We value education. A lot. Internally, ongoing professional development and certifications are pillars of our company’s culture (and arguably, our success). Facing outward, we try to do the same with our community of clients and peers. Our presentations, events, and executive roundtables are always education and discussion focused. We participate in industry peer groups, present at IT conferences, and sit on industry advisory boards. Why not just go sell services and stuff? Recall the old adage, “give someone a fish, he or she eats for a day. Teach someone to fish and he or she eats for a lifetime.” We all understand the wisdom baked into this … but does it make good business sense?
If part of what you sell is the fruit of your intellectual property or skill – why bother sharing those things and educating others? Aren’t you undermining your ability to stay in business? Imagine you’re a fisherman – do you really want other people to knowing how to fish? Imagine the locals became better fisher persons than you … You just destroyed your business model. Why should I pay you for fish (with margin!) when I can go get my own fish?
In our industry, proprietary knowledge and access to intellectual resources has long been the key to a successful reseller or systems integrator business. As long as you’re the guy with the high-level contacts, exclusive discounts, and access to the support and training materials, people will continue to pay for your time and material. As long as you keep some secrets behind the curtain, I will always have to call you when something goes wrong behind that curtain. As long as you prevent me from learning how to fish, I’ll keep buying your fish. Right?
But what happens when I get my own boat? What happens when a really big fleet of commercial fishing companies shows up and decides to sell me more fish (and different kinds of fish) for cheaper than you ever could? Why should I bother doing business with you anymore? What value do you really add to my fish to warrant my business?
Our industry is changing dramatically. The “reseller” is going the way of the dodo. Your business doesn’t need another vendor; you need partners that are agile and actually help you. Let’s extend the metaphor a little further; you need a partner that doesn’t just get you the fish; but helps you prepare fast, delicious and healthy meals and then cleans up afterwards so you can go do what you do best.
Having educated clients means they make smart decisions. Smart decisions usually don’t lead to regret, buyer’s remorse, nor poisoned relationships. Education and frank discussion help foster trust and healthy relationships with clients and partners alike. And those are the bonds that make good business. Having educated peers means that together—if we care to—we can help influence the powers that be in our industry to change for the better. For the better of everyone.
A rising tide lifts all boats.