The Hayzlett Group and has authored books such as "Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change and Grow Profits," was chief marketing officer and vice president of Kodak from 2006 to 2010. Kodak ran aground, Hayzlett told solution providers, in part because it lost track of what it wanted to be to consumers and businesses, hit market transitions too slowly -- it had a prototype digital camera as far back as the mid-1970s, he reminded -- and didn't have forward-thinking, risk-willing managers.
Leaders need to be change agents, Hayzlett said, who don't drive change just for the sake of it, but who can be problem solvers as opposed to problem seekers and who can also operate between the seams and across management silos.
Hayzlett laid out five areas where many companies fail, starting with fear, in that they turn blinders on to change, and continuing with tension, in which no one identifies proverbial "elephants in the room" because they don't want to appear disruptive.
"Healthy debate is good," Hayzlett said. "If we're arguing with each other, we're moving it forward. That's what leaders do."
Many companies also lack what Hayzlett said is "radical transparency," and in the era of social media, where minutiae is made public in an instant, companies have to become more transparent in how they engage with customers.
NEXT: When It Comes To Risk, One Should Never Be Scared
Finally, said former Kodak executive Hayzlett, too many companies are averse to risk -- "Is anyone going to die if we make a mistake?" he asked -- and they also don't insist that promises be "mutual conditions of satisfaction," where both the company and the customer hold up their ends of the bargain and everyone is on the same page.
Don't spend too much time hung up on branding and marketing speak, Hayzlett added. Don't settle, don't take your online presence for granted -- "If you suck offline, you will suck online" -- and do be afraid to stir things up, he urged.
In a nod to the communal nature of the BoB conference, Hayzlett offered a line from legendary explorer/scientist Jacques Cousteau: "One should never be scared when one is in good company."
"The channel's relevance is going to be driven by how well we adapt," said Ron Dupler, CEO of GreenPages, a Kittery, Maine-based solution provider. "We need to collaborate."
"As you think about who you'll be hiring, in seven years, we're no longer going to be spending as much time doing the work we do today. Increasingly, we'll be cannibalizing that work as we move into the cloud. For us, it'll be interesting to see how we transfer business not two to three years from now, but a decade from now," said Christopher Hertz, founder and CEO of New Signature, a Washington D.C.-based solution provider.
Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Compugen, a Richmond Hill, Ontario-based solution provider, said one big challenge for partner businesses is making their salespeople more effective as solutions become more complex.
"The biggest cost all of us have is not plant, and it's not equipment -- it's people who walk out there every day to talk up our businesses," Zarek told CRN. "Customers are asking us to do much more and do it cost-effectively. We're asking our sales people to do so much more, so we have to make sure we take away sales killers -- the administrative stuff that keeps them busy -- that prevent them from focusing on being in front of customers and putting together solutions."
PUBLISHED OCT. 16, 2012