Last week I attended two events out of the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. The first, held on Thursday 12th May, was the CRN Partner Connect Exhibition – which many of you may know better by its previous name, the UK Channel Expo. The event saw hundreds of Vendors, Distributors and Resellers got together for an expo, networking, and a series of educational presentations.
It’s fair to say that I’m somewhat of a veteran of IT Conferences by now, so whilst the line-up of presentations looked good, I’ve long since realised that the value of these events is the meetings in the Corridors and Coffee Shops of the venue – spending time with my peers, catching-up with old faces and meeting new ones.
The evening saw a number of Vendors and Resellers get together with CompTIA UK for a drinks reception and meal in the G Casino, part of the Ricoh Arena. As I alluded to above, I know from experience that the nuggets of wisdom and advice you can pick-up from your peers in an informal environment like this can be invaluable, and this particular evening was no exception.
The next-day, Friday 13th May, saw the second event which was the first in-person meeting of the new CompTIA UK Channel Community group, of which I blogged about earlier this year when I was honoured to be voted in as the groups new Chair, along with Vice Chair Lee Evans of Vital.
The event was well attended by a mixture of Vendors and Resellers of different sizes, and more importantly – everyone (and I do mean everyone) who attended contributed ideas and got actively involved in the discussion.
The day saw an opening presentation on the state of the industry from CompTIA President Todd Thibodeaux, and the group also heard a well received and lively presentation from Linda Ockwell-Jenner of Motivational Steps.
Member participation saw some lively discussions and the group lay plans for an initiative to deliver a Vendor Marketing Portal, as well as an initiatives to deliver Legal Contract templates for use by members, and other initiatives that would benefit the group members.
Lee Evans and Andy Parkes of IBIT Solutions delivered exceptional pitches to the group to help decide on a UK Charity that the group would work with to deliver $5000 of funding to.
We also congratulated and gave a prize to Ben Tristem of Embrace IT for his winning idea in the 30-second Best Practice competition, as the group voted his idea the winner out of the dozens of great ideas that were put forwards. The real winners, of course, were all the attendees who came away with dozens of good ideas to implement in their own businesses.
I felt privileged to be so closely involved in the first meeting of a group of people who are so clearly passionate about the industry they work in. I’ve been a part of the UK SMB IT Community for many years now, attending lots of meetings of various groups, but I felt this group has the opportunity to make the most impact of any I’ve been to.
But what did the other attendees think? Well, judging by the fact that there were still people sat together, exchanging ideas and chatting some 2 hours *after* the event had finished – I suspect it was well received!
That said, I took time to record short video interviews with three of the attendees to get their thoughts. I chose the three individuals specifically because of their involvement in Peer Communities in the past.
In Rob Copestick of Spiral IT, we met somebody who is brand new to peer groups. Rob has only just made the decision to start his own IT company, and so I was interested to hear what he had to say about his experiences at the meeting as he first of this kind.
Rob Franklin of JPT Solutions is somebody who has been a part of the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community, and in particular, the AMITPRO group for a couple of years or more. Rob has recently taken big steps to grow his own business, and so I wanted to get his views on how Peer Groups like CompTIA can help a growing business to accelerate that growth.
Finally, Gareth Brown of Sytec is someone many (myself included) consider to be one of the long-time key influencers of the UK SMB IT Community and somebody who helped build the Microsoft SBSC programme. I specifically invited Gareth to the meeting as I knew his expertise would be invaluable, and I was intrigued to hear his feelings on what a well established and very successful company like Sytec gets from these meetings.
Interestingly, all three individuals gave a similar message – that taking time out of their business to spend time with their peers was time well spent.
For me, this is no surprise at all – I grew my own MSP business off the back of the great ideas and advice I picked up at UK SMB IT Community events. What’s more, I personally came away from the two days with CompTIA with a ton of great suggestions for my own business. That’s invaluable and to me is the difference between growing your business slowly, working things out as best you can, and growing your business quickly by working with others for mutual benefit.
I’m excited to be the Chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community, and I think that the group has the rare opportunity to help bring together some of the best and most engaged members of the UK SMB IT Community to raise the bar in the IT industry as a whole.
The group is free to join, and you don’t have to be a member of CompTIA to do so – although I strongly encourage to join CompTIA as a member (as I have) as they really do offer many benefits that you’ll both find useful, and help you both save and make money for your business!
You can see some more photographs from the group meeting on my Flickr page.