I recently spoke with Jerry Koutavas, the President of The ASCII Group, for an episode of My TechDecisions Podcast, and it got me thinking about these types of organizations. The ASCII Group is a community of MSPs, VARs and solution providers in North America that was founded in 1984. It’s similar to other installer groups, such as the NSCA for commercial integrators and PSA for security installers.
These groups ultimately exist to help technology installers. That’s obvious. They provide benefits like marketing opportunities, training opportunities, ongoing education, networking, business and strategy training, and more. That is the first objective of these groups – companies pay to be members so of course these organizations need to provide a return on that investment.
However, being a member of these groups is also good for the end user. Let me explain.
As end users looking for an IT provider, AV installer, or security installer, to a certain extent we’re in the dark. There are ways to do our research – we can ask the company for references, look at past work through case studies, and vet their employees to figure out how legitimate a potential partner is. This takes time, however. It’s time well spent, but narrowing down your choices with limited information can be cumbersome.
That’s where these organizations step in. The ASCII Group vets members before they are allowed to join – same with NSCA and PSA. They ensure that a potential member has certain qualifications. The size of the company, its business strategy, the amount and diversity of certifications that employees possess are all looked at before membership is granted. So right away you’re getting a base level of knowledge when you choose a member of an organization. Instead of doing research on every company in your area, you can do research on a single organization and then look for its members in your area. Then do further research from there.
That’s not the only benefit, however. I mentioned ongoing training, networking, and business strategy that these groups provide. That’s ultimately as beneficial for the end user as it can be for the installer. As an end user you know a member of an organization like The ASCII Group has access to up-to-date resources. They’re speaking with other members, they’re attending summits to learn how to better run their business, they’re receiving certifications in different aspects of their business. They’re getting an ongoing education, and in a world where technology is constantly evolving that’s an absolute necessity in an installer.
The ASCII Group, for example, has a list serv between all members where they discuss everything from new technology opportunities to how to better communicate with customers. A member can ask a question on the list serv and it is emailed out to over 800 participating members. An answer is given typically that day, and over 100 posts are answered daily. Group members learn about new vendors, technical issues, business questions and more from other qualified companies in the field.
It’s this sharing of knowledge that is so vital for installers to grow and provide great service. The mass of lessons learned by hundreds of companies will always eclipse the lessons learned by a single entity. When you’re choosing a partner, you don’t want to be the customer that a company learns a hard lesson with. You want your installer to have a support system that can warn them beforehand.
So do your research, reach out to other companies that have used a potential technology partner, check out case studies – vet, vet, vet. But start out by looking at these organizations. It offers a base level. Every company that is a member of these organizations will be at or above a certain success level. From there you can dig your teeth in and find the perfect fit.
Check out the latest episode of My TechDecisions Podcast to learn more about The ASCII Group specifically, and the benefits of working with members of organizations in general.