SMB Nation Canada Starts a Canadian Wave

May 4, 2008

SMB Nation Canada was held for the first time ever in Toronto this weekend. The event was actually called SMB Nation Toronto, but Harry agreed on a phone call that this was more than just another SMB Nation road show. This was the first event of its kind in Canada, and one that I’m proud to have been a part of.

Anyone who knows me understand I have a passion for community in Canada, and have fought a long hard battle to get Canadian and US vendors to wake up, and see we’re not just a subset of the US market. We are a large, thriving country with its own economy, culture and opportunities. Yet we are also North Americans, and part of the North American market. For too long we’ve been hung out in the middle somewhere like the middle child.

This weekend was a huge step in the right direction and I think that all starts with community. Partners from across Canada met this weekend and learned for the first time that they aren’t alone. That many of us have the same questions, struggle with the same issues and are striving to reach similar goals.

Vendors like Microsoft Canada and HP Canada saw for the first time what their US counterparts have known for a few years – that SMB Partners do not play by the same rules their enterprise counterparts do. We don’t measure our success behind closed doors by units sold. We measure our success out in the field, and need real face to face support from each other and our vendors. Hopefully HP and Microsoft will come out and play. The water’s nice, and we don’t splash too hard.

I met three people through this conference who give me great hope, and seem to get it.

C ZalbaConstanza Zalba is the product manager at Microsoft Canada for both SBS and EBS 2008. Her passion for the products is outweighed by her passion for our community. I’ve never seen a Microsoft Canada employee spend more time engaging with partners beyond just email. She has made her presence and passion known, has a genuine desire to meet not only the partners, but even the partner’s clients in order to understand her role better, and enable us to reach our goals, as she strives to reach hers. I welcome her to our team, and hope the other PM’s at Microsoft Canada will sit up and take notice. You don’t reach your goals behind a desk in our space. You reach them out in the field, which Constanza has learned. Way to go, Constanza.

Michael Yue and James Drover of HP Canada presented some of the great new servers being offered in the SMB space, and for the first time in any HP presentation I’ve seen, really seemed to understand who our customers really are and what they need from a hardware vendor. But more importantly, they wanted to get to know us – the end users trusted adviser, and understand what we need to see from HP in order to get those servers from the warehouse into the customers site. James showed a passion for the servers we sell that was infectious. Ask him about breaking his shorty in the garage! I’m going to stay in touch with these guys. Breaking the HP Canada shell is even harder that the Microsoft Canada shell – but with these guys on our side – who knows what HP’s SMB partners may start to see coming our way! Maybe that HP banner I asked for 2 years ago, HP? 😉

Robert CohenRobert M. Cohen is the President & Business Editor for Integrated mar.com. I felt sorry for him as he tried to present to a room with the garage style door wide open in back, and many attendees still on break outsider the door talking and making him hard to hear. But I soon found out that this isn’t a person who lets adversity get him down. And guess what? He gets us! I seriously encourage everyone reading this post to download and read about his new W3 Channel Enablement Program. This is going to change the way we deal with vendors, and the way vendors get to engage our customers, and everyone is going to win. Trust me – read this.

There is so much more to write about. The Canadian Launch of Response Point. Kaseya opening up a Canadian office. Aastra. MSP Partners. So much Canadian content happening right here in CANADA. I’m pumped folks, and I saw many others catching the spirit this weekend.

I don’t think I can overstate the change that’s about to take place in the Canadian SMB IT Pro industry. But that change depends on two things happening:

  1. We Canadian Partners getting off our chairs and getting out to engage with each other and with our vendors
  2. Canadian vendors getting out of their chairs and out of their glass bubbles, engaging with us, providing the programs, tools and resources we need to serve our customers the way we know they need to be served

We have evolved slowly, but we’re at a point today where the Canadian IT Pro community can become passionate about what we do, and start to drive the boat, instead of just catching the waves left by our American colleagues.

I ask and challenge you to forward this post to everyone you know in the Canadian SMB IT space. Post comments. Get excited. Get READY. Great things are about to happen.

O Canada, Baby! It’s time to make IT happen!

Gavin Steiner



One comment

  1. Hey Gavin: Thanx for the kind words and great endorsement. It was a pleasure meeting you, albeit a very short first meeting.

    Your comments about Canada are very interesting. However, you missed one very important point: on average, Canadian VARs are more successful then US VARs.

    The belief is that because of our less densely populated centres and smaller overall population, especially if you look at population compared to land mass … we are forced as a Country to produce more generalists rather then people who learn one aspect of running a business.

    Most VAR organizations in both Canada and the US tend to be very small, owner managed businesses, and thus the owner has to be involved in all aspects of running the business. Thus, our generalist approach creates better VARs.

    This is true in the Channel Marketing roles within the Vendor community as well. Proof is, look at how many top Channel Marketing people in the US are Canadians.

    Don’t know if you are aware, I wrote a book in 1993 called How To Successfully Do Business In Canada which was distributed internationally by all of the Canadian Consulates and most other Consulates throughout the world. Part of what the ChannelLine Advisory Council is doing this year is creating a IT Biz Community which includes all the typical Web 2.0 Community tools … as well as a manual and regular eNewsletter. The focus on the book is How To Successfully Do IT Business In Canada and the US. Our primary partners in this include: The American Chamber of Commerce and many parts of the US and Canadian government. This might be something that you and your blog community many be interested in getting involved in.


    Robert M. Cohen
    President & Business Editor
    Integrated mar.com Corporation
    mar.com Channel Services
    eNewsletters: eChannelLine, Channel Advisor & ConnectIT
    Founders: ChannelLine Advisory Council
    office: 905-763-1200 ext. 226
    toll free: 800-465-2059
    cell: 416-568-2059
    fax: 905-886-6216

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