If the whole is to be more than the sum of its parts in the case of Synnex’s Varnex reseller community, then the whole needs to become more cohesive. That was the assessment of Synnex CEO Kevin Murai at the community’s spring conference this week in Orlando. He suggested to attendees that the community needs to be more than a collection of solution providers that do some work together; it needs to become “known as an entity.”
For Murai, it’s the single most important thing that needs to happen for the community to become more valuable to members, to its host distributor, and to the vendor sponsors who ultimately pay the freight.
“We have more than 300 VARs in this community, and we co-operate well together, but we need to do more and more of that,” Murai said.
While Varnex is following its own path, it’s easy to draw comparisons to other distributor-hosted reseller communities at similar points in their development. Varnex has grown to a scale where it’s large enough to capture the attention of the vendor community, and has developed its own culture, feel, and traditions. Traditionally, this is the point at which the host distributor is able to take a step or two back, and cede more of the direction of the community to the community itself. There are signs that is happening, as Varnex has built a strong advisory council in both the U.S. and Canada, and Murai highlighted their role in the evolution of Varnex. Witness also the fact that Synnex has removed its own branding and logo from the Varnex community logo. While the distributor continues to host and guide the community, Murai said it’s time for Varnex to become known as an entity on its own, apart from its host.
“We need more interaction,” Murai told attendees, and the group is starting to build out the mechanisms for those interactions. Steve Jow, Synnex’s senior vice president of U.S. sales, outlined some of those mechanisms. The Varnex community has begun to create its own focus or special interest groups, with sub communities for services already on the go, and a public sector-focused subgroup on the launch pad. Jow said Synnex is looking for additional focus group areas of interest, and quite a few ideas – including subsets for managed print and a number of different verticals – were bandied about in the hallways and meeting rooms in Orlando.
Murai suggested that while national-level council and interest-specific sub-groups are great, that he’d like to see regional sub-groups develop and start building their own feel “to keep things going between conferences.” Such a model has certainly worked well for the Ingram Micro-backed VentureTech Network, which combines North America-wide events with smaller regional gatherings to build both the broader and narrower communities.
Jow also outlined the developing Varnex University program, which launched earlier this year with a “Sales 101”-level program for members’ junior salespeople. The program picks up again in June, and already there are plans in the work for more advanced sales training, and education around human resources and business leadership. A little further out, and there are discussions of delivering vendor-specific technical training through Varnex University, and perhaps more advanced training in a variety of disciplines – a Varnex Post-Grad, as it were.
Behind that, Murai suggested Synnex’s role continues to be the enabler of the community, something at which he said he would give his company good marks, but offered the caveat that “we need to think forward and enable more.”
Underlying Murai’s message was the need to continue to evolve the community, and to build value for all of the group’s constituents. It is, after all, in a competitive marketplace with finite vendor dollars to support communities, and finite number of top-flight members. The group has become close and familiar, and has developed its own personality, which is very important. But Murai seemed to warn against any of the parties of the community becoming too complacent with the status quo.
“I don’t want to be a me-too,” Murai challenged Varnex members. “There are other SMB-focused VAR communities in the marketplace that we all compete with, and we really need to figure out collectively how to take Varnex to the next level.”