IT Nation: The Other Magic Kingdom

ConnectWise wrapped another spectacular installment of its partner conference, IT Nation. The annual gathering drew more than 2,000 faithful ConnectWise users to Disney World in Florida for three days of business development talks. The magic of IT Nation is how it expands solution providers’ thinking and professional connections.

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Many vendors talk to and with partners about sales excellence, expanding markets and striving for higher goals. Few, though, do on a level that’s comparable to that of ConnectWise, the professional services automation software vendor and producer of IT Nation, the annual gathering of solution and managed services providers.

Over the weekend, ConnectWise wrapped another installment of IT Nation at the Bonnett Creek resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. More than 2,000 managed service provides, resellers and vendors gathered for the weeklong event, which included embedded events with HTG Peer Groups, Level Platforms and Axcient.

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What makes ConnectWise and, by extension, IT Nation, different from other companies and events is the focus on business acumen and professional maturation over the technologies and products.

In fact, ConnectWise CEO and co-founder Arnie Bellini goes further, telling Channelnomics that his company (and his personal) mission is promoting better business practices and performance among technology companies, many of whom he describes as “accidental entrepreneurs.”

“We have to make the IT Nation (the ConnectWise community) successful at what they do because that is a reflection of what they do for their customers,” Bellini told Channelnomics.

This year’s IT Nation theme was “Choice,” and the ConnectWise team and partners took every opportunity to extol the virtues of choosing progress, innovation, success and greatness.

The problem ConnectWise and Bellini are addressing is something many the channel have long recognized: the lack of solid business management practices which is a reflection of limited business acumen. Even when solution providers are given potentially profitable products and services, they often struggle with achieving growth and sustaining success because they don’t focus on business fundamentals.

The 2112 Group, publisher of Channelnomics, recently released its State of Channel Business Acumen report, which details how many solution providers fail to set goals, measure performance or exercise basic business management best practices.

IT Nation featured many industry speakers, but the standout was business icon Jim Collins, the author of such books as “Good to Great,” “Built to Last” and “Great by Choice.” Signing Collins for the event wasn't a random choice; it was because his study on how businesses choose to succeed and sustain themselves reflects the goal of ConnectWise in developing its constituency.

The theme carried through many of the speaking sessions. Axcient founder and CEO Justin Moore delivered a presentation on the business lessons derived by disaster movies. HTG Peer Groups, a longtime ConnectWise partner, launched a new initiative based on Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Advantage.” And ConnectWise hosted numerous other speakers who delivered messages of better marketing, sales and business development.

The underlying value of IT Nation is that’s the closest thing to a channel convention in the current market. No other event draws the diversity of attendees, who are enthusiastic about being there and open to conversations with peers and rivals alike. Numerous attendees told Channelnomics that they get a lot of value out of just connecting with people who have experience that they can draw from and face the challenges.

ConnectWise and Bellini’s altruism may seem too good to be true. After all, successful managed service providers leveraging the power of the ConnectWise will ultimately result in more license sales of the PSA platform, as well as sister products, such as LabTech remote monitoring and management tools and Quosal quoting software.

However, Bellini sees IT Nation, the conference and the community, as something much larger; it’s about maturation and excellence. And that makes him one of the few industry executives who looks beyond the product sale in terms of enabling his constituency.

“If it was just about software, I would not be involved,” Bellini said. “Software is just a means to an end.”

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