Michael Gordon is a managing partner for MGIV Inc, a solution provider specializing in telecom and cloud services. He's also a millennial.
According to research firm Forrester, 40 percent of channel owners plan on retiring by 2024, and 75 percent of those working in the indirect channel will be millennials by that time. Gordon, alongside four fellow millennial-aged channel leaders from a master agent, an IT distributor, and a MSP organization, noticed a distinct lack of millennial presence within the indirect channel, and that the need exists to better support young professionals starting their careers, or those that are looking to accelerate their own startups. To that end, the five are launching Nextgen Channel, an appropriately-named advisory council and forum for the next generation of channel leaders from solution provider and supplier organizations.
"In about 10-15 years from now, we will be the industry, whether we're ready or not," Gordon said. "It's really important to start thinking about what we want the channel to look like, and what are the solutions we are going to be focused on selling to our clients as trusted advisors."
Year over year, attending channel-focused conferences and events and being among the youngest in attendance, often by a number of years, has made Justin Noller, regional channel manager of the New York and New Jersey regions for Intelisys, think about what the channel should be doing to recruit younger talent.
"There's not a lot of younger, up-and-coming leaders attending these events, but without bringing in the next generation of talent and bringing them up to speed, what is the channel going to look like?" Gordan said.
Many millennials, due to economic circumstances such as high student debt and entering the workforce around the time of the 2008 financial crisis, have been "glued" to jobs with a base salary -- one of the reasons why many are hesitant to jump into a sales role that might not come with the promise a consistent income, the advisory group's co-chairs said.
Starting their own solution provider business is an even scarier proposition for many younger professionals, said Jason Cutler, director of channel sales for Los Angeles-based Sada Systems, a born-in-the-cloud managed services provider.
"I see many millennials today restricting themselves and are tied to their salaries, and they don't want to take that risk to starting their own agency without support behind them," Cutler said.
One solution could be for distributors and master agencies to back millennial-led solution provider organizations with financing programs or specific sales resources that would allow these leaders to build up their books of business and grow their residual income without struggling financially in the meantime, the group's leaders said.
"For us in this group, we're eager to put together a launchpad to help young professionals be successful, and find success much faster so the channel can continue to evolve," said Michael Wolfington, director of Verizon business development for master agent Intelisys.
Nextgen Channel will have its first advisory council and networking event this week at the Channel Partners Expo in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The group's objective, Wolfington said, is to establish an emerging community for the future leaders of the channel and create a forum for building relationships with the business partners that these young professionals will have to lean on over the next 10-20 years.
"The path isn't clearly laid out right now [for millennials]," Gordan said. "We really need to dig in and understand the issues facing us so we can create opportunities and guidance."