An analogy can be made between many channel businesses and the typical entrepreneurial startup. Both are often small, independent operations, run by people with passion for their sector, sometimes as family businesses or as a collaboration between business partners.
Such ventures are also about seizing opportunities: the tech sector is by definition fast-moving, with new solutions and customer demands clamouring for attention.
It takes a lot of expertise, nerve and instinct to distinguish in which technologies to invest and which to let fall by the wayside.
Richard Branson began his career selling records from the boot of his car. I began mine similarly, selling clothes at a Manchester market.
Since then, I’ve had what can only be described as a colourful career that has taken me from my market stall into IT, via the unusual route of working as a test driver for Ferrari.
Along the way I picked up the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2004 and, as a national judge for the program, I’ve been working closely with some of the best entrepreneurs in the US over the past three years.
Now, working for a wireless technology vendor, I get to work with entrepreneurial resellers around the world. And it’s clear to me that to be a successful entrepreneur requires not just good luck – which I wouldn’t like to be without – but the ability to make things happen.
It’s easy to say “make things happen”. But it is a lot harder to put that theory into practice.
That said, the best motivation an entrepreneur can have is passion. I remember paying a surprise visit to a former company’s engineering factory in Israel.
The engineers were working out of a derelict gas mask factory, but despite the less than salubrious location where they had stayed overnight, they remained enthusiastic about what they were doing.
People are judged by their passion and their willingness to support their company, from their own pocket if necessary.
Entrepreneurs also make things happen through personal networking, which supplies endless opportunities to impress others with your passion.
As well as the usual channel events and social gatherings, there are international organisations such as the American Kauffman Foundation, which has been working on Anglo-American entrepreneurial relationship-building.
With prime minister Gordon Brown the Kauffman Foundation runs a Global Entrepreneurship Week to inspire innovation and entrepreneurship among young people around the world.
Similar organisations will sometimes offer venture capital and funding as well as academic support. Venture capitalists have now discovered that companies outside the US can do equally well with VC money, and nations like India, Israel and China have benefitted from this.
In the UK, venture capital money is still not readily available, creating a real challenge for resellers. Places to watch are the Silicon Fens of Cambridge, which is where most UK venture capital is focused, at least for the tech sector.
So, what’s the forecast for the channel’s entrepreneurs? In this chillier economic climate, it’s reassuring to see that the tech sector is braving the weather with confidence.
Wireless technology in particular has continued to grow its market faster than predicted, and so with the right products from vendors, resellers should be able to take advantage of the situation; using technology more than ever to offer cost-effective solutions at a time when businesses are watching their finances.
Now is the time for resellers to remember their entrepreneurial roots if they want to capitalise on the opportunities available.
Rob Scott is chief executive officer at Colubris Networks
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