(Pictured above: SADA Systems’ Tony Safoian on stage at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo’s Business Success Symposium, April 17, 2018)
CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO — Partners that embrace change, challenge their customers and wisely invest in new capabilities will be the next big innovators in the channel.
That’s according to Tony Safoian, president and CEO of SADA Systems. His keynote, “Investing Ahead of Technology Demand: Seeing the Future and Making Bold Decisions,” kicked off the Business Success Symposium (BSS), sponsored by Vonage, at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo. He shared his strategy for making smart investments in cloud infrastructure, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) — people, tools and services.
Customers aren’t in the market for technology, he said. They’re looking for one thing: a competitive advantage.
“Our customers don’t often know what they want … even if they think they know what they want, we don’t want to be order takers,” Safoian said. “Customers today must be challenged.”
Effective engagement with customers requires developing key relationships, challenging the status quo and creating a sense of urgency, he said. Also, exceptional project management is key, he said. He gave an example of a customer that wanted to move from one cloud to another, and expected a small cost reduction in return. Instead, his company improved its business model, resulting in a 50 percent lower cost structure.
“Listen to your customers … they’ll tell you what they’re scared of, what their strategic priorities are,” Safoian said. “And listen to your teams. They are closest to your customers. They are on the ground (and at conferences) talking to your competitors and peers. We make sure we get insight to all the conversations happening. And third, listen to your partners; they’re building new capabilities, launching new offerings. The art is synthesizing all three data points.”
Rather than through acquisition or outsourcing through partner relationships, Safoian said he prefers gaining new capabilities by building them. And that takes investment, he said.
“For us, the investment is the strategy,” he said. “You have to ask yourself what kind of business are you building. And if you’re building (for) high growth, reinvestment is the key. Also important is to start small. Use profits from core businesses. It’s almost impossible to get the investment exactly right.”
And regardless of the source of investment, “it’s important to treat it like it’s your own money,” Safoian said.
The market’s growing so fast, and “all boats will rise with the tide” is no longer applicable, he said.
“There [are] competitors we used to compete with, but not today, so it’s not automatic,” Safoian said. “Remember the appetite and the opportunity in the market for products and services is immense. They’re everywhere if you listen. If you listen, you can really identify what you can take major advantage of in the market. But it takes investment. The time is now. Windows don’t stay open forever.”
Safoian’s keynote was followed by a presentation from Bob Crissman, channel chief at Vonage, which sponsored the BSS. Then attendees broke up into three preconference education tracks: executive, technology, and sales and marketing.