Partner's Review of "Channel Partners Evolution" 2019 in Washington DC

Greetings fellow Channel Partners,

As many of you know I've been a channel partner providing ICT (information & communications technology) solutions to business end-users in one for or another since 1990 and we've I've been publishing partner & vendor best practice info since 1996.

Following are my thoughts & observations on this week's Channel Partners Evolution show produced by Informa in Washington DC. 

(Official Show Links: Site, Twitter)

*** Interesting People I've Met ***

Many tradeshows tend to be "vendor fests" where all you hear is elevator pitch after elevator pitch from super big vendors that you already know. My acid test of a tradeshow is how many people I meet who share a good idea that I'll try to act on after the show.

Following are the interesting folks I've met thus far along with some initial notes on what makes them interesting. We'll be inviting all of the following to sit for a future podcast so you can all determine if you think they're as interesting as I found them.

1. Andy Golebiowski & Brigid Golebiowski, President & Director Operation/Marketing at TeleNet Communications from Minnesota. Andy and Brigid have been independent partners for about six years and specialize in hosted VoIP phone systems. They have some solid top choices in A) hosted VoIP providers, B) master agents, and C) where to stay in Puerto Vallarta.

2. Brad Parnell, Senior Account Manager at IPpay from Florida. Turns out Brad has over 10 years experience in the payment processing industry. IPpay processes payments for over 15 years on the gateway they created and built, specializing in payment-not-present processing. I took a page and a half of notes from all the good ideas Brad put into my head that I'll be taking advantage of for several of my own businesses and websites. You'll have to wait for the podcast in the next week or so but here's a hint to the three top ideas: A) account updater, B) dynamic descriptor, C) KAZOOcom. 

3. Joe Regan, Senior Account Executive at MitoTec from Chicago. Joe shared that MitoTec is the only wholesale provider of ViaSat satellite internet. If you don't know, ViaSat is THE satellite internet provider for businesses that can't get 4G or landline internet. Sure there's HughesNet but HughesNet doesn't come close to offering the support of business networks (especially in the support of VPNs) that ViaSat does. If you're like me with lots of ViaSat invoices that you wish you could roll to a white-label situation - now you know who to call. Apparently MitoTec also has a rich background in fixed wireless which is another niche but super important service to always have available.

4. Linda Rosenhauch & Todd Baca, Northeast Sales and Key Accounts Manager at TeleDynamics from NYC. Linda shared that partners call on TeleDynamics when they need to source hosted VoIP phones but don't want to get them from the hosted VoIP provider for whatever reason. They sell phones to the hosted carriers, other phone providers such as Sotel Systems and they sell directly to agents on behalf of their customers. 

5. Seth Thompson, National Account Manager at TimePayment from Iowa. Seth is single-handedly re-inventing "Equipment for Service" (anybody remember when that was a big thing for Paetec?) and looking for partners who want to be the next Alex Rogers of Chartec. If you want to put together your very own Chartec or Paetec/EFS program or you just have a lot of customers all ready for a complete network upgrade where ALL the gear needs to be replaces before they can take advantage of UCaaS, CCaaS or anything requiring a clean network, Seth's ready to help!

6. Zack Ibanez, President of EZETECH from Florida. Zack's a Sonicwall expert & MSP from Florida who specializes in helping rehab, treatment centers & other verticals needing super HIPAA compliance to avoid being put out of business by your "friendly" HHS/OCR compliance auditors. I spent the longest time speaking with Zack because he had a lot a great ideas that partners intersted in "managed security" really need to hear as he's a "rubber meets the road" security specialist. We'll be interviewing him on our podcast soon! (This guy could easily do his own "Stickley on Security" bit for those of you who saw Jim Stickley do that 45-minute keynote at the Telarus Partner Summit in Denver this summer).

7. Laura Berstein, CEO & Co-Founder of CRA Telecom from Boston. I've known Laura for several years but was able to re-aquaint myself with CRA's very unique offering to channel partners & MSPs, mainly delivering an independent staff of order processors and project managers that enable partners & MSPs to turn over the job of managing the provisioning & installation process or new orders all the way through "review of the first invoice". It's every partner's worst nightmare to "hope" that the carrier doesn't mess up the order once it's signed. CRA Telecom is the answer for channel partners who are super OCD and/or control freaks (like me).

8. Matt Clark, President of MasterStream.  As most partners know, MasterStream powers the largest internet circuit retail quoting engine that many carriers, resellers & master agents count on to help a partner narrow a customer's search down to the best provider at the best price for any any retail internet circuit at any geographic location. Without access to such a tool it's impossible for a partner or a customer to know if they are missing out on some "unseen" provider with a better rate or better service for an internet connection. Most partners access this important tool exclusively through a master agent or MasterStream's mostly unknown "Drive" solution and end-user customers have no real access to any sort of similar tool. What I learned from Matt is MasterStream has in mind to "democratize" the internet circuit search process with their forthcoming tool BandwidthFinder.com. Their BandwidthFinder tool won't tell a customer or partner what the prices are but it will answer the the most important question which is, "Which providers touch any address?" such that a partner or customer will know which carriers to call to get the best price. This is big & will shift deal control to the hands of those who know how to use this new tool (assuming it works as advertised!)

9. Jay Morris, Senior Business Development at Wholesale Carrier Services/WCS. I've known Jay for a zillion years and it was good to catch up with him about his success at WCS since he returned there just under 2 years ago after working almost 5 years for a non-facilities based CLEC. For those of you who don't know Jay, he's kind of a "full solution visionary" in that he has a remarkable ability to understand the full spectrum of requirements for a multi-location business and then match any customer's unique needs to the perfect combination of products and services. When you look at Jay’s entire career, he has helped to develop and shape the Enterprise multi-location aggregation business model. He has worked for and helped several "all-in-one" carriers, and he's studied all the "all-in-one" carriers that he's not actually been employed by. I brought a very big multi-location end-user deal to one of the providers Jay worked for on Jay's specific recommendation, and after 4-years the end-user is very happy. Jay believes that everything he's learned in his long career of studying the best "all-in-one" carriers is now coming together at WCS. Personally I believe WCS has just one building block left that needs to be put in place to make them "the perfect all-in-one provider" - and they are very close to getting that last block in place. For multi-location, multi-carrier, single-pane-of-glass management opportunities, they are already 99.5% perfect. They've got some pretty serious secret sauce under their hood that if you don't know about...you really need to talk to Jay.

10. Rob KeresThad Schultz & Billy Sue Glover, Channel Chief, Sales Engineering & Channel Manager for Cogent. Cogent specializes in providing fiber internet & connectivity to 3200 "tall, shiny buildings" in 205 markets around the globe. They insisted they are "different" from other "lit building" providers in that their buildings are 100% lit from the basement to the roof. They also stated that even though they had 500 direct W-2 salespeople, their lit buildings are only 25% saturated and that successful partners like RDS out of NYC were doing very well representing Cogent using Cogent's published lit building maps.

11. Khali Henderson & Dylan Crawford, Senior partner & PM/Social Media Guru at Buzz Theory. The former editor-in-chief for ChannelPartners/Phone+, Khali knows everyone in the business and everyone knows her which positions her company BuzzTheory perfectly to provide outsourced marketing, event planning and public relations for any channel company.

12. Steven Chesser, President of VelociCom & Data Privacy Group. I met Steve on the way to the Telarus Spy party and we had a very interesting conversation about his two companies. Veloci provides video conferencing and other unified communication services while Data Privacy Group provides data security services to large enterprise companies engaging in international trading with a $10,000 

"gap analysis" starting engagement package. We spoke quite a bit about the problem that many security MSPs have hiring and retaining employees and how he's alleviated that problem by participating in getting IT staff through a 4-part security certificaion program where he then leases out highly training security staff to his enterprise clients.  

13. Dyna Meade & Eric Stark, Regional Sales and Channel Chief of ViaSat. We spoke about several items including their new VoIP over satellite hosted voice service (which actually works), whether or not their highly anticipated "Business Hotspot" WiFi solution would ever actually be released to the channel to sell to coffee shops, when and if they'd ever have a portable internet solution for people like me who own an RV and whether or not MitoTec is in fact ViaSat's "exclusive wholesale distributor" which MitoTec's website clearly states.

14. Chris Aikens, Kristy LynchCourtney Starnes & Jamaal Savwoir, Marketing Team & Sales Engineer for 8x8. I challenged the marketing team to help me understand the differences between RingCentral and 8x8 that business end-users would notice, understand and care about. They immediately pointed out that RingCentral's "unified communications" suite was not unified at all in that unlike 8x8's seemless transitions from IM (instant messaging) to voice call to video call to screen sharing, RingCentral's solution from their Glip IM tool to voice to the Zoom video conference & screen sharing app actually involves jumping between 3 different applications that definitely do not provide a seamless feel for the user. At some point during the conversation there was open speculation about what would happen if Zoom were to expand beyond just providing video collabloration and into unified communications to be a direct competitor of RingCentral.

15. Dewayne Chandler, Channel Manager for Warner Telecom. In speaking with Dewayne for five minutes I believe he told five different partners the same thing over & over, "No, we're not Time Warner Telecom". Warner Telecom ("We have no time!") is a wireline telecom expense management/TEM company that A) helps businesses with multiple phone bills go down to just one phone bill through their rebilling progtram, and B) audits all the phone bills they put under their cover "pass-thru" bill to save an average of 15% in exchange for a 5% surcharge on the entire spend. Assuming that's true, business clients of Warner Telecom then save a net 10% AND get the convenience of a single audited telco invoice. 

16. Barry Sergeant & Mark Gagnon, National & Regional Channel Manager, Intrado (formerly West). I learned that they still do tons of UCaaS and CCaas but also health & safety/911 service as well as "digital & data". They hoped that by rebranding to Intrado (a company they aquired) that partners and business customers will see them as more than just UCaaS and CCaas voi ce providers but also the company that helps clients "turn information into insight".

17. Matt Hiles, COO of Mosaic Networx. Turns out Mosaic is A) one of the few "all-in-one" providers who offers managed appliances like firewall, switch & SD-WAN B) allows the busines end-user customer direct access to the SD-WAN control panel (the VeloCloud Orchestrator), and C) Matt lives in Lake Elsinore, the same town I live it!

18. Stephanie Lamouroux & Cindy Minney, Partners at Focus in Tech. I met Stephanie & Cindy at the Telarus Partner Summit earlier this summer and then again at this event. Stephanie has been "channel partnering" for several years but Cindy is pretty new to the business. I asked if Cindy was up for joining a new "Sales Club" I'm thinking of forming for new channel partners and any channel partner that wanted to sell new services for the purpose of just teaming up with others to figure out how to get started selling. 

19. Evan McLean, Client Solution Consultant for CCH SureTax. Evan helps telecom resellers & carriers ensure they are tax compliant with their customer invoices. he states they only have one competitor in the industry which is Avalara. I asked if his company would be interested in doing some short educational webinars with partners to educate them about what was a legitimate telecom tax and what was a optional carrier surcharge. He said he'd need to check with their marketing person Mark Schlosberg and their tax expert David Rubenstein but he seemed to think it was. He added that they also had a referral program for any agents or partners who helped any carrier switch to their tax compliance service as 8x8 recently had done.

20. Evan Rice, VP Sales & Marketing for Rev.io. Formerly "H2O", Rev.io has one of the leading edge billing and customer management & portal software packages used by 160 telecom providers including Spectrotel. I'm intimately familiar with the Rev.io portal software because I spend half the day in it everyday managing a 30 location business client that uses Spectrotel. I can personally attest that the software is very robust, very helpful for my client management needs and my client likes it as well. Spectrotel like 45 of their clients uses the higher-end "Enterprise" level of the software. Rev.io has a referral program as well that rewards partners who help them secure new portal clients. 

21. Nancy Ridge, Principal, Ridge Innovative. Nancy is well known in the industry as being Executive Vice President of Telcom Brokers, a master agency based in Southern California for the past 14 years. Now heading her own firm, Nancy is focused on A) new technology sales for business clients, B) offering one-on-one private sales coaching for any VP or sales director, and C) promoting a new book she helped produce called, "How to Be a Woman in Technology (while Focusing on What Matters Most)" a book that I just ordered.

22. Patrick Oborn, Co-Founder of Telarus. I met Patrick in the late 90s when he was first learning the industry as the web-master for Kevin Anderson of Cognigen Networks. Even then he was certain he could "technologize a better wheel" and then did just that with their patented, real-time pricing tool "GeoQuote" software after starting Telarus with long-time friend Adam Edwards in 2002. At this show ai spoke at length with Patrick about what technologies would roll-out from the master agencies over the next year to enable partners to become even more efficient as well as how MasterStream's new BandwidthFinder.com either would or wouldn't alter the "balance of power/information" between vendor, partner & end-user.

23. Amanda Jardine, Jim Coucoulas & Mike Day, Marketing, Engineering & Sales for RingCentral. Amanda stated that RingCentral's main 2019 focus was reminding all partners of RingCentral's expertise in CCaaS/contact center solutions. I said, "your 'home-brew' CCaas solution for the low end of the market & your InContact resale CCaaS solution for the high end of the market, right?" To which she replied something to the effect, "We're making sure partner know that no provider does CCaaS better than RingCentral". I stated that my largest client uses RingCentral and the InContact CCaaS RingCentral/Resale solution and was very happy with it. I also stated that 8x8 was certain that they did many UCaaS features way better than RingCentral and that I hoped to publish what 8x8 thought they did better with hopes that RingCentral would be interested in agreeing or disputing 8x8's claims of superiority.

24. Denis Raue, VP Business Development of AppSmart. For those of you who saw the original Channel Partners Online post about AppSmart acquiring Telegration, the post left out any mention of what happened to Denis, Telegration's founder and I believe sole owner. Well I spoke with him and he's fine - but not retired - by his own decision. He's got a 4-year contract to work for AppSmart as the VP of Business Development and he's eager & interested to help AppSmart grow organically & through acquisition - maybe some of his agency owning peers at the Agent Alliance?

 

*** Show Networking Events (Parties) I Attended *** 

I met about 80% of the people mentioned above at one of the following networking (AKA party) events. Thanks to the master agents and vendor sponsors of the following events.

TBI Mixer Sponsored by MetTel at City Tap House - A smaller party but with engaged guests and very high-end bar food. The guests all seemed to know one another and did not seem overly interested in new people. After being checked in by a TBI staff employee (I think) I didn't have a single MetTel or TBI employee introduce themselves to me to see what I was interested in. I thought that was a bit odd.

Channel Partner's "First Timers" Mixer Sponsored by Verizon at The Dignitary - This was a pretty packed medium-sized party with actual real "first-time" attendees. This was the party to be at if you're looking for new, impressionable partners & MSPs.

Intelisys Party Sponsored by Many Vendors at The Capital View at 400 - This was a classic Intelisys large straight-up party. Everyone who wasn't at the MSP 501 dinner was at this party. Certainly the best "view" party. The great thing about Intelisys parties is that the highest channel executives at the largest vendors usually show up which is great for partners that need to say something to them after a couple of stiff drinks.

Cogent Mixer at Morris American Bar - A cozy affar in the club's upstairs balcony with super fancy drinks. Cogent execs were very friendly and eager to mingle.

Telarus Party Sponsored by ViaSat (and others) at the Spy Museum - This was by far the most eclectic and wide ranging party of the week as it started in the lobby of the museum but then spread over 3 floors. Guests were given a "vendor party card" to get stamped at 8 different vendor stations to qualify for a drone drawing. The vendor stations were among very interesting museum exhibits and on floors away from the main party so guests were able to actually hear themselves speaking to the vendors.

Avant Event Sponsored by Many at Penn Social - The final party of the show, this was one of the biggest parties and also the loudest with a DJ revving up the croud even though no one was dancing. Everyone was having plenty of fun playing the free arcade games and mixing it up at the end of two and a half hard days of conferencing. The party had the feel of a college kegger especially with the blue plastic Avant logo party cups.

Note: While I'm philosophically opposed to the master agents spending their vendor MDF/market development funds - the money vendors give to master agents to create more business dollars on alcohol, until such time as they start spending the money on something that leads to a higher return, I do show up and have a complimentary beverage.

 

 

*** Audio Podcast We're Trying to Do As a Result of Show Conversations ***

- Have WCS discuss how their Asterisk-based, Bicom switch, hosted VoIP platform compares to other "white label" type "buy/sell" opportunities like the Coredial platform and when partners are better off placing a deal with Coredial and/or WCS.

- Have Intelisys' new VP of marketing Amy Hartzer share what cool marketing initiatives Intelisys will be getting into now that Intelisys' former video star Andrew Pryfogel has "left the building"

- Ask RDS out of NYC to share how they position Cogent against Cogent competitors in high end NYC lit buildings

- Have Ryan Cunningham of ClearConnect share how he helps provide inbound "inside sales" solutions for partners selling the likes of ViaSat, Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, Vonage, RingCentral, Pax8 & others as suggested by Dyna Meade.

- Have Steven Chesser of Data Privacy Group and Zach Ibanez of EZETECH on a "hiring & retaining" security staff panel to discuss best practices.

- Have Light Networks share have Warner Telecom provides a wireline TEM solution that makes a difference for Light Networks' clients according to Dewayne Chandler.

- Have Avant's marketing & vision team Kristine Su, Joan Courtney & Alex Danyluk share how their boot camp training programs for partners are better and/or different than what partners have experienced over the past several years from Intelisys, Telarus and the other master agency "boot camps".

- Have practicing security practice partners discuss how they use KnowBe4.com & RapidFireTools.com

- Have Joe from Espita Mezcalaria (at 9th & N Street around the corner from the convention center) share tips on how to order tequila & mezcal from a fancy mexican restaurant in a sensible way

- Compare HIPAA security practice experts compare HIPAA Vault to other similar vendors

- How to convert analogue fax POTS lines to HIPAA compliant fax server

- Which firewall to HIPAA compliance MSPs prefer - Sonicwall, Fortigate or...?

 

 

*** Who Have You Met Who's Interesting at the CPE Show? ***

Please share with the audience the info about interesting people you've met at the CPE show in DC this week as a comment below.

 

 

*** More Info About IPpay ***

The following was emailed to me by Brad after the original post was published:

"We are fully integrated into well over 50+ billing softwares, already partnering with nearly 60% of the WISP/ISPs in the US, not counting those in Canada and internationally. Below is a little background on how IPpay got into the industry, and why we can deliver better pricing than our competition.

We started IPpay about 14 years ago as a solution for our peers in the industry. At the time, we were an ISP and wholesale VoIP provider that realized there were some limitations on VoIP deployment when considering credit card machines in retail environments. Like most things, as we peeled back the layers of the onion, we found untapped pricing advantages that were in place for both industries. The problem was most, if not all, the card processors had a cookie cutter solution they fed to the masses. In the process of that these industries were grouped into high risk cost categories and were not being properly identified. So, then IPpay came along and integrated us with the billing software vendors throughout the industry to deliver more appropriate pricing and some impressive concessions from the card associations. This was an accomplishment we succeeded by passing additional fields of information normally dropped by other processors or gateways when they send a transaction. We don’t have that problem as we control the transaction from start to finish. Other processors pass your information through a third-party gateway who often doesn’t cooperate or has different rules, so any extra information sent doesn’t make it through. Some of the benefits IPpay has to offer are:

Interchange Optimization-- interchange, generally the largest portion of the Merchant Discount Rate, represents the fees paid to the card-issuing banks in exchange for the service of underwriting and providing credit cards. IPpay evaluates processing methods, transaction mix, the nature of your business, and its payments acceptance environments to determine the best solutions for you.

Tokenization --Reduce the PCI compliance headaches by using our Encryption Service. No longer store card numbers locally, using IPpay’s gateway, processing works the same as before, only that card numbers are replaced with an encrypted value only known to IPpay.

Recurring Payments—IPpay’s Recurring Scheduler through our reporting site is perfect for bills or fees that occur on a regular basis. For example, monthly or quarterly subscription or membership fees can be processed systematically on a set schedule. To fully qualify recurring transactions, they need to be populated with the proper recurring information when an authorization is performed. We’ve completely automated this process.

Account Continuator----Cards that have expired, we can get new expiration dates and get the card authorized WITHOUT customer intervention.

Account Updater----Updated customer card numbers are retrieved from the issuer WITHOUT customer intervention.

Electronic Funds Transfer /ACH /Bank Draft --IPpay not only offers recurring billing with credit cards but also ACH or bank draft processing. Many of the features above are supported for ACH processing as well. ACH payments can be sent in the same batch file with credit card payments.

One Stop Shop – IPpay is familied with a group of companies. We can not only assist with processing your payments, but also with any of your hardware, services, or capital needs. Ask us how for we are happy to assist!

Month-to-Month agreement – we don’t paint you into a corner where you are stuck with us. When and while you’re here, you’re family, but for some reason you are unhappy or we aren’t holding up our end of the deal, we won’t hold you hostage.

I would love to show you and your team why so many already partner with us, how our team can handle the payment info migration, and how we can definitely put you and your company in a better place in regards to rates for payment processing, as well as with our reputation proceeding service and engineering."

Brad Parnell
Sr. Account Manager

tel: (561) 463-5941| cell: (318) 658-1500| eFax: (561) 295-4422

One of the ConVergence Technologies Family of Companies

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