A merger and/or acquisition (M&A) affects everyone — from vendors and distributors through to resellers and their customers. Nine times out of ten, the changes brought on through M&As are anything but plain sailing to navigate through. For example, an M&A in which the acquiring vendor comes in and drastically changes the partnership agreement, or relationship dynamics, can have a detrimental impact on reseller relationships. A challenging M&A can disrupt business continuity, affect a reseller's ability to meet service demands and ultimately disrupt reliable recurring revenues.
Understanding how to work together with vendors undergoing M&As, before, during and after the process, as well as informing customers of the options they have, when disruptions risk being too big, will enable resellers to provide their customers with the correct advice. It's imperative there is open communication on the process, from setting expectations, through to delivering assurances that the M&A will help the business grow, instead of shrink. In addition, it will minimise service delivery disruptions and ensure the continued success of the partnership with the customer.
What follows are a few factors for resellers to take into consideration which can help them work with vendors to best prepare the distribution network and ensure the best service for their customers.
When working with an existing vendor partner or getting to grips with a new team there are certain expectations that resellers will have with regards to having a dedicated channel partnership program in place. These expectations — for example, having effective measures in place to reduce disturbance to their end-user customers — need to be communicated properly.
In order to ensure business continuity and drive growth, resellers need to have a single port of call, and central point of access, to all the valuable tools and resources the vendor has to offer. This is important at any time but particularly during times of change, such as an M&A, where a situation can alter quickly and information needs to be communicated efficiently. Vendors can use this portal to provide resellers with the steps and information that they've put in place, enabling them to remain agile and flexible and providing quick access to any resources they may need, at short notice. This could be a dedicated online platform, such as Bitdefender's Partner Advantage Network (PAN) Portal, for example, through which resellers can directly communicate with the vendor and gain the level of support and understanding that they need.
By having an accessible and open communication channel in place, resellers can be confident that they have the right resources at hand to manage and meet the demands of their customers, deliver on business outcomes, and ensure value is maintained in both the reseller and the customers' business.
Determine a clear strategy
To further mitigate against any possible service disruption to customers during an M&A, it is vital for both the reseller and the vendor to clearly define both the short-term and long-term strategies. These need to be determined as early as possible and should have regular reviews cycles built-in as the process continues.
It is also important to note that a strategy does not necessarily have to involve a complete renewal of everything. A big risk during an M&A is that the processes from the vendor are put in place at a global level and then top-down enforced on the rest of the business without establishing what the local area needs. If something is working well, there is no need to change it. During what is likely to be an already uncertain time, being able to maintain stability for customers is everything. After all, resellers have most likely built up their reputation of being trustworthy and reliable over a long period of time and this is not something they want to jeopardise.
As such, it is paramount that the reseller establishes early what initiatives are effective for them and work with the vendor to ensure their needs - and subsequently, the needs of their customers are met - particularly if the reseller is having to work with new team members from the vendor. In defining and communicating a clear strategy early, both from vendor to reseller and reseller to customer, teams can collaboratively work together to proactively put in place the right steps that will add value to their business and ensure a positive drive of revenue.
Transparency and focus on integration
The minimisation of disruption during an M&A can be hard, but, the key is to focus on achieving integration. A successful integration, and partnership, can be delivered by ensuring — as we've said before — by transparent and consistent communication. In fact, one of the most common factors in achieving a successful M&A transaction is effective integration, which simply will not happen without open and frequent conversations.
With this in mind, as an extension of the sales, resellers have a crucial role to play. It is essential that they communicate with the vendors to give, and receive, both clear guidance on best practice, and gain the necessary insights on the steps that are in place in order to inform their customers and become an integrated sales partnership. The relationships resellers have with their customers is key. These are the partnerships that bring in the revenue and upon which success ultimately depends. As such, resellers must ensure they are able to deliver honest, timely and comforting communication to their customers. This ensures that benefits, such as using pre-existing successful initiatives and planning ahead for any challenges that could arise, are clear to see.
The steps to success
Merger and acquisitions notoriously bring about a level of uncertainty and unexpected change - often at the detriment to the resellers and their customers. However, there is an opportunity to avoid this. Picking the right partner in the first instance, then working closely with them throughout the entire process is the most important thing.
Checking the track record of a partner is one way to ensure you're in safe hands from the offset. Bitdefender, for example, prides itself on being a trusted and stable partner and is recognised as such, most recently winning it's fifth 5-star rating, in 5 consecutive years, from CRN in its annual Partner Program Guide. The annual guide has ranked Bitdefender's partner program among the strongest and most successful partner programs in the channel. It's important to take track records like this into consideration, when looking for a partner, as an indication that best practices are established and will be maintained throughout the working relationship - M&As included.
Ensuring the right partnership is in place, a clear strategy is determined early, and consistent channels of communication are maintained, resellers can lay the foundations for success. In following these steps, resellers can ensure they receive the necessary support and can give the appropriate assurance to their customers to minimise disruption, maintain business continuity and drive business growth - before, during and after a merger and acquisition.