There’s a different vibe at Empower this year and I was struggling to put words to it. The conference has grown into an intimate 500-attendee event with a purposefully restricted tradeshow hall. This is a lecture content-based event with an
emphasis on 1:1 networking (the smaller size facilitates that and is a very welcome in the MSP events portfolio). What I've found is SolarWinds is listening with two ears and talking with one mouth (a back-handed way of saying the partner panel was essentially a listening tour).
Instead of the traditional executive panel for the press conference, the format of partners speaking with SolarWinds executives essentially on the sidelines contributed to the new vibe.
I asked the partner panel how to reconcile "automation" (and what SolarWinds is well known for) that has some SMB Nation members feeling like robots in a control room instead of going fishing with friendly clients on Friday. My question was based on the observation posed by day one keynote speaker Erick Qualman: find balance between your online and offline presence.
Here is a summary of the comments from the partner panelist in response to my question:
Figure 1: Partner Power!
• Don. This MSP wants to have the personal touch. “You got to get out there and spend time with your clients.” He also saw it as a generational thing: old generation likes personal touch v. new generation likes digital communications. And yes – he literally goes fishing on Fridays as he lives on a lake in Michigan.
• Bryan. This lively Texan got into the MSP biz to help customers better use the tools…uses face-2-face once a week…that’s a huge time investment.
• David. He seeks to advance the client relationship through automation. “Automation plays a role in how you free up scarce resources.”
• Calvin. He took people/employees who are not passionate about not having to work…and used automation to get them to work…Some people perform better work with automation.
One additional conversation concerning the overall size of SolarWinds and how that perception plays out in the SMB Nation community. It’s grown strategically via acquisitions and last year completed an Initial Public Offering (IPO). It’s a natural business maturity cycle in nearly any line of work. However, the “little guys” often raise concerns about concentration, authenticity and being in touch with the working person. One of the panelists, fielding my populist concerns advocating, replied with a legitimate answer: scalability. SolarWinds is especially well-positioned to help MSPs who are serious about growing their business. Fair enough.