Sphere of influence

Sphere of influence

The world would be a better place if people spent more time thinking about their own business partnerships.

By the time you read this, there are only a few days left in the financial year and you no doubt have a very good idea of how it panned out for your business. There's still time to close a couple of big deals that will sweeten the numbers but, at this stage, they'll be little more than a cherry on top of the cake.

The end of the financial year is always a time for reflection and, while some companies at all tiers of the channel will have done better than others, it's fair to say the market has been a bit flat in the final quarter.

There are obvious and well-documented reasons for this. The global economic climate has been more than a little twitchy in the past six months thanks largely to fears of a recession in the US. Locally we have a new Government, very high interest rates and I never want to read another story about petrol prices. In the channel we've seen the biggest switcheroo in years following Commander's meltdown - we now know where most of its leading staff went, but major vendors have found large pockets of its abandoned hardware dollars more difficult to trace.

All of which got me thinking about the wonderful world of 'co-opetition' - this non-grammatical construct used mainly by multinational vendors. As you're well aware, the basic idea is that big companies in diverse markets realise that there are times when they'll compete with each other for the same piece of business, but they are also mature enough to see the significant benefits to cooperating with each other in noncompetitive environments.

This corporate 'hugathon' is all well and good when the market's buoyant and there's plenty of business to go around, but we all know that the gloves come off quickly enough when targets start to look a little difficult to meet. I get the feeling it's a little bit like that at the moment because conversations I've had, and others that have been relayed to me, suggest there are unusually high levels of assessment going on with regard to competitive landscapes and distribution arrangements. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a couple of major changes between now and the end of the calendar year.

My favourite rumour recently involved a printer vendor (who we will call Vendor A) giving a distributor (who we will call Distributor X) access to its range. Another vendor (who we will call Vendor B) that sells a lot of its printers through Distributor X heard of the appointment and threw some toys out of the pram, threatening to add another distributor to its line-up if Distributor X made any concerted effort to sell Vendor A's models.

In my opinion, Vendor B needs to concentrate on whether Distributor X does a good job of selling its printers and shouldn't be concerning itself with a partner's other business arrangements. This is a free market, everybody needs to make a buck and some of the political positioning that goes on behind the scenes does nobody any favours.

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