Go ahead and break it… Perspectives on building a Channel in K12

Whoever said “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” was probably not talking about their VAR Channel.   What if you could take an existing Reseller Channel, break it, and make it better?

A couple of years ago, I inherited a Channel that was doing about $4M in annual sales.  Not bad for a first year start up, except for the fact that more that half of that revenue was coming from only two Resellers.

In looking at this company’s Channel there was no real Program.  There were different margins, different contracts, no accountability; you know the drill.  So I knew I had to scrap the current model and rebuild it if this company was going to survive with a Reseller model.

The deeper I got into the model, the more I knew, that I needed to start from scratch.  I needed a different type of Partner with a different skill set.   I needed to construct a totally new Channel Program.

I cancelled all of the existing contracts, and extended the new contract to only two of the current Partners.   Keep the two that are doing the sales, and cancel everybody else, right?    No, that would have been too easy.

The two Partners that were collectively doing  $2.5 M in revenue didn’t fit the new model that I was introducing. At the heart of my new program was exclusivity, and neither of my big players was willing to give up their competitive lines.   In addition, it didn’t help that one of the Partners I was about to cancel was a high visibility national company that any start-up would have given their right arm to have in their Channel.   Career defining move?  You bet it was.

Management and the Board backed my decision, but I knew that if this didn’t work it would cost me my job, and the company more than heart burn, if not their future.   Within three months, I rolled out an entirely new Channel Program.   We now had one contract, one margin structure, new reporting requirements, and a sales certification program. The company is no longer a start-up and has grown from that little $4M firm to over $200M in Channel sales. They have made modifications over the last few years to this model, but the structure is basically the same.

So, the moral to my story is, don’t be afraid to take risks.  Sure you’ll have lots of sleepless nights, and sure everyone around you will question your sanity, but if you’ve done your homework, and you believe in your heart of hearts that this is the right thing to do, then go for it.  There is no greater satisfaction than to look back and say, “ I did good”.

Debbie Yasenka

is a veteran K12 advisor with Engaged Learning Solutions,
actively working with several of Sensible City’s top clients.

She can be reached at: dyasenka -(at)- gmail.com