How to Find Small Business VARs
To find national VARs, look first to the manufacturers of the small business hardware or software that you think you may need. Many of the manufacturers have their own VAR divisions and small-business specialists too, or they have a list of third-party VAR partners that you can choose from. It's not uncommon to find that some of the VARs on that list are geographically close to your business.
To find local VARs, ask other local businesses (large and small) who they use. You can also check the memberships of local organizations such as the Better Business Bureau or the Chamber of Commerce, which typically has a technology council.
For example, don't just enter VAR but instead enter a brand name such as Microsoft or Dell and then VAR. Add your city name or zip code, and the search engine should produce a list of local VARs for you. Try other search term combinations until you have all the information you want.
"Talk to as many providers as you can find, and get references from people that you know both in and out of business," advises Tom Miller, vice president of Channel Management at Sage. "Then you make a personal assessment of who you think actually understands your business the best. You need to have a high degree of confidence that they understand your business."
Qualities to Look for in a VAR
Before you start interviewing VARs, make sure you have your goals firmly in mind. Write down a list of objectives you want to achieve in the relationship. This list should consist of business goals rather than a shopping list of brand names and IT equipment requirements, although those are good to have on hand too, if you know them.
But you want to really focus on specific business processes and goals. That, in the end, will tell you and the VAR what technologies you need.
"Make sure the VAR can assess the true needs of your IT environment -- whether that means implementing infrastructure that can scale up to accommodate future growth or making small, strategic suggestions that won't break the bank," says Brad Amano, solutions marketing manager for Eaton Corporation, a power management company.
"Partner with a VAR that has deep industry relationships -- if the reseller can call on trusted vendor partners to assess a particular aspect of an IT environment on the fly, small business owners can be assured that they are making wise and educated decisions," said Amano.
He added that having a VAR that you regard as a trusted advisor is key to a successful business relationship and that, "VARs in turn must have a solid foundation with their vendors so that small businesses can get several levels of support."
Pam Baker has written for numerous leading publications including, Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, the NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers.
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