In a previous column, I wrote about the coming wave of new solution providers entering the market. I was referring to "VARtrepreneurs"--young professionals, mostly under the age of 40, who are building careers as VARs, consultants or integrators with the hopes of striking it rich one day or running their own VARBusiness 500 organizations.
|Robert C. DeMarzo is VP/publisher of VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR.|
Earlier this year, our editorial team ran a Channel 2.0 feature, which looked at some of the traits of this next generation and analyzed their business thinking and strategies. I asked for some insight into these individuals and received an outpouring of letters. The coming generation wants to be heard, wants to express its views and opinions, many of which concern alternative vendors and open-source technology.
I spoke with one of these new breeds recently. After polishing off a corned beef sandwich with a side of potato salad (I love this guy!), James Kandrac, founder of United Computer Group in Cleveland, characterizes the next-gen VAR as "young guys" who are driven by "providing quality products and services, taking care of clients and making margin."
His advice to vendors and manufacturers is to consider a VAR's cost of doing business when building a partnership. Vendors or suppliers with a single-digit margin opportunity, no matter how good, need not apply, he says.
In addition, Kandrac advises potential partners to take time to understand the next generation's mindset. They don't want to be told what to do by vendors. "They don't own us," he states. Such "VARtreprenuers" are an interesting contrast to a past generation of VARs, who built their businesses solely around one platform--say IBM, Apple or HP. Kandrac, for one, says that just won't cut it today. "We started our businesses because we wanted to control our destiny--not be controlled." At 45, Kandrac is a bit older than someone I envision as part of the next generation, but he walks the walk.
Slightly younger is Richard J. Kuhar, 39, of Arkay Data Storage. Kuhar saw his father Richard W. Kuhar work his way through the storage industry, then spent the "second half of my life selling storage solutions right along with him." Kuhar has his sights set on growing the company his dad built based on the same philosophy: "quality over quantity." What's different, though, is that the Kuhar family has built its business on the backs of what he calls, "alternative, emerging and innovative vendors." Today's traditional vendors better hope their VARs are drinking from the fountain of youth.
VARtrenprenuer Gary Tonniges Jr., 36, and a CPA, started his business, TriQuest Technologies, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, in 1997. "Our revenue is 100 percent service-based, maintaining our independence when making recommendations and purchasing decisions," he says. "We have relations with many vendors, but they're for technical assistance and training only." He changes brands and vendors frequently based on quality; he recently found Trend Micro's solution to be better than Symantec's. So he switched.
Such established vendors are going to have to take notice. Take Alani Kuye, who has been in the IT industry since he was 18 and is today a grizzled veteran all of 28 who likes to quote Einstein. What does he think makes the new generation tick? "The availability of so many alternative and open-source solutions that deliver equal or even greater results than what we see in the mainstream," he wrote. After returning from a recent conference, where the likes of EMC, Microsoft, Oracle and Adobe had a major presence, Kuye, the head of the data storage and record management solutions unit of a VAR in Old Saybrook, Conn., wondered if today's major players were really focused on engineering new solutions.
Independent thinking characterizes the VARtrepreneur, who wants to break from past practices. They are incredibly focused on product quality vs. outright loyalty to a vendor. And they're committed to success. If that sounds like you, let me know your thoughts at email@example.com.