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Cooperation Helps Server VARs

Cooperation, not competition, is gaining a foothold in many businesses.

Last September, VAR Joe Palmer was able to organize an event that years ago would have been considered taboo. He invited 17 solution providers to attend a Cisco Systems Security seminar and NetIQ security presentation held at the Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

What happened there is the equivalent of the Yankees and the Red Sox having a dinner party to discuss ways to improve each other's game. At least seven resellers showed up, along with 65 of their customers, where they networked and talked technology. There were even instances where resellers introduced their customers to other resellers.

For Palmer, who has been a solution provider for 18 years, that event was a far cry from the days when VARs followed a different hard-line code.

"A competitor was a competitor. You kept each other at arm's length," explains Palmer, a sales manager at Enterprise Technology Group, based in Boston. "I don't talk to you; you don't talk to me. If we see each other, we look the other way. That is the way it was."

Not so today. More and more VARs are partnering and subcontracting work with each other--a sure sign that box-pushing VARs are morphing into collaborative solution providers. The technology market is making this a necessity. And it's not just about making a mental adjustment. It's a fundamental business-model change. Pure product-focused sales no longer generate enough profitable margins. Moreover, emerging technologies--such as wireless, storage and Voice over IP--are complicated and require huge investments to adopt and develop as an expertise. So, now, many VARs have to break the competitive barrier and extend a handshake to fellow VARs.

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