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D&H’s Partnerfi Community Is Paying Off For Partners

Steven Burke

‘The D&H Partnerfi secret sauce is that we built this from the ground up based on feedback from partners to solve the specific business needs of today,’ says D&H Co President Daniel Schwab. ‘We started with a clean slate to address the specific business challenges facing partners.’

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Solution providers participating in D&H Distributing’s Partnerfi community are growing their cloud business by more than double the rate of the distributor’s overall partner population.

The distributor said its cloud business with its Partnerfi members is up 210 percent in 2022 versus 100 percent growth for the rest of the D&H’s overall partner population.

Partnerfi member’s advanced technologies (server, networking and security) sales are also stronger than the rest of the D&H partner population, growing at 43 percent versus 24 percent for Harrisburg, Pa.-based D&H’s overall partner population.

“The D&H Partnerfi secret sauce is that we built this from the ground up based on feedback from partners to solve the specific business needs of today,” said D&H Co President Daniel Schwab. “We started with a clean slate to address the specific business challenges facing partners. This is not a me-too community. This is the exact opposite of what the other partner communities are doing. We view ourselves as an enabler of growth for partners and that starts with listening.”

[RELATED: D&H Creates Modern Business Unit To Accelerate Everything-As-A-Service Sales]

That formula is working with Partnerfi – which was launched in January – already attracting 300 members, whose sales are growing at a 29 percent faster clip than D&H’s overall partner business.

“The Partnerfi model is working,” said Schwab. “It came at the perfect time with COVID winding down and many partners experiencing years of new business challenges and less than normal training opportunities. Sometimes you are smart and sometimes you are lucky. We were able to launch this at a time of great need and interest by the partner community.”

Among the most popular Partnerfi offerings are an extensive leadership development program that focuses on business development areas like recruitment and retainment, growth strategies and even succession planning.

D&H’s long term family and employee owned business heritage and privately held status gives it a leg up against competitive partner community offerings, said Schwab.

“It’s a luxury to be private and to be able to make long term investments and decisions,” said Schwab. “We put partners at the center of our universe and then surround them with our vendor capabilities. Public or private equity owned companies often times have quarterly goals and priorities that are focused on shareholder equity.”

D&H’s business model gives the company a competitive advantage with the tougher macro economic headwinds facing the industry in 2023, said Schwab. “Our business model stands out even more in a challenged market when most companies become internally focused. We are more externally focused on our partners than ever before.”

D&H had been discussing having a partner community for years but the distributor wanted to make sure it “took its time and built something different,” said Schwab.“Ultimately it was our sales leaders sharing partner feedback that drove the decision to start Partnerfi.”

D&H has created in a short time close and tight knit personal relationships with Partnerfi members that mirrors the distributor’s long-time family and employee owned legacy, said partners.

“In the other partner community I was a part of for five years you were just a number,” said Traci Leffner, president of Sovran Inc., a managed service provider headquartered in Eagan, Minn. “It was a numbers game rather than a people game. D&H has stayed true to its form with Partnerfi: it’s about the people and the relationships you form. We are all like family in Partnerfi,”

Sovran’s participation in Partnerfi has “absolutely” helped drive sales growth, said Leffner, particularly in the security market. D&H helped Sovran pull together a complete security stack for Sovran’s SMB customers, said Leffner. That security business is now one of Sovran’s fastest growing services, she said.

“I credit D&H with a lot of our sales growth because they took the time to explain what we needed to do and came to me with the right people to get it done,” she said.”They helped me find something that protects my SMB clients but is also affordable.”

One of the secrets to Partnerfi’s success is a focus on helping MSPs sell services rather than just focusing on selling product, said Leffner. “D&H realizes that if they teach people how to be successful managed service providers the product and device sales will come,” she said. “This has given us MSPs a voice with bigger manufacturers like Cisco and Lenovo. I think you are going to see a lot more managed service programs being offered by the big manufacturers because of their exposure to us through Partnerfi.”

Leffner sees Partnerfi continuing to be a big part of Sovran well into the future. “As long as D&H puts people first I will always be one of their loyal customers,” she said. “This has changed our business. I will forever give D&H credit for helping me make changes that have helped Sovran be more successful.”

No other communities are providing as much business focused content aimed at helping grow the business, said Rick Grinstead, managing partner at Dayton/Cincinnati Technology Services (DCTS), a Cincinnati Ohio technology services and solution provider.

“It’s different than any of the other communities,” he said. “It’s a combination of business development with things like succession planning and sharing among members on why and where they have been successful. I haven’t seen the kind of reseller sharing that is done at Partnerfi and Partnerfi events.”

Grinstead credits D&H Co-Presidents Dan and Michael Schwab with creating a culture that has put Partnerfi above other communities. “You can walk up to Dan and Michael and be open to them about what they are doing well and what they are not doing well,” he said. “You can walk up to the entire D&H executive team and talk to them about any topic you want to. All of their people get involved to make you successful like they have been successful.”

D&H’s family- and employee-owned legacy ensures that the entire company is “pulling in the same direction” to help partners succeed, said Grinstead.

D&H makes up as much as 90 percent of DCTS’ distributor purchases, up from about 50 percent prior to the COVID 19 pandemic, said Grinstead. “That’s because of D&H’s openness and how close they are with us,” he said.

Schwab couldn’t be happier about the reception that Partnerfi has received from partners. “Partnerfi has vastly exceeded expectations,” he said. “We had hoped to have 200 members in the first year. Having 300 members and climbing in less than a year is a wonderful compliment that reinforces our belief that there is an unending need for partner development, support and deep partnership to create great long term business benefits.”

As for the prospect for Partnerfi in 2023 and beyond, Schwab said D&H is “doubling down” on new programs and initiatives for Partnerfi. “We anticipate continued strong growth in members and the sales success of our current members,” he said. “We are honored that partners want to align with us. We are going to continue to do our part to help them grow and succeed.”

Steven Burke

Steve Burke has been reporting on the technology industry and sales channel for over 30 years. He is passionate about the role of partners using technology to solve business problems and has spoken at conferences on channel sales issues. He can be reached at sburke@thechannelcompany.com.

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