Years ago, when solution providers turned their calendars to September, many were thinking hard about the best ways to finish their third quarter sales strong. What could they do to finally close that big new deal or land a major managed services contract? Was there a value add or other incentive that would get them to sign on the bottom line?
That should still be the case in 2016. Most every for-profit company wants a strong finish and may depend on those revenues to build for the future. The difference today is that the owners, CEOs, presidents and other top IT business leaders have to shift more of those daily responsibilities to their operations people. They still track progress (or lack thereof) and offer guidance when needed, but for the most part they have to spend more of their time looking ahead. No longer can an IT business finish the year strong and have the leadership team sit back and say “what’s next?”
January 1st is no longer a reset date. Strategic planning is a 365-day event today and it is the primary role of the top organizational leader. As Geico’s commercials have reinforced for so many years “…it’s what they do.” And September (as well as October, November and December) is perhaps the most crucial time for their management teams to shine. This is when sales and marketing leaders double their efforts to find and close the best leads, and work with their customer services counterparts to ensure long-term client success.
While those team leaders labor away on a strong 2016 finish, September is the perfect time for IT business owners to really focus their attention on 2017 and beyond. Next year’s plans should already be in place or getting pretty close to completion, and their companies’ 3 to 5-year strategies ought to be taking shape. That’s how successful businesses operate today.
Whether the organization has three employees or 3000, someone has to be focused on the future. Not just tomorrow or next week, but years down the road. In the IT services space, that typically involves rounding out portfolios, expanding into new markets or simply evolving the business model to better service customers and other key stakeholders.
Most solution providers readily admit that their strategic planning skills need work. The bigger problem for many IT business leaders is setting aside the time to perform research, assess their companies’ strengths and weaknesses and really work on the business (instead of in the business). The vast majority of solution providers are techs at heart, meaning they would rather be working the help desk or configuring systems for their clients. If fact, you may find them there performing those activities if they’ve had a tough day managing other aspects of the business. Technology truly is the comfort zone for many providers.
Moving the Needle
September is the perfect time to change those habits. With more than three months left in the calendar year, solution providers can still build a formidable plan for 2017…and beyond. Dedicate your New Year’s resolutions to personal development and family activities, not rehashing for the umpteenth time how you’ll do a better job building your business in the months ahead.
Those who continually develop and adjust their strategies know it’s not hard. It just takes time and dedication to the process. Of course, it helps to have access to training and IT business improvement resources like those CompTIA provides. The availability of channel specific research and peer developed tools to assist solution providers in their strategic planning efforts are all member benefits, as are the business-oriented webinars and on-demand courses. It’s not easy running an IT services firm, but CompTIA and its member-lead communities are continually looking for new ways to lend a hand.
With the proper research and a good understanding of your current and potential capabilities, the opportunities should be easy to map out. For example, if the firm has a successful track record with regional banks and/or credit unions, building out that vertical specialization may make the most sense. Adding a BDR solution or advanced security services, including forensics and pen (penetration) testing could be other opportunities worth pursuing, depending on your clients’ needs and your abilities ̶ or to partner with others with those qualifications.
Whether you hope to build out solutions sets or strengthen your bottom line, September is a great time for owners and managers to get down to business. Not just on next week’s plans, but for months, if not years to come. What are you waiting for?
Brian Sherman is Chief Content Officer at GetChanneled, a channel business development and marketing firm. He served previously as chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@getchanneled.com