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Mike Valentine On Why He Left Sophos, What’s Next And Why Vendor Channel IQ Is ‘Deteriorating’

Steven Burke

Mike Valentine, a perennial channel sales superstar known for building long-lasting partner relationships, says he is ‘itching to get back into it’ and urges solution providers to ‘get as smart as you can as fast as you can about everything.’

Trusted Adviser Role Of Partners Has Never Been More Critical

Channel sales superstar Mike Valentine said he made the decision to step aside as CRO of Sophos because of a change in direction at the security software powerhouse.

“The new direction of the company and the priorities were not my strong suit or what I was good at doing or what I wanted to do,” he told CRN. “Sophos was good to me, and I have been good to them. We had a good relationship and we made a smart business decision to part ways.”

Valentine said he is already in discussions with several security software providers and is looking forward to his next “channel adventure.”

In fact, he said the role of partners as “trusted advisers” has never been more critical.

“Everyone is saying it is all buy direct, it is just order through the marketplace, just call the manufacturer, ‘don’t worry about it,” he said. “In the small to medium enterprise down that is just not the case. Customers have got to have a trusted partner. They have to have somebody that understands the technology and implements it.”

Even with some security software vendors moving to a full-fledged cloud-based security as a service model, the role of partners is vital, said Valentine.

“Customers don’t want to do that security themselves,” he said. “That is where the partners come in. They can be that expert and understand what the service is and be that extra arm for the customer. If you are a smaller end user, you need to have a relationship with someone that is known and trusted. Why? Because it is security. You have to trust the people that are messing around with your security.”

Valentine led the channel charge that helped drive Sophos revenue from $300 million in total contract value in 2013 when he took the helm as senior vice president of sales to more than $1 billion when he left as CRO.

Valentine said he is looking forward to taking another role potentially as a CEO for a smaller security company or as vice president of worldwide operations for a larger company. He said his plan is to spend time with family, take a vacation break for the month of August in Hawaii and then return to the industry in a new position in September. “On Sept. 1, I’m coming back hard,” he said. “I’m looking forward to my next channel adventure.”

In the meantime, Valentine is going to be busy spending time with family. His son Nick is graduating from Texas Christian University’s Neely School of Business. His son Tony is entering his junior year at TCU’s Neely School of Business and his daughter, Bella, is going into her junior year at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications.

Valentine and his wife, Allison, are also preparing to move into a new home in Westlake, Texas, later this year.

 
Steven Burke

Steve Burke has been reporting on the technology industry and sales channel for over 30 years. He is passionate about the role of partners using technology to solve business problems and has spoken at conferences on channel sales issues. He can be reached at sburke@thechannelcompany.com.

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