Scenes From VentureTech Network Spring Invitational

VentureTech Spring Invitational

Ingram Micro held its VentureTech Network Spring Invitational in Hollywood, Fla., last week, drawing in hundreds of VARs and dozens of vendors to talk about the latest business and technology trends. John Fago, senior director of channel marketing at Ingram Micro North America, said VTN is looking to expand its roster with partners that specialize in areas such as blackberry application and point-of-sale solutions. "We're not just letting recruits in, we're looking to bring in the right members for the right reasons," Fago said.


Greg Starr, partner and COO of I.T. Works, left, and JoeAnne Hardy, president of WBM Systems, right, addressed the crowd as co-presidents of the VTN Advisory Council before kicking off a Q&A with Ingram Micro CEO Greg Spierkel, center.

Personal Success

Darren Hardy, publisher of Success magazine, kicked off the conference with a keynote address on personal achievement, where he offered examples of how other CEOs and entrepreneurs grew their business.

HP's Market Opportunity

Frank Rauch, vice president of enterprise servers, storage and networking channel sales at Hewlett-Packard, told the crowd that HP ships 3 PCs every second, two printers every second and a server every nine seconds. He added there's still significant opportunity for the vendor in the small and midsize business markets.

"We cover about $800 billion of the $1.3 trillion total addressable market. If we could cover that other $500 billion, that would mean about a $50 billion opportunity for us and for you in the room. That would all be channel opportunity," Rauch said.

Financial Best Practices

David Reid, CEO of Epic Information Solutions presented a list of 10 financial best practices that should help solution providers improve their business, balance sheet and profitability. For example, VARs should avoid using operating capital to acquire capital assets, he said.

Reid said he learned this lesson the hard way after buying some partners out in 1998 using surplus cash. "Do you remember what happened in 1999, 2000, 2001? It was a little tough. I was a little young in my biz savyiness. I didn't set that [dot-com meltdown] coming. The next thing you know I was not paying myself, only paying employees," he said.

In the Cloud

Justin Crotty, vice president of services sales at Ingram Micro, North America, said solution providers need to embrace now before customers start asking questions you can't answer. Cloud computing won't overwhelm a VAR's business now but it will increase over the next 12 to 18 months, he said.

"There's a value proposition to be built. There's margin in complexity, and complexity is going to be massive with all these thousands of ISVs and tech deliverers. Getting all that to work together is going to be a problem. It's real; it's relevant; it's accelerating. It's going to be significant in a short period of time."

Data Center Update

Frank Palumbo, vice president of U.S./Canada data center sales at Cisco Systems, talked about the role of the network as collaboration and virtualization continue to emerge.

"Things are changing very quickly. People look at the data center as more of a central depository, even at home, for pictures, music and centralized data. SMB has the same challenges. The market is going that way and all those things you're hearing about have to be addressed in a meaningful way," Palumbo said.

Cookin' Up Peer-To-Peer Recipes

Ingram Micro has launched a series of peer-to-peer advisory groups for C-level members of its VentureTech Network members to help each other learn how to improve their businesses.

The Mastermind Groups will be comprised of 10 to 12 members and meet four times per year, twice at VentureTech's Invitational conferences and twice in between, said John Fago, senior director of channel marketing at Ingram Micro at the VTN Invitational in Hollywood, Fla.

During a general session, Larry Hedin, vice president of sales and marketing at Heartland Technology Solutions (left) and Jim Veraldi, executive vice president at Micro Strategies Inc., (right) explained the "recipe" for the Mastermind philosophy, while Ingram Micro's Fago, Ryan Grant and Kirk Robinson watched closely.

Incentive Support

Ingram Micro has launched an incentive support program for its VentureTech Network members. The program will help solution providers track any money they might not be claiming through various vendor rebate programs.

The program was piloted with Hewlett-Packard and Ingram Micro expects to add many other vendors, according to Ryan Grant, director of channel marketing at Ingram Micro.

"We've heard for years that there are too many programs [from vendors] and VARs struggle with them. Salespeople are spending a lot of time to do it themselves. They're going through the program and trying to find the dollars and doing the claiming," Grant said at Ingram Micro's VTN Spring Invitational in Hollywood, Fla. "Programs change every quarter and it's nearly impossible to manage all those programs and understand where all the dollars are at."

Closing the Big Apple?

Solution providers Rob Bracey of Quartet Services and Alan McDonald of AllConnected took some time to rib VentureTech's Big Apple Chapter, which has won the chapter of the year award the last two years. The two ran a video showing what the other chapters thought of their New York brethren. In the video, solution providers are shown spitting out pieces of apple, hitting an apple with a baseball bat and golf club and running the fruit over in a car.

Afterwards, they asked the chapter presidents to "hug it out" with the Big Apple members.

Business Intelligence

Kirk Robinson, vice president of channel marketing at Ingram Micro, explained Ingram Micro's pilot of an an end-user lead generation tool that it plans to integrate into its recently announced business intelligence portal initiative, in essence providing VARs with a tool to manage multiple vendors' leads and then the ability to analyze those leads all the way through.

IBM And Friends

IBM's Harris M. Warsaw, vice president, general business, for IBM Americas, (standing at left), conducted a panel with three VentureTech VARs, (sitting from the left), John DeRocker, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Nexus Information Systems; Soo-Tsong Lim, president of Unistar-Sparco Computers; and Ben Rule, general manager of InfoLink Technologies, to talk about the "Decade of Smart," where more technology devices will communicate with each other.

Best Practices

Nagwa Koress, a president of Integra Networks, presented a general session on virtual desktop solutions, part of VentureTech's strategy to have solution providers speak to their peers on best practices in running their day-to-day businesses.

Microsoft Eyes SMBs

Jenni Flinders, vice president of partner business development and sales at Microsoft, said her company wants to work more closely with VARs in 2010 to reach the SMB market.