Winning a Channel Award can make a considerable difference to firms that walk away with an accolade at the end of the evening. Resellers, in particular, can benefit immensely.
This year, the 10th anniversary of the Channel Awards, there are more categories for resellers than before.
This recognises the key role that systems integrators, solution providers, VARs, service providers and all the other types of reseller business play in driving the market forward.
In the reseller categories in particular, winners are not always expecting to win. Shaun Frohlich, chairman of Teksys, last year's recipient of the Corporate Reseller of the Year award, didn't have any expectations on the night.
"When our name was read out it was incredible. Winning last year gave us all an extra shot of adrenaline, and on a personal level I was ecstatic. I am a competitive animal at the best of times and it made me realise that we were winning," he said.
Frohlich added that the impact on the company as a whole was profound. "It brought us closer together as a company, and suppliers and customers also took a good deal of notice," he said.
The fact that it is the customers who, in the end, decide who wins is critical, according to Tony Price, managing director of WStore.
"The customer's opinion is the one that matters in the real world. They won't do business with you if you let them down, so it should be their opinion that decides who wins," he said.
The changes to the categories this year give smaller and lesser-known channel companies a better-than-ever chance of winning. Claiming an award unexpectedly can have far-reaching implications.
Paul Cook, now managing director of Acer, recalls an experience he had in a previous role.
"Many years ago, when these awards were in their infancy, I had the honour of picking up a Channel Award for Corporate Software and Technology [formerly International Software]," he said.
"It came out of the blue and it gave our company a tremendous shot in the arm. Our suppliers, and more importantly our competitors, suddenly viewed us as a 'serious player', a force to be reckoned with. We also had countless contacts from potential suppliers."
Vendors and distributors certainly value the awards highly. Competition to win votes is always strong, especially among distributors.
Some companies have claimed a succession of Channel Awards, which adds further weight to their achievements. Ideal has won the Storage Distributor of the Year award for the past three years.
Although there are no specific specialist categories this year, Alex Tatham, vice-president for software at Ideal's parent company Bell Microproducts Europe, explained that winning has helped the company develop its brand and its expertise in this field.
"This year we hope our all-round efforts will be rewarded and that the other great things we do, namely software licensing, security and systems, will play a part in us winning an award," he said.
Tatham believes that the Channel Awards are perhaps the most important accolade that senior managers can hope to claim for their organisations.
"They confirm that your customers and suppliers value your efforts. It helps to confirm the decisions you have made in the year and, as an employee, it shows that all your hard work is not in vain," he said.
Computer 2000 (C2000) has walked away with several awards every year and claimed the Main Distributor of the Year Award for four years in succession.
Julian Klein, C2000's managing director, is not resting on his laurels, though. "I'd like to think we've got a chance of making it five in a row with the Distributor of the Year award, but we expect the competition to be very strong this year," he said.
"I think this year we've come further than ever in developing our services, and hopefully our customers will agree and vote for us again. Winning is important, for everyone in the company from the warehouse to the boardroom.
"I think it does make a difference. You also expect more from yourself, and that has a very positive effect.
"From a customer and supplier perspective you are seen as the best in the business, and that's a reputation that you are expected to live up to."
Smaller and more specialist distributors are also recognised by the Channel Awards. For these companies, winning has even more significance.
Frank Salmon, managing director of CMS Peripherals, explained that it was a great thrill to pick up an award in 2002 after years of trying.
"We knew that we had come close in previous years. And to finally achieve the award, in a year that was tough for the entire industry, was rewarding. It is a great motivator to maintain high standards of service and support," he said.
Midwich is hoping that 2003 will be its year to claim an award. Nick Culley, sales and marketing director at the company, indicated that it would mean a great deal to the firm.
"An award would make us all very proud and give a real sense of achievement to everyone. We all work very hard to deliver the best possible service to our customers and to outperform our competitors. Winning makes a difference to everyone," he said.
Specialist categories, such as security and storage, are not included this year. This means that for the first time, specialists from different fields, such as storage and security, are competing for the crown of Specialist Distributor of the Year.
David Ellis, director of e-security at Unipalm, last year's winner of the specialist category, said that this will make the award even more important.
"It was a great honour for us to win last year. These awards are particularly useful when dealing with new channel partners. They are a great 'rubber stamp'. Suppliers also see them as indicators of who they should be working with," he said.
The awards are a positive force for the industry as a whole, according to Frohlich, because they encourage companies to achieve more. "Recognition is an essential element in any industry and the awards help drive greater quality," he said.
Frohlich also believes that they foster a sense of community in the channel. "With so many casualties and young companies in IT, it's a great focus for the stalwarts of the industry to rally around, spin ideas off each other and generally work together to a better common end," he added.
But winning won't be easy for anyone this year - and the nominees know it. Price sums up the situation well. "The Channel Awards are held in high regard, and everyone who is nominated hopes they will win. This is the channel, after all, and competition is always fierce," he said.
VIEWS FROM THE TOP
"Apart from being the only moment that the whole channel seems to be in the same room at the same time, it allows the company to take stock of what it has achieved in the previous 12 months, allow ourselves a brief moment of congratulation and move on to looking forward to winning next year's award." Alex Tatham, vice-president software of Bell Microproducts Europe.
"Although a welcome light relief in a still fairly tough part of the industry, this is the event we all gun for. There seem to be awards events springing up everywhere this year, but the Channel Awards is the place to be for networking, and definitely the place to pick up an award to cement and increase channel exposure." Helen Wood, UK commercial channel manager at Veritas.
"[We are] nervous and anxious, but looking forward to a great night out whatever the outcome. Last year it was the best event we attended. We met all the old faces and had a fab time." Shaun Frohlich, chairman of Teksys.
One of the awards is in the gift of CRN's editor, Paul Briggs. The Channel Personality of the Year accolade will be presented to an individual who has made a significant and notable contribution to the channel over the past year.
The winner is likely to be a high-profile figure from the industry. Likely contenders include senior figures from major distributors and resellers, such as Ideal's Alex Tatham and Teksys chairman Shaun Frohlich.
From the vendor community, well known figures such as Ian Snadden at Fujitsu Siemens, Acer's Paul Cook, and Computer Associates' Andy Shepperd may well be in the running.
Suggestions or comments can be sent to [email protected].
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