Canadian Varnex community comes of age

Mitchell Martin

Synnex Canada president Mitchell Martin

LAS VEGAS – Two years after Canadians joined Synnex’s Varnex reseller community at an event here, the community is coming of age. With 81 solution providers in the community – up from 47 a year ago – Synnex is finally able to get out of full-on “recruiting mode” for the community, and is now focused on building the community and adding new tools for members.

The biggest difference, said Mitchell Martin, president of Synnex Canada, is that the community recruited strategically to solve “some weakness in the West,” creating a good sense of balance across the Varnex community.

Now, Martin said, the focus turns to “enhancing the relationships between VAR and vendor, between Synnex and vendor, and between Synnex and VAR.”

“It’s about getting to know each other and seizing on opportunities,” he said. “We’re making a continuous effort  and working with Varnex members all year long to facilitate interactions not just with the vendors but the category experts [at Synnex.]”

In another sign of the community coming into its own, Canadian Varnex council president Nick Jupp, vice president of operations at Halifax-based Dymaxion, has been given a seat on the community’s North American advisory council – formerly the U.S. advisory council.

Canadian board member Sylvain Tremblay, executive vice president of Quebec City-based CPU, said that having a seat on the North American council is more than just an indicator that the community is growing up – it’s an opportunity to create more cross-border synergy, particularly looking at ways to pair Canadian solution providers with their fellow members across the U.S. border.

Tim Lomax, president of Toronto-based SmartPrint and also a Varnex Canadian council member, predicted that Jupp’s presence on the North American council will result in more timely answers to one of the questions the Canadian contingent faces most often – when will some of the U.S.-created resources, programs and tools available to U.S. Varnex members make it to the Canadian community.

Building community is also top of mind to the Canadian council – which at this week’s event at the Red Rock Hotel held the bold experiment of having all 48 of the member resellers in attendance give each other their elevator pitches in a wild and memorable round of speed-dating. Now, at least every member in the community can be sure that they’ve met every other member, and has at least a bit of information on what other members do for a living.

“We’ve all met each other, we’ve all got closer than 1.5 meters to each other, now we need to facilitate that community further,” Jupp said.

The community is also gelling with more stability, Lomax suggested.

“Relationships take time, and we’re getting past the point where we have to pitch people on why they should want to come,” he said. “That trust level is building, people are starting to open up and share more.”

“It’s completely different than last year,” echoed Tremblay. “People are talking more, chatting more together, talking about where we are now and where we should go.”

One place the community may well be going is to its first-ever Canada-only event. Synnex Canada, and Synnex North American marketing chief Bob Stegner in particular, have long hinted that ultimately, the community will likely have Canada-only events, and Martin suggested that a third annual Varnex event, one that’s Canada-only is “probably doable in this next year,” although the company is still evaluating exactly when that event should happen.

On the sponsorship side, the company has 13 vendors on board, up from 11 last year. Of course, there’s a finite number of vendors with enough scale to take on a full sponsorship of the program, so that number is likely to stay about the same. But Martin suggested the company may look at a more tailored, focused version of the full-on Varnex sponsorship that may be more affordable to smaller or niche vendors, both in terms of benefits and price point. There are still details to be worked out on exactly how that would work, but doing so appears to be a priority, especially because Martin expressed a strong interest in having Varnex sponsors in some of the niche areas where Synnex’s Technical Solutions division is most focused.

The company appears to have a good case for sponsorship – Martin said that Varnex members’ sales through Synnex of participating brands has been up 45 per cent year over year as a result of both parties’ involvement in the community, in a time when the overall commercial space has been flat to down.

“We’re promoting those results and asking vendors to be consistent and reliable in terms of participation so we can create those partnerships,” Martin said.