SolarWinds continues Partner Success buildout with Head Nerds program

The Head Nerds programs starts with four Head Nerds in automation, operations, security and backup, although there are plans to add more as required.

Mike Cullen, group vice president, partner success, SolarWinds MSP

SolarWinds has taken another step in building out programs for their MSP partners with the formal launch of the SolarWinds Head Nerds program. There are four Head Nerds in total, three of which are focused more on solving business and administrative problems than on product.

The last year has seen multiple initiatives designed to build up SolarWinds MSP partners’ capabilities.

“For three years, we had been very introspective, as we have been focused on  putting the [N-able and LogicNow] companies together,” said Mike Cullen, group vice president, partner success, SolarWinds MSP. “We looked at this last year and decided to go out and re-engage our customers.”

Cullen laid out the elements of this re-engagement process.

“We established a formal Partner Success department, and added an additional 70 employees, who are not quota carrying,” he said. “It has three groups. One is a Customer Care group. One is a Customer Onboarding group. We had very intermittent onboarding, and we wanted to provide value when they bought or added a product. Third, we have Customer Success Managers who work one on one with partners, and who are not quota carrying. Going with that is the MSP Institute, which we built out last year. In the Institute we have 155 courses available. We have over 71,000 courses in progress right now, and we have 16,000 courses completed, with an average star rating of between 4.6 and 5 [out of 5].”

The Head Nerds component builds on these existing programs, by giving partners direct access to an expert in each of four designated areas, which the company has identified as key focus areas for MSPs today.

“In the MSP market, the top 25% is significantly profitable, while the bottom 25% lose money,” Cullen said. “The median is about 8% profit, and on a million-dollar business, that’s one employee. The businesses are relatively delicate. We do a lot in the Institute, and now with the Nerds around going to market – teaching partners how to communicate value and sell on value rather than cost. Head Nerds is all about addressing issues that keep customers up at night. It’s things like profitability, security, staffing and commoditization Nerds are focused on those sorts of things, more so than product.”

SolarWinds MSP borrowed the idea itself from SolarWinds.

“SolarWinds did a similar type of thing with Head Geeks some years ago and it has been tremendously successful for them,” Cullen stated. “We wanted to do the same thing because they have done such a good job.”

Out of the gate there are four Head Nerds. Marc-Andre Tanguay is Head Automation Nerd, who teaches how to automate services and reduce high labour costs.   Gill Langston is Head Security Nerd, who emphasizes having a layered program rather than just separate tools. Eric Anthony is Head Operations Nerd, who focuses on things like how to staff a support desk. And Eric Harless is Head Backup Nerd.

“The Backup Nerd is really the one that is more product-oriented,” Cullen said.

In addition to the four full-time Head Nerds, there are also plans to introduce guest nerds in areas like compliance.

“Because of demand we are also introducing a Business Nerd as well, who will focus on program development — how to build programs,” Cullen added.

MSPs get one-on-one access to the Head Nerd experts to get answers to their questions.  The Head Nerds also interface with MSPs by running boot camps on a quarterly basis. These are mainly online, and 3-5 hours in length, although there will be some more advanced on-prem ones.

All the Head Nerd services are open to all SolarWinds MSP partners, and are all free of charge. Cullen emphasized that there can still be issues in getting them to use this kind of program.

“It is absolutely a challenge,” he stressed. “The first part is to make them aware, and the second part is to get them into the program.”

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