I've often described myself as a builder. It's what attracted me to startups early in my career, and often has me hanging around other entrepreneurs. Even when I've worked for large enterprises -- Pacific Telesis, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft -- I've gravitated toward the groups and individuals that focused on innovation, leadership development, and business development. As I look back over my career, there are two times when I feel as if I've been able to use all of my strengths and passions in my role:
The first was while running my own consulting firm, Red Hill Partners, which allowed me to work with customers, partners, students (mostly pro bono work) and startups, and with the broader technology community while living in the San Francisco Bay Area prior to, during, and after the tech bubble burst. It was during this time that I was also able to co-found a 501c3 technology non-profit, eBig.org, and dedicate part of my time to helping launch and run various technology user groups and help fledgling tech startups find people, resources, and sometimes funding. It was an exciting time.
The second time has been with my current role. My team jokes that I never sleep, but honestly I am blessed to be in a role that has me unable to fall asleep because my mind is racing with ideas and the next day's activities, and then also quick to wake up the next morning with anticipation for the day ahead. (I guess what I am saying is….I don’t sleep)
Not to overly glamorize the activity, but helping build out the local chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) is just a natural extension of what I do…..whether or not my formal job description includes the activity (it doesn’t).
Why IAMCP? Having started a couple companies, as well as having joined a couple early stage, venture-capital-backed startups, I recognize how difficult it can be to grow a business, either organically or through the channel. As with any sales effort, partnership conversations are a numbers game. You need to cast a wide net and connect with many people to find the handful of partner relationships that are the right fit and that can provide mutual value. In sales and in business development, you need to utilize all of the available tools and resources at your disposal, from social networking to community groups. The IAMCP was a natural place to develop the relationships, connecting with the Microsoft partner community, as well as Microsoft itself. And given my history, the fact that there was no operating chapter in the Seattle area was not a roadblock, but an opportunity to build even stronger relationships in the community.
Note: Here's the secret for those who question their ability to give the time and effort to helping launch a chapter: the benefits received far outweigh the costs of getting involved, through both Microsoft attention and putting yourself at the center of the partner community in your region.
Granted, some of it is personality-driven. I like to think that I bring a unique blend of energy and action to the community that is difficult to duplicate (maybe with 3 or 4 people ). But I do believe that the path to building out your own partner community can be replicated. In fact, I'm blogging about our experiences in building out the Seattle chapter on the Microsoft Partner Network site (http://www.digitalwpc.com) to share what we're doing here in Seattle to help others duplicate our successes (and avoid our failures).
The first step is always the hardest – getting started. I believe that one of the key values I bring to the table with IAMCP, and with my role as a "change agent" in the SharePoint community (especially with SharePoint Saturday events in the western US) has been my willingness to jump in head first on community events, to encourage others, and to help prospective ‘community organizers’ (yes, I went there, but this time it means something) to see that the questions they have will be answered as they move the process forward.
I've often related the fears people have about taking a leadership role in community-building (Will I find the funding I need? Will people help? Will attendees show up?) to merging onto the freeway: you don't merge with freeway traffic by slowing to a stop (except in Seattle, where it seems to be common practice) but by speeding up to the flow of traffic, and then joining the stream. The same can be applied to starting a community or event. When you make the decision to enter the freeway, hit the gas.
I have a lead foot.
Hopefully I can help others who are considering getting involved with the IAMCP, maybe those considering starting a chapter in their own region. I'm here to help, as are a great community of leaders. Selfishly, I'd love to cast an even wider net for my company, but I'm also just happy to help, so please feel free to reach out if you have questions.
You can follow my official IAMCP blog posts here.