As many of you know, I attended the Continuum Navigate conference in Las Vegas the week of the shooting tragedy. Compliments to Michael George, Continuum CEO, for delivering a successful conference in the midst of madness. In fact he shared heartfelt words with the audience to acknowledge the tragedy.
On the backside of the gathering I caught up with George for a long-overdue 1:1 conversation. We focused on three areas: Partner Composition, Security and a roadmap component (lead generation) moving forward. We also talked about other conferences in the industry, where Continuum fits in and as a bonus, George shared that he believes there are 25,000 IT service provider firms in the US right now (people are always asking how big the segment is).
Figure 1: There is a reason George loaned me his sport jacket at the Continuum Navigate conference. He validated my observation that his well-heeled attendees have elevated up to the sport jacket level.
George in many ways mimics that Covey “Seven Habits” paradigm (his keynote speech was the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective IT Providers”) so in that spirit, I’ll begin with the end in mind and work backwards.
“The bottom line is that our partners are the most successfully in the business.” George stated. “It’s advantageous to get to scale.” Okay but what does that mean?
“Our approach is about taking our existing partners and making them more like commercial enterprises. For example, taking the two man shops and help them grow into large businesses. This occurs by leveraging the concept of a global economy and "outsource" some of the back office functions to the likes of Continuum.” George said. “That is, pivot from being the tinker/one that wants to touch every knob/turn every dial into becoming a more commercial enterprise…we've got guys that have really learned to build and scale real companies.”
“We’re different in that we view partner composition by revenue, not size. With respect to size, we have a super large partner at Continuum Navigate (Sharp) down to the one- and two-man shops. The difference is, if you go to any other conferences…a four person firm will be lucky to have $1M revenue. But when you ask what are your revenues are, as a measure of scale, it gets real interesting at Continuum Navigate. We have a partner in Cambridge with four FTEs, they bill $4.5M per year. We feel it’s not the number of partners we have but the composition of the partners…we pride ourselves on having the most successful partners…most profitable, growing the fastest, and figuring out that they need to invest in salespeople…when our Continuum partners get acquired…they get a premium…say 3x (higher revenue and two or three would be salespeople)...investors don't pay a premium for technical people…a five person firm today would have 3+ salespeople, etc.” George shared openly with his East Coast accent.
When I offered that SMB Nation has people who like what they do coming from the SBS era, George asserted that lifestyle businesses are great when it’s your lifestyle. “But we have people that are really trying to scale and unless they get big, it’s going to become harder and hard to compete…but when you do everything yourself, you are not benefiting from a global economy and Continuum’s back office solutions.”
Security and ‘da Roadmap
Not surpassingly my time with George was running short when we got to the other topics. So the net-net is this.
- George believes security is the new-new. I concur. Never ending and only getting worse. “This new frontier only means more opportunities for Continuum MSPs.
- The 2018 roadmap will include lead generation for Continuum partners.
So I end on this. Next year in late September the Continuum Navigate conference will be back in Boston, a city I’m overdue to visit. I’ll bring a sports jacket to both elevate my game and fit in with the top dogs.