Peer-to-Peer Blog: Can a Supplier Portfolio Be Too Big?

Andrew PryfogleBy 
Andrew Pryfogle, President & CEO, Terrapin Solutions, LLC

It seems every master agent out there is jockeying for the title of largest supplier portfolio.” Well all see that big bold marketing message in Las Vegas next week: 50 Suppliers 100 Suppliers LARGEST SUPPLIER PORTFOLIO IN THE WORLD!!!

I wonder if thats such a good idea. Does that serve our agent community well? It certainly cant be good for our suppliers: Hey suppliers, were going to give you the right to jump in the middle of an arena with 50 of your competitors and battle to the death for the affection and mind-share of our blood-thirsty agent community.” Inevitably, the supplier with the biggest spiff wins, and supplier loyalty waxes and wanes with the mood of the mob.

At Terrapin, weve never been very interested in attracting suppliers, or agent for that matter, that want to play that game. Weve always held on to a more idealistic view that true partnership means something and requires investment and energy and loyalty from all parties. So with that partnership principal in mind, when we started Terrapin in 2008, we made the conscious decision to limit our supplier portfolio.

Other than the obvious Terrapin qualifier of being cloud-based, every new supplier has to meet four specific criteria:

  1. Can they clearly articulate how their solution is different from their competition? Answers like We try harder,” or Were really committed to the channel,” or We pay commissions on-time,” etc., arent sufficient differentiators.
  2. Will their solution fill an important gap in our portfolio? Gaps are identified either by customer demand or market opportunity. If we already have a supplier sufficiently filling an identified need, we dont need to add another.
  3. Do they fully embrace Terrapins high-touch” channel support model by giving us the operational flexibility and revenue-share structure the model requires to work?
  4. Lastly, does their stuff work? When we first started out, this was a more informal, trial and error process not anymore. Today we thoroughly test everything in our own interop lab to make sure the technology is rock-solid its a non-negotiable for us.

If we can clear these four hurdles, then we can focus on some of the more subjective, but equally important measures. Is there a cultural fit? Is there chemistry between our teams? Do we have a shared long-term vision? Most importantly, do we trust each other? When a supplier clears this process, and few do, then together we sign up to a shared future and commit to a true partnership. And when something breaks in that partnership (and something will), then were both committed to working through it, fixing it and righting things thats what partners do.

Weve recently expanded our portfolio to a whopping 12 suppliers each of which has passed our thorough vetting process. We welcome them to our community of like-minded people and organizations that are committed to building a true partnership.

I hope this approach strikes readers as different, and perhaps even attractive and refreshing. Id welcome your thoughts.

Andrew Pryfogle is the founder, president and CEO of

Terrapin Solutions

, a master agency headquartered in San Franciscos East Bay. Pryfogle started Terrapin to address the growing demand for cloud services such as hosted VoIP, cloud computing and cloud infrastructure. He has been in the telecommunications industry for 22 years and has held senior sales leadership positions with carriers such as AT&T, MCI and WorldCom. In 2001 Pryfogle helped start GoBeam Communications, a pioneer in hosted IP telephony that was sold in 2004 to Covad Communications where Pryfogle spent three years running the channel.  He also is a member of the 2010-11 Channel Partners Conference & Expo Advisory Board.

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