Rule #1 of the IT Channel: Don’t be Jerk. It Will Haunt You.

Originally published via LinkedIn Sept 1, 2015

“Incestuous” is a word often used to describe the IT channel.  Those who work in the channel know that while the word can have negative connotations, it is really meant to describe the swapping of personnel from one company to another (and the fact that somehow there is six degrees of separation between all of us).  Distribution, resellers, and vendors are like three sects of the same tribe.  And like any industry revolving around the sale of a product, the root of success is relationships.  For this reason, people frequently build their career by moving from role to role amongst several companies across the channel.  The ability to bounce from camp to camp is beneficial for several reasons.  Knowing the business (and decision makers) of one can help grow the business of another.  Manufacturers value experience gained from competitors and complimentary vendors alike while partners know that if you worked for a vendor, you’ll have no trouble selling that product to their customers. And nearly everyone in the channel has had a stint at a distributor, where being in the middle of partners and vendors gives you an invaluable understanding of how the system works. The beauty of this is that should you get laid off as an unfortunate result of downsizing, your next gig could be just a phone call away.

The ugly flip side of this coin, however, is that should you have a reputation for acting like an egotistical jerkbag, you might not work in the industry again or at least you’ll be about as welcome as pumpkin spice anything in September in Florida.  It’s still summer here, folks.

Last week, my team was approached by a group from a large alliance partner looking to plan a series of joint marketing events. I was eager to jump at this opportunity, but before I could hit reply….the warnings came streaming into my mailbox, my phone, my IM all with the same message: Watch out for this guy. One member of the other team was known to be difficult to work with and I was cautioned to avoid any dealings with him.  I heeded the warnings and proceeded hesitantly, not wanting to completely give up on the advantageous opportunity to co-market.  Three minutes into our call, the guy did not disappoint his foreshadowers.  It was like he had a list of rude and unprofessional things to say and he was tearing through them.  Even though his company had approached us, he drove the call as if we should be grateful they even breathed our name in public and basically suggested we commit to funding no questions asked.  Committing investment without justification is not a smart business move, and my team stuck to our guns, politely noting that without a rationale for spend, we would have no choice but to decline.  While his teammates jumped in to assure us they would supply the information we needed (like dates, people. A venue, an agenda. We weren’t asking for much here!), this guy got off the call in a huff clearly annoyed at our audacity.

After the call, we received an apology email from his team, sans their unprofessional colleague.  Naturally, we continued to work with the rest of the team, as the benefit of our union is greater than the negativity of one person but I can tell you that the chances of his particular territory getting funding from my team is slim to none.  And Slim just left town.  Like most short-sighted individuals, he neglected to consider the aftermath of his actions.  He most likely assumed a lowly marketing chick from a small vendor wouldn’t have the connections or clout to cause him any distress down the road.  But as luck would have it, five minutes on LinkedIn told me exactly how I was connected to him.

Now we all have bad days.  We all make mistakes.  I have had my fair share of apologetic moments for miscommunication, poor choices, and stress-induced grouchiness.  In my career I have also been blessed with patient managers and great mentors. More times than not, folks give others the benefit of the doubt. Our jobs are often a series of fires we are attempting to put out or at least hide until we get back from VMworld. Not everyone is going to get along, that is a given, but amongst the IT channel clan, the instinct to warn our brethren of a bad seed is strong, even between the fiercest of competitors. We all know it’s bad for business to hire a jerk and that in this industry what goes around comes around.

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