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Ingram Micro’s Community Spirit: Partner Collaboration Is Key

Joseph F. Kovar

Ingram Micro partners are turning to the distributor’s community groups for guidance from their peers as they grapple with the “new channel normal.”

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As solution providers grapple to come to terms with the “new channel normal” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some Ingram Micro partners are turning to the distributor’s community groups for guidance from their peers.

Discussions about post-COVID workplace culture will be front and center at upcoming events, said Darren Gottesmann, executive director of SMB sales and partner communities.

“How to manage new employees, how to manage the expectations of someone coming into the workforce today when all they know is a post-COVID world or a virtual or hybrid world, these are new conversations for someone who’s been in business for 30 years,” he said. “So now the folks that have the most experience in some cases have the least experience.”

[RELATED: Gaining The Xvantage: Ingram Micro Brings Big Data To Partners]

Ingram Micro’s SMB Alliance and Trust X Alliance in June held their first in-person meetings since the start of the pandemic, Gottesmann said.

Both communities are now discussing post-COVID activities and plan to hold in-person meetings at upcoming Ingram Micro events, including Ingram Micro ONE this November in Orlando, Fla., and Ingram Micro Cloud Summit next May in Las Vegas. The communities will also hold virtual conversations, he said.

The SMB Alliance is a U.S.-based community of 300 partners, vendors and Ingram Micro employees focused on SMB customers, Gottesmann said.

The Trust X Alliance, meanwhile, brings together over 200 U.S. and almost 100 Canadian solution providers focused on midmarket and enterprise customers, he said.

Members of both communities get together to talk about ideas and business practices, as well as support their peers’ customers, Gottesmann said. The Trust X Alliance goes deeper with its Mastermind program, where partners meet in small groups behind closed doors to share everything there is to know about their business, he said.

The spirit of both communities comes from partner collaboration, Gottesmann said. For instance, a partner with a certain specialization can support a peer who needs specific help, he said. But despite helping each other with customer opportunities, there have been no cases where one partner took advantage of that collaboration to steal a customer, Gottesmann said.

“There’s a code of ethics,” he said. “There’s a process. There are a lot of safeguards and guardrails that make certain it doesn’t happen.” Members are expected to provide active information, feedback, experience and insight to their community peers, Gottesmann said.

“Our first criteria when we’re looking at both communities is are these individuals that want to give back to other members, to other people, to other business owners, to other technologists to make certain that they teach what they’ve learned and learn what other folks are ready to teach,” he said.

Philanthropy is also important to the communities. The SMB Alliance, for instance, is a big supporter of Kaely’s Kindness Foundation, which was started by an Ingram Micro associate who as a young girl was diagnosed with cancer but found support with the help of another young girl in the same situation, said Kelly Sander, director of Ingram Micro’s SMB sales.

“She was able to find a friend that had gone through it, [could] share the experience with,” Sander said. “And through that friendship she has beaten her cancer.”

Peer support is a key reason why SCO Cloud is a member of the SMB Alliance, said Deepak Thadani, president and CEO of the Armonk, N.Y.-based MSP.

“When I talk with other community members, we really get to know them and what they do,” Thadani said. “If I need help in Indiana or California, I know who to call. And if a partner doesn’t know who to call, they can reach out to Ingram Micro, who will reach out to the community. I feel sorry for partners not in the SMB Alliance. They are missing out on some really valuable intel.”

Devaughn Bittle, vice president of SMB Alliance member CommPutercations, said the Frederick, Md.-based MSP finds a lot of opportunity to collaborate with peers and share information.

“We’re always talking issues,” he said. “‘Have you heard this? Have you seen that?’ We put a lot of value on those conversations.”

Hans Mize, president of Data41, an Irvine, Calif.-based MSP, said as a member of the Trust X Alliance he has found a lot of value with his Mastermind group, which includes nine members, mainly solution provider CEOs and founders.

“We share ideas and business plans,” he said. “We can talk with others who have similar experiences.”

Joseph F. Kovar

Joseph F. Kovar is a senior editor and reporter for the storage and the non-tech-focused channel beats for CRN. He keeps readers abreast of the latest issues related to such areas as data life-cycle, business continuity and disaster recovery, and data centers, along with related services and software, while highlighting some of the key trends that impact the IT channel overall. He can be reached at jkovar@thechannelcompany.com.

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