It’s not every solution provider that can claim to be a key partner for a vendor long before that vendor opened its presence in Canada. And it’s especially not every solution provider that can claim that same vaunted status well after that vendor has opened up shop in-country, greatly expanding its presence in the channel.
And yet, that’s exactly the rare situation that Barrie, Ont.-based Positive E Solutions enjoys with ESET Canada. While ESET has greatly expanded its presence in Canada, including the rapid growth of its staff and channel in the country in recent years, it still calls Positive E a key partner.
“We have very few Platinum partners in Canada, and they’re one of them — one of our biggest VAR partners in Canada,” said Jim Chalmers, director of sales and partner alliances at ESET Canada. “They’re a long-time partner, both from a technical and a value perspective.”
Positive E has been an ESET partner since 2004, more than a decade before ESET formally launched in Canada, and about a decade after Positive E itself came into existence as an IT support company.
“They had a void here in Canada. There was not a Canadian arm of ESET, and we did our best as a partner to fill that gap,” said Robbie Ferguson, vendor account manager for ESET at Positive E.
Closing business, satisfying customers
The partnership began because of ESET’s strength in what was at the time the core of the security challenge — antivirus. And even back in the early years of his century, it was already a crowded scene in the security world. So what drew Positive E to ESET at the time?
There was the fact that NOD32 was, and still is, a well-known name in the antivirus world, but then, so are at least a handful of competitors. For Positive E, the big difference was speed — ESET’s offerings offered effective coverage, but also didn’t bog down system resources, which was a major concern in an era when cores weren’t being added to computers in multiples
“Systems were a lot slower back then, and ESET’s always been great on performance,” Ferguson said.
Since then, Ferguson said he’s been impressed by ESET’s expansion. While antivirus has remained core, the company’s wares have evolved as the threat landscape has evolved, making it possible for Positive E to continue offering protection to their customers, even proactively.
“Last year, WannaCry was such a big threat, but the underlying exploit was patched against by ESET,” Ferguson said. “We’re not a sales company per se, we’re support-centric. We want to see our customers successfully protected, and ESET does that.”
While Ferguson is self-deprecating about Positive E’s sales capabilities, Chalmers is less so. One of the biggest factors in the long term success of the partnership, he said, is that they’re reliable and predictable — and that has made them ESET’s go-to partner when it comes to new business leads.
“We send them opportunities, and we rarely have to follow up on it. We know they’ll take care of the customers,” Chalmers said. “We pass them everything from a consumer looking to renew their license, all the way up to 1,000-plus seats, and we know that they’ll act on them, right away, and nine out of ten times, they’ll close that deal without any more support from us.”
That focus on customer success is key to Positive E, Ferguson said — the company’s mantra, in many ways.
“We’re very customer service centric. When we’re dealing with a customer, we go the extra mile, provide that extra support,” he said. “I feel that’s a big differentiator for us.”
Growing channel, growing opportunity
The channel ranks for ESET in 2004 were much smaller than today, after all, the security vendor had yet to formally open shop in Canada, much less ink a distribution deal. That means there are a lot more partners competing for ESET’s part of the business — currently about 400 in Canada. That’s been aided by the company’s own growth in the marketplace, and of course, the expanding awareness and spending on security over that time. But still, one could think a long-time partner could bristle at the though of a channel community growing considerably. But Ferguson takes a “rising tide lifts all boats” view of ESET’s growing channel community.
“It’s not a competitive landscape, but a collaborative one, working with ESET and with other partners as well,” he said. “We were selling ESET long before ESET Canada existed, and it’s been a great experience seeing them launch and move into the Toronto office.”
Part of that collaborative nature is because of an opportunity Positive E saw as ESET’s awareness and presence in Canada expanded. The company recognized there are a lot of smaller solution providers that would like to offer ESET solutions to partners, but lack the technical acumen to implement and support. So, in the spirit of collaboration — and growth — Positive E has started backing up those partners.
“We have a program for smaller partners who can’t make ESET’s minimums, to serve their customers, and we’re committed to helping those partners. “We’re somewhere to order from, a means of communications with ESET reps, and a way to ensure their customers get the best service possible.”
An expanding channel presence has led to a rise in these kind of partner-to-partner collaborations, which end up a win for all involved — The end partner (and ESET) get a satisfied customer, and the partner “in the middle” grows their business without having to do the legwork of finding new customers.
And while the community has grown, and will continue to grow, along with seeking growth in overall partner ranks, it seems clear that one of ESET’s major goals in building that community is to find, or nurture, the next Positive E.
“If we had a dozen partners like them, I’d be a happy man,” Chalmers said.