Varnex University soon to take in first class

Mortar BoardNEW ORLEANS – Synnex plans to send its Varnex member resellers to University.

At the Varnex Spring conference here, the distributor introduced the concept of Varnex University, a soon-to-launch educational program that will (at least initially) focus on providing much-needed skills for solutions providers’ sales staff.

“The goal is to help you do the training you can’t do at home or don’t have the time to do,” said Bob Stegner, senior vice president of marketing for North America at Synnex.

Although the program is still coming together, Stegner suggested it would contain at least two tracks – a basic “101” course for new hires, to bring them up to speed with technology sales terminology and best practices; and a “Masters” program to advance the skills of veteran VAR sales professionals.

Mike Brogan, president of both Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Erb’s Technology Solutions and the Varnex Council, said establishing a University of for skills-building in the channel would be a throwback to days-gone-by, harkening to the time when such training was much more frequent.

“But over the last 15-20 years, margins have been tighter, and a lot of this educational content has disappeared, both from the vendors and from us,” Brogan said.

The exact form and format of Varnex University has yet to be finalized, but Stegner paints a picture of a multi-day training session hosted by the distributor, featuring content from Synnex, from vendor partners, and from third-party industry experts.

Brogan said there are also opportunities to expand the content outside of the sales arena – courses for business owners on issues like HR, business development and margin retention, for example.

Marketing would also seem a logical topic of expertise, given the ongoing concern with that topic in the channel. Brogan also suggested University components for solution providers who are “the cobbler’s children” – and recommend sophisticated and automated business solutions for their customers, but ultimately run their own businesses on spreadsheets. (Brogan joked that he knew one Varnex member from Cedar Rapids, in particular, who fell into that all-too-familiar category.)

Some of that ground will be covered from a tools perspective by the “One IT” solution Synnex will be rolling out (in the U.S.) at first later this year. Originally outlined at last year’s spring Varnex conference, One IT aims to create a common infrastructure for VARs to run their business – both with Synnex in particular and in general. Integrated with popular PSA solution Autotask, One IT is a business management dashboard for solution providers which (of course) seamlessly interacts with the distributor’s systems as well. Brogan, whose business has been running on the system for a while, said it has gone a long way to modernizing the company’s operations.

Mitchell Martin, president of Synnex Canada, said that One IT would definitely launch first in the United States first, citing an interest in watching the system mature before committing resources to it. But it seems clear that the system will roll out in Canada.

And what of Varnex University? The distributor has put a firm stake in the ground when it comes to providing full details of the program by its fall Varnex Conference in Las Vegas. And Mike Gazdic, vice president of marketing at Synnex Canada, said that between now and then, he’d be working with Stegner and his U.S.-based team to figure out how the growing Varnex Canada community fits into the educational program.

In other words, as Brogan, ever the salesman, put it: “You’ll have to sign up to come to Vegas to get the details.”