Recently I read a great post about the retail sector and how it is becoming “extreme” in order to find success. Be it cafes selling breakfast cereal to Amazon’s ruthless pursuit of the easiest transaction possible. They have worked out their niche, the thing they are really good at or know more about than anyone else. The shops we have lost in the last few years have been stranded in the awkward middle ground, neither providing an experience, something unique or market leading, nor being the easiest to buy from.

As I look at our industry I would rather describe this as focus. The stand out businesses which succeed and grow are the ones that are laser focussed on what they are all about. Be it a geography, a particular vertical, technology field (importantly not necessarily vendor in the long term) or size of business they aim for.

Focus gives clarity in a number if forms, it’s easy to identify new customers, simple to articulate what you are all about, and your staff have a philosophy that they can easily get behind. It keeps your portfolio streamlined and gives you the consistency to perfect the proposition.

That being said, to achieve longevity, really successful businesses have a philosophy that has a higher level focus than a single product or vendor. A vendor or product focus can bring short term rewards, but long term sustainability is difficult. With a higher level focus, such as a particular solution like Contact Centres, or Workspace solutions, a strategy can be more fluid and adapt with changing market conditions. Vendors rise and fall, so linking your business directly to their success can be dangerous in the long term. Especially as we work in one of the most volatile and active markets going. Ask anyone that is solely focused on Avaya at the moment if they have any concerns.

One of the biggest dangers to maintaining this focus comes as a company matures. Day to day tactical projects can easily take over and the vision gets lost or confused. When focus is lost, decisions get made on lower level factors, like particular products or services, that stretch a business in new directions where it may lack expertise, and shifts it away from what it does best. Just think BlackBerry getting side-tracked with its success in the teenage marketplace.

Maintaining focus will be a key component of how the channel adapts to the rapidly converging Telco and IT markets. The combination of dwindling margins in traditional telephony, and the threat from increasingly telco savvy IT specialists make plotting the best route forward tricky. I know first-hand the challenges of trying to successfully transition a sales team in this changing world, where confidence rather than ability is often the biggest hurdle.

Your focus also helps to shape how the channel can take advantage of these opportunities. What products or services do you look to launch in house, which do you look to facilitate through partners and what skills or services should look out to the market to acquire?

I have been working through much the same exercise. The goal of Virtual1 has always been to connect businesses to the digital services they need to run and thrive. The way in which we facilitate this has changed and evolved, from an aggregator, to a network in our own right. The goal has remained the same. This consistency has allowed us to take our partners on this journey and given us great visibility and awareness as a connectivity provider. It has created work for me to do around our cloud portfolio and demonstrating how it fits into our vision.

Would i describe Virtual1 as “extreme” in this sense? Not yet, but we are certainly focussed on our mission, and adopting some of the principals that are happening in retail right now will only help with continued success. We certainly have no plans to “get the funk out” of the market.

 

Neil Wilson