The channel has grown and changed over the years from VARs and Resellers to Solution Providers or MSPs.  With the vast shift over the years some wonder if we should even be called “the channel” anymore.   We meet up with Howard Cohen long time writer and friend who published  “If We’re Not a Channel Anymore, What ARE We?”.  Watch as Howard chats about the past, and what is to come.

Video Transcription

Harry Brelsford 

Hey nation nation back with Howard Cohen my favorite journalistic Firestarter and pot stirring. How you doing, man? You’ve done it again. I’m freezing. How you doing?

Howard Cohen 

I’m busy stirring the pot. I’m all good.

Harry Brelsford 

All right. Well, you dropped a piece recently and channel insider about if we’re not a channel anymore, what are we? So that is what what are we Howard?

Howard Cohen 

No, we’re not a club. Um, you know? I’ve had so many back and forth since the article with a lot of people. And of course, you know, our good friend. And data daddy Jay McBain says we’re an ecosystem. And 30 years of being a Microsoft partner has made me sick of the word ecosystem. But, and I’m not a fish, and I don’t precipitate so I don’t feel I’m part of an ecosystem. So No, but seriously, for a long time now, I’ve been saying that. What’s the difference between my engineers, doctors, accountants, lawyers, what’s the difference? They all them their skills and their time for a reasonable fee, in some cases, an unreasonable fee. But yet, all of them are accorded a different level of respect and recognition. Because mainly because they have a license and accreditation, they have diplomas on the wall, like you do. You know, they have all kinds of, you know, things that say, this is a professional person, you can buy their services. And it just struck me long ago that we should have that. I mean, I look at my guys, they’re easily as bright as my lawyer, you know, and probably more so. So, you know, so it’s been an ON OFF ON and OFF conversation? Sure. For years. And the challenge, of course, is that I draw the parallel with medicine. Right, I think medicines ease a good one.

Harry Brelsford 

Yeah, yeah.

Howard Cohen 

Because you know, I’m the doctor, right? Let’s say I’m the doctor. I’m not here to sell you. medications. Nor am I here to sell you arm braces or whatever, God forbid, prosthetic devices. I’m not here to sell you any, any of that. I’m here to perform some procedures. And if you need medication, I’m going to recommend because a prescription is really just a recommendation. So okay, I’m going to recommend this one, you’re going to go and you’re going to buy from your pharmacy. And that’s how big pharma gets doctors doing their bidding. I see a parallel here. If I talk to an engineer, they’re not there to sell you a server, or sell you a particular endpoint. They’re there to serve you the implementation of a solution to your business problem. And if that means that you have to sell them certain products, they’ll hook you up with somebody who can sell it. So because if you look around, fewer and fewer of our fellows are selling products anymore at all.

Harry Brelsford 

Yeah, yeah. Let me let me let me jump in here. And I really did enjoy your piece. So back when I, you know, carried the bag day to day as a computer guy, aka MSP. So mid 90s, I joined a large regional accounting firm Clark Nuber. And 150 employees and I headed up their networking practice, when I took over, I immediately got us out of the sale of hardware and software because you know, this was a glass tower, 36th floor white color accounting firm. And you had delivery people schlepping hardware on the elevator and down the hallway. And first of all, is a little bit unbecoming of a top shelf accounting firm. Number two, it’s not what I do. Right, I got us out. And we focused on the billable hours back in the day and the things that made us money. And I’m really proud of that, because I would build my time, when I would go to this large commercial real estate firm. I’d sit down with the CEO and we kind of spec out a few laptops in the new SBS server. I had his credit card in my hand, and I would call or go on the web, but I would order the equipment with his credit card, Howard. And so I yeah, I never really went through distributions. Don’t tell the deceased that and I never really sold hardware. It’s just it’s not what I do. So I really liked your article because you you Well, you were describing me back in the day, quite frankly.

Howard Cohen 

I’ll tell you why. I’ll go back 10 years further to the mid 80s. You know, when they put me in charge of services computer factory. It was to bring a service mentality to the service department. I’m sorry sales mentality to the service department. And that was 40 something years ago, and only in the last 1015, maybe 20 years, has everybody been really making that transition? But a lot of us are there now. And the ones that were not, maybe they’re an ecosystem, maybe they are still functioning as a channel from a manufacturer all the way through to a customer. But most of most of our colleagues work the way you just described yourself. Yeah, that’s the that’s the standard now, and I just, that’s not it’s not a channel.

Harry Brelsford 

Yeah, no, no, it’s not. Accountants wouldn’t call themselves a channel. And again, maybe to highlight one point, the irony that I was in a professional services group is a public CPA firm, that were the they dressed for success, and they have to pass the exam and get accredited. And each year, they have the continuing ed. Dude, it was perfect for me. I mean, that that’s my mentality.

Howard Cohen 

So having said that, you can you can probably imagine how many times I’ve been banging your head a CompTIA. But let’s come up with an accreditation program. Let’s come up with something that declares our people, professionals, and for some reason, it’s not something they can do. And it may not. It may be because you’re not a, you know, an institute of higher education. I have no idea. Yeah, but I did see that Carl was putting together an organization. To do that.

Harry Brelsford 

Let’s head on that you do in your article that way and will in the podcast that way? So go ahead.

Howard Cohen 

Yeah, he’s put together and I apologize for forgetting the name. But it’s basically the purpose of the new organization is to promote the idea that we should be professionals. We should have professional

Harry Brelsford 

National Society of IT service providers. Yes, sir. National

Howard Cohen 

Institute national ID righties. Right? And if they are able to get a collective voice, get enough people, you know, to show that, hey, this is something the entire industry wants? I am sure there is an institute of higher learning somewhere that can help us do that. And I actually just gave myself an idea as to who can be the leverage point? Well, there we go. You’ve probably seen Angel Janeiro’s recent events. He held an event. He’s the vice president of academic academic partnerships for CompTIA. After like 30 years doing what we do, and learn the service organization, there, he is a CompTIA. And he held a session recently, where five IQ professionals gave out advice about how to get into the industry, how to get educated for it, how to be prepared. He said they were targeting 500 graduates, students basically and said, if we can get 500 That’d be great. On the day that they gave the presentation, he signed up 9600 people and 5600 were on the session. So I mean, there’s a definite hunger out there for and then up level that hunger. I’ve got to believe that if Karl is successful in massing everybody together, and we can speak as one collective voice, then you don’t need me stirring the pot. We have everybody stirring the pot.

Harry Brelsford 

Yeah, yeah. And a shout out to Karl. he’s the right guy to do it. So well. Hey, Howard. I got a bounce. We’ll see you next time but keep up the good work.

Howard Cohen 

Thank you, Harry. Good to see you

Harry Brelsford 

interview because all I have to do is go to one of your recent drops