Hindsight is 20/20, they say.
If this holds true, and we think it does—then interviewing B2B IT Pros about the lessons they've learned in their careers is a worthwhile query.
We sat down for brief one-on-one chats with value-added resellers, MSPs, independent software vendors, and a few vendor execs to talk shop. We spoke about a handful of things, but the most important question we asked was:
"If you were to restart your business tomorrow, with all of the knowledge you have today—what would you do differently?"
The first conversation was with Tony Schultz, President of Bar Code Integrators.
"There is one thing I would do different and that would be be more aggressive with growth. But the concept of the company, how we started, why we started that would be the same. It's about success in terms of being more aggressive with your life for what it is growing the sales team, engineering support, etc."
We then caught up with Ed Kennedy, President at Procensis, an organization focused on mobility solutions. Ed had a unique take on hiring and training for optimized collaboration and understanding:
"Absolutely. I think this is an unprecedented time these days that we actually have five generations in the workforce, everything from the Gen Z all the way up to traditionalist. So, if anything that I would do differently, I would probably have the management team that I would hire. I'd probably go through a lot of maybe seminars and understanding how each generation works with each other to understand that maybe what one person is saying isn't really offensive, you know, versus someone else's who thinks it's offensive so, so and move right into culture."
Benjamin Leviton, Director of Business Development at Acadia POS spoke about implementing channel strategies sooner—but also acknowledged the importance of learning hard lessons:
"You know, I'm sure there would be. But the thing about the lessons that we've learned over the years is they've been so valuable, right? So like we learn so much by making so some mistakes. And, you know, I don't know if I would do things differently, but I maybe, you know, focused on the channel sooner."
Ben Williams of Touchmate, a company focused on providing self-service solutions, spoke about the struggle related to taking over and re-shaping an existing organization:
"You know, I've been incredibly lucky in that I had a partner that I had known for a number of years in Australia from it, from a different association, and this was a business that had actually failed and we restarted it. Probably what I would do differently is—it actually is easier to start up a fresh business than it is to rescue one that's in deep trouble.
We basically became a startup all over again. So I think starting from Fresh is really the way to do it.
In reality, everybody that was working at the company did not survive. We had to literally start over because they weren't the right people. And today, especially hiring the right people is the main attribute that you have to go for. Lots of technology, a lot of good things out there, but people make the difference."
Gary Hardesty, President of Barcode Depot, spoke about the importance of being open to collaboration and partnership:
"I think my number one thing would be to create more partnerships, and work with other people. I kept too many things close to the vest, and I should have had more partnerships. But when I started 28 years ago, there were no BlueStar's, or I hadn't, you know, really developed a relationship with the BlueStar.
Now, it's much easier to do that. But back then, it was much more difficult."
Alexander Mackenzie of Miami Scan Technologies, a warehouse technology-focused organization, spoke about how he might think about infrastructure investment and personnel strategy to take advantage of the vast opportunities in the space:
"Well, I probably will hire more people and get a bigger office or buy an office instead of renting in the beginning. But there are so many opportunities in this market that it's virtually five multiple people. I mean, you could hire a thousand [people], and you still have more opportunities than you can count."
Having collected some great insight from veterans of the IT channel on the solution provider side, we turned the camera on some well-known figures on the OEM/Manufacturer side, but we instead posted one of two questions:
"What is the best piece of advice you've gotten in your career?"
Jim Roddy, President and CEO of the Retail Solution Providers Association, had a great recommendation for those looking to make rivals of their idols:
"[This piece of advice] Came from not the business world. But it's getting better every day. I learned that from coaches. You know, they would talk about it from an athletic standpoint when I was a coach, that's what I would teach folks. But you do realize if you're in this for the long haul, if you get better every single day, you're going to start moving past those folks who you look at and you say, man, they're way smarter than I am.
And they have way more competence and way more knowledge. But if you work every single day, you're going to be able to catch up and be in their realm. And then you'll be able to pass the people who are putting in that effort every single day."
Christopher Naasz, Global Director of Business Development at Star Micronics shared a true nugget of wisdom, especially for the sellers in our industry:
"I think the best piece of advice I had was if you don't ask the question, the answer is always no. You know, and don't never assume that your customer is going to say no. Just ask the question. Be ready for the answer. You know for sure. But as a question and, you know, be polite and be open. And I think the best advice I over God and actually I deliver that to my team as well because they always go, I know someone's going to say no. Ask the question first and then come back to me. It's great."
"What is one daily or weekly habit that contributes to your success?"
Finally, we asked Elo's Chief Marketing Officer, John Lamb to share one professional habit that sets him up for success:
"I block out lunch. I get that hour of downtime so that I'm not just going. I don't like going, needing to meeting. And I also have to make sure I have time to actually do the stuff I need to do. But mentally, you have to have that break right in the middle of the day. It makes you fresher for the rest of the day as the day goes on."