Let me ask you a question: what kind of company are you?

Are you a VAR? A systems or solutions integrator? Maybe you’re an MSP or even a cloud services provider. Some organizations now call themselves “digital services providers.” Why not? It’s a big world out there.

But what about you?

You can approach this question from many angles. You can delineate yourself by the customers you serve, or the industry you target. You can also distinguish yourself by the expertise you have in a specific technology category or business function. You have options, in other words.

Like a wine label, however, these appellations are ones you put on yourself. But the ones I want to discuss herein are the ones others put on you.

Are you slow-moving or agile? Are you progressive, traditional or unconventional?

Customers and vendors want to know. Unless you market yourself specifically, someone else may label you as they see fit—for both good and bad reasons. (A satisfied customer may want to sing your praises; a rival might want to take you down a peg.)

Google’s Jim Chow, head of Global Systems Integrator Strategic Partnerships, has a unique perspective. When he looks at channel companies today, he sees four archetypes. There’s “No Go Joe,” “Slowroll Sally,” “Teachable Tina,” and “Rocketship Rob.”

 

Jim Chow, Google

Here are the descriptions.

 

No Go Joe

“No Go Joe” is a classic VAR or IT integrator that relies on hardware sales and has no intention of shifting to cloud or even managed services. He or she has 50-100 customers who are just fine with on-premise equipment and applications. No Go Joe is well into his 50s if not 60s and knows the vast majority of customers personally. He or she probably closed the first sale with each.

From a customer satisfaction point of view, No Go Joe’s customers would rate their trusted advisor as an “8” or “9” out of 10. They look to No Go Joe for basic connectivity, back up, security and Office-like capabilities. They have one or two apps that power their business and they remain loyal as long as No Go Joe and his or her team of technicians deliver uptime and block malware.

From a business standpoint, No Go Joe is concerned about falling margins on hardware, changing rebates from key vendors and tumult within his or her customers that are well beyond his or her control.

The key thing about No Go Joe is this: He or she has been told time and again that the business must change. But No Go Joe has decided that change is not for him.

Slowroll Sally

You know Sally; she is a fixture at events. She’s well known and participates in peer groups and VAR communities. She understands her business and knows her customers personally; they like and trust her. But she sees market upheaval; some peer companies are making acquisitions or selling out themselves.

As for Slowroll Sally, her customer count is down from its all-time high. At first that didn't bother her because she was doing more with longstanding customers that kept asking for new things. But now some of these are buying apps directly from SaaS vendors, and they aren’t including her in conversations about security, regulatory compliance or privacy.

Slowroll Sally understands she needs to change. But there’s never enough time to sit down with her core team and business advisors to put a real strategy together.

Influence, he or she feels, is slipping, but what to do about it remains unanswered.

Teachable Tina

From out of nowhere, here comes Tina. He or she is at events and even speaks on panels. Tina has read the studies, done a tour of duty or two on vendor-and-industry advisory groups, and knows that he or she must change. Moreover, she is ready to make a transition.

Teachable Tina has brought on new vendors. She’s pursued and landed new customers. She’s also developed new business models, including recurring revenue streams, which account for one-third or more of her (or his) business.

What is more, Teachable Tina now generates 40 percent of business from activities that didn’t exist just 36 months ago. She’s delivering cloud services, dabbling in AI and the IoT. And she has more inquiries than she (or he) can handle.

What’s holding Teachable Tina back? Half her staff are “Certified Engineers” of some stripe who want to sell and manage boxes. Only a portion of her business is telecom. And only a small percent of her salespeople talk to customers in business terms.

Tina needs vendor and distributor help, in other words. She needs more meaningful readiness programs, new marketing ideas and, most of all, rewards programs that align with her (or his) business model.

Rocketship Rob

Let’s face it: Rob is cool. He or she has a book of business built around line of business buyers. His competition is scant and his phone (okay, email) doesn’t “stop ringing.”

Rob is growing like gangbusters—so much so that he is hiring the first people that reach him with the right paper qualifications.

But this leaves him with no time to build a cohesive company culture or a defined business strategy. When customers ask, “can you build/deliver/integrate/protect/transform this?,” the answer is always “yes.”

But Rocketship Rob doesn’t see problems. He only sees upside. And who could blame he or she? Sales are up 30 percent over last year. And there’s no reason to believe that they won’t continue to grow even more this year.

Which Brings Me to You

Truth be told, I know CEOs of each of these companies. And so does Chow. He talks to them every day. Each has opportunities and challenges. But their fates, Chow believes, are different.

This is based on technology evolution, shifts in buying habits and market opportunities.

Are the above descriptors stereotypes? Sure. But they are also starting points for discussions where you work.

Again, I ask: what kind of company are you? And what kind do you aim to be?