From his office in california--an earthquake-proof, red-brick data center that he shares with the Orange County government--Govplace president Sean Burke has his eye on the upcoming elections. Govplace, the 12th fastest-growing solution provider on the 2004 VARBusiness 500 (No. 442), earns every penny of its $26 million in sales via federal, state and local government contracts by providing storage, security and business-continuity solutions. With only 30 employees, Govplace can't afford to hire analysts to break down the probable race results like its larger rivals do. So Burke scours government reports, industry news and other research resources to get a sense of what to expect after the dust settles on November 2004.
"Half of our job is technical and the other half is political," Burke says. "We have to anticipate what is going to happen, and then understand the priorities of the new elected leaders and their staff. We need to know if the new focus is going to be health care, defense, education or social services, and then see what we can provide there. Here in California, [there's] the federal No Child Left Behind program and other major funding initiatives, [without which] kids wouldn't have money for IT. So we have to look closely and ask, 'Is the next election going to affect that? How should we be planning?'"
What's key: getting to the de facto truth behind the winning candidate's words. "What happens after election day depends upon much more than what is said in the speeches," Burke says. "You really have to dig within their political organizations to get a real sense of what to expect."
Burke is far from alone among VARs: The stakes are high for government channel sales in any election year--especially one in which the next U.S. president will be decided. From the White House to the county clerk's office, the shuffling of elected leaders will play a big role in the future fortunes of those pursuing federal, state and local government contracts. Like Burke, most resellers are trying to read the tea leaves.
History Is the Best Teacher
What? You say you're skeptical that new leaders can have a major impact? That politics is nothing more than a "meet-the-new- boss-same-as-the-old-boss" business-as-usual process? Then think about the state of federal government channel sales before the November 2000 election: Four years ago, the phrase homeland security wasn't the all-encompassing, national buzz phrase that it is now. Heck, we didn't even have a governmental department for it back then. And it wasn't exactly the largest blip on the radar for resellers.