VTN Masterminds get down to business

For many solution provider owner/operators, one of the biggest thrills is being ultimately accountable to oneself. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the biggest challenges.

Creating that accountability, and a de facto board of directors, is the goal of the VentureTech Network’s new Masterminds subgroup – an invitation-only community of owners of VTN member solution providers that get together on a quarterly basis and present business plans and goals, as well as personal life plans.

“I look at it as an advisory board,” said Nagwa Koressa, president of Ottawa-based solution provider Integra Networks and a Masterminds member. “I don’t have anyone to answer to, but I need someone to answer to.”

The first two Mastermind chapters (membership is capped at 12 members per chapter to keep group sizes manageable and intimate) met last quarter in Omaha, Neb. and this quarter after the 2010 Fall VTN Invitational in San Francisco, and they’re already looking to grow the community.

If the Mastermind model sounds familiar, that’s because it is. The groups are based on the Heartland Technology Groups peer-to-peer groups for resellers, and in fact HTG founder Arlin Sorensen served as a facilitator for the first round of Mastermind gatherings. The biggest differentiator for Mastermind? According to Koressa and Doron Kaminski, vice president of operations at Markham, Ont.’s Insite Computer Group, it’s trust.

“We had full trust from the first hour,” Kaminski said. “Our moderator was impressed by how quickly we came together, and I really think it’s because it’s a VTN group.”

The comment strikes a chord with Koressa, who nods and likens it to taking a personal relationship to the next level. Because VTN members “have been dating for a long time,” it’s a lot easier to let fellow members in on the most personal details of one’s business. In fact, she said, she had her fellow chapter members’ financials even before their first meeting. Such business plans are required table stakes for Masterminds membership. Members share where their businesses are at and their detailed plans for growing it to the next levels.

“We’re already partnering with them, but Masterminds is about doing a deep dive,” Kaminski said. “We talk about the good, the bad and the ugly, and anything goes. I’m accountable to my counterparts in my Masterminds group. I talk to them as if I’m talking to a board of directors. I’d better deliver, and if I don’t, I’d better have an excuse.”

The two existing groups represent a variety of solution providers in VTN from across North America, with little regard for size of geography. The biggest common element amongst members in each chapter is their focus, said Rita Baiana, senior manager for the VentureTech Network at Ingram Micro Canada. While one group is comprised primarily of managed service providers, the other chapter is heavy on traditional infrastructure solution provider partners.

The groups came about as a result of an interest within the VTN Council about a year ago to “take VTN to the next level,” Kaminski said, something that would go beyond the educational and technical tracks already being added to the program.  “It becomes a part of your life and an integral part of your organization,” he said.

Next up, Kaminski said the groups would focus on personal issues, particularly the work/life balance issues that can consume principals of solution provider businesses. There is also talk of opening up a second pair of chapters for other VentureTech members looking at getting in on the groups.