A bunch of people who lost jobs or who struggled to make sales might not agree that 2003 was very rewarding. But for many resellers, it was a very good, sometimes exceptional year.

No, these are not people who were deluded. These were people who slashed staffs, had trouble getting new sales, wondered about the impact of the severe consolidation of the market—and made more money.

Certainly, there are many smaller firms that exited the market. But many retooled. The winners were those who got their revenue in line with their expenses. So what if it was dreary not growing the top line and cutting people’s jobs at the end of the year? More than one VAR reported that it had its most profitable year ever.

The year 2003 helped cure a lot of ills that had been covered up by the excesses. The boom in the late 1990s painted over a lot of bad businesses practices. Then, people didn’t need to run their businesses as good businesses to survive while the bubble was bubbling.

Now, the market appears to be turning up again, driven by pent-up demand and by resellers who must market and sell, instead of just waiting for business to come to them. To their surprise, relearning how to market and sell itself helps firms improve their top lines. CRM is helping, too, although that market is still in the early stages of its take off.

And these firms found that when they focus, that when they pay attention to expenses, that when they have a plan for what they are doing, that they can get a better return.

Growth, of course, is more fun. But there’s danger here. As one VAR pointed out, how rapidly should a firm hire more consultants who take a long time to get up to speed? How quickly to ramp up marketing?

Ah, those are the questions business people get paid to lose sleep over. While there are different things to worry over in 2004, it looks like how to respond to growth will be an issue for a lot more people. And that’s a lot more fun.

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