During the early days of most small businesses, technology is relatively easy to manage. In fact, many small home businesses actually begin with consumer computers, printers, and basic networking equipment.
However, as your business grows, it will become increasingly clear that the laptop you bought at the office supply store a few years ago is no longer enough for managing everything that you need and want to do. You need more sophisticated equipment that is powerful, secure, and able to grow with your business. But where do you even start? How do you know what you need? How can you be sure you’re getting exactly what you need?
That’s where a vendor partner comes in. More than just a distributor or reseller of equipment, a vendor partner is just that: A partner who can help you take your business where you want it to go.
What a Vendor Partner Can Do
A true vendor partner is much more than an order taker. Whether you need a complete communications solution (like the longtime gold-standard Cisco Business Edition) or more powerful servers to handle your growing website traffic, a vendor partner will work with you to determine your specific needs and develop a solution that works for you.
More specifically, when you work with a partner, you benefit from:
A partner will understand the technology, and not only help you determine your company’s specific needs, but also help you get the most from it. Most partners maintain the most current certifications for their specific products, and offer assistance to your team in getting certified yourselves, so you can maximize the capabilities of your technology investment. From planning to implementation, a partner makes sure that you have the right solutions the first time.
When something goes wrong on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m., who can you call for help? Many vendor partners offer additional value added services, including on-call support and maintenance.
A partner will look for cost efficiencies and help small businesses make the most of their budgets. Not to mention, most have relationships with manufacturers that allow them to offer better deals and discounts to their business partners, saving you money over going it alone.
One of a partner’s most important roles is to help your business determine what it need, both today and in the future. A partner will look beyond your immediate needs and develop technology solutions that are easily scalable to allow for future growth without a complete overhaul. Because vendor partners have unparalleled insight into their industry, as well as in-depth knowledge of industry trends, they can help you prepare for the business of tomorrow, not just where you are today.
Choosing the Right Vendor Partner
Given the importance of working with the right vendor partner, how do you find the organization that can best help your business grow and meet its goals? There are a few important factors to consider.
Not all vendor partners work with small businesses, so it’s best to choose a partner that has expertise and experience working with SMEs and with other companies in your sector, to ensure that the recommended solutions are appropriate for your company.
In addition, ask questions about the vendor’s particular technological specializations. Some companies are experts in communication, while others may specialize in mobile solutions, cloud computing, security, or other networking concerns. That’s not to say they cannot help you, but keep in mind that a channel partner that has places a strong emphasis on cloud computing, for example, is most likely going to provide solutions that are heavily weighted in that area.
While cost shouldn’t be your primary concern, since you generally get what you pay for when it comes to technology, you want to choose a partner who will offer solutions that fit your budget, and share your concerns about containing costs. Again, this is where a partner that specializes in small businesses is a significant benefit to your company.
What is included in the Service Level Agreement? Will you receive the support you need to manage the solutions being suggested?
Finally, it’s important to consider communication and customer service when choosing a reseller partner. You want to know that you can communicate with each other to solve problems and develop solutions, and that the vendor will be there when you need them.
As a savvy business owner, you may have definite ideas about how you want to manage your company’s technology needs, and enough knowledge to get started. However, if you are expanding your business and need more technological insight — and more powerful tools — then a vendor partner can be your best friend and a valued part of your business.