Sometimes the hardest things to talk about are the obvious topics, the things that are on everybody’s mind and are the most critical things to be discussed. Such was the case at the recent Microsoft Worldwide Reseller Conference.
This has nothing to do with grand vision, financial resources, or the quality of Microsoft’s products or channel. It has everything to do with leadership and creating community.
The conference brought together the Microsoft Classic VARs, which sell products such as SQL Server and Windows NT, and used to attend its Fusion conference, and the Microsoft Business Solutions resellers, who used to attend Stampede. To a great degree, even though all were in New Orleans, they might as well have been in separate cities. In the scheduled five-hour opening session, top executives talked about everything except how these two groups relate to each other.
Perhaps Microsoft has acquired a genetic inability to recognize dollar amounts that do not have ten figures, and so can’t recognize MBS with its $576 million in annual revenue without special glasses. Perhaps people like CEO Steve Ballmer just don’t know what accounting software is or how its resellers operate.
But let’s not just lay this at the feet of the Microsoft top brass. MBS president Doug Burgum had the chance to be a public advocate for his channel. He didn’t try. He stuck to his habit of talking about lessons from historical figures—in this case, the Wright brothers. But this was the time for all to deviate from the usual and talk about the issues staring everyone in the face.
Running a company that sells through resellers requires talking about how what the vendor does helps those partners makes money. It’s the only issue that counts in the end.
There was a chance to put reseller concerns and profits at the fore. There was an opportunity for a community-building speech that went something like this:
“We know that Classic VARs and MBS VARs want to know about each other. We know that you may not be aware of the products that each other carry, what your skills are and how you do business. We are going to spend the next three days helping you understand each other. We will help you know each other’s strengths, and how Microsoft can make those stronger. We will work with you to improve the areas that need improvement and we will show you how you can partner together. We know that you have fears of being swallowed up in a large company. We assure you that your concerns will not be lost or ignored. We will outline products and programs that will help you. While we cannot accomplish everything overnight, we will remain aware of current issues and watch for developing problems. We will inform you of our progress in solving them and will let you know about solutions as soon as possible.”
It must have been too obvious.
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