Avalara Promises Partners More Service Work Amid Program Investment
Wade Tyler Millward
‘This year, it has been my passion and my mission to make sure that we are telling that story of how Avalara was founded, that we are a partner-first business. ... And I need everybody at Avalara to understand the importance of partners and the role that they play in our business—to make sure that they treat them like they treat our customers,’ Meg Higgins, Avalara’s channel chief, tells CRN.
What should partners know about you?
I’ve been at Avalara awhile now. And I’ve had a few different roles and more different hats since joining the company.
And back in March, they had actually asked me to expand my remit. I was leading our business development organization—so all commercial negotiations, partner acquisition, really tip-of-the-spear activity has been my remit since January of ’22.
And then in March of this year, they asked me to also lead strategy for our partner organization … Really helping to define our new partner program, lead the team to reimagine this business. Focus on some of the efficiencies around how we can think a little bit differently around all of the different activities around the business.
And then readjust our coverage model, our team. … I feel like I’ve been doing the job since March, but then officially in the role as of July 17. … So they basically gave me the keys, but I’ve been sitting in the front seat with my hands on the wheels for the last couple of months anyway.
What should Avalara partners be excited about for the future?
What I love about Avalara and our strategy has always been the foundation around partner. We call it our moat here.
But it is so unique, and it’s such a source of passion and energy that we have in this company—that partners are really at the center of everything that we do.
And candidly, over the last few years, we had a lot of change in leadership. Once we went [public], we were on a rocket ship of growth. And to some degree, we lost our way on that core mission a bit.
And so it’s always been central, but I think it wasn’t rooted in everybody’s KPIs. Everybody at Avalara is now coming back to our grass roots of where we started.
This year, it has been my passion and my mission to make sure that we are telling that story of how Avalara was founded, that we are a partner-first business.
We love our partners. I love our partners. And I need everybody at Avalara to understand the importance of partner and the role that they play in our business—to make sure that they treat them like they treat our customers. … They all go hand in hand.
And so in the short term, I want partners to know that partners are so important to us and that everybody in Avalara is going to be wearing that partner badge, not just the partner organization. We live it every day. But everyone that touches partner and has a role in the partner experience is getting this message consistently.
And we will start to change the KPIs of the entire organization. If you have any role in the partner experience, you’re going to be measured on that and you’re going to be really accountable to make sure that you treat the partner in the most optimal way.
That you’re always supporting the partner, you’re thinking about the partner. Little things like go-live tickets, or we’ll have support tickets, and we’re just changing even the talk track.
So every agent now has to say, ‘Who’s your partner?’ We got away from that a little bit. And so now it’s like, everybody has to say, ‘Who is your partner, and how can I make sure that your partner understands that you might also have a problem?’ And let’s bring the partner in.
This is a data point that I show all the time—at least 80 percent of our customers are also partner customers because they leverage the partner integrations.
If you’re dealing with a customer problem, it’s also the partner’s customers. So make them aware. See if they want to get involved. … Forward looking, that’ll just become a cultural shift. It takes awhile to get everybody on the cultural shift. Somebody said [to me], ‘What’s your chapter going to be at Avalara?’
My chapter is going to be titled, ‘How we reimagined the partner business.’ And so that is the chapter that I intend to be able to say I did that or at least I led that with the help of a lot of people. … And we are launching this big partner program.
This is not our first attempt. Avalara has done this in the past. And we have standardization around our models. But we’ve got a real opportunity to think differently about how we structure our partner program and refresh a lot of the things that have become a little dated. And also really re-energize our partner experience here.