The channel is set to experience a whole new trade organisation in 2009 according to managing director of Synaxon UK Derek Jones, who sat down with PC Retail this month to talk through his company's launch plans.
One of the first things Jones did was to stress that Synaxon isn't a buying group; at least not in the traditional sense. "This is a whole new level of organisation," explained Jones, speaking exclusively to PC Retail. "I wouldn't consider Synaxon a buying group; rather, it's a channel enhancement company, one that is there to support its members – both reseller and distributor – and to make the process of running a business in the channel a lot simpler than what it currently is."
Indeed, on first impressions, the support options available to retailers and resellers are on a new level. "I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised at the efficiency of the group and how much it can help their business," added Jones.
The organisation is keen to avoid any sense of it being one that takes its dealers for granted, with Jones stressing that members are partners. Indeed, the element of partnership is built right into the UK wing of Synaxon, and with the firm offering two levels of membership – Synaxon Technology Partner, and Premier Partner – its partner program is shaping up to be one of the unique aspects of the group.
"We have two partner levels," explains Jones. "The first, which is free to all PCA members, gives partners access to a free bi-monthly mailer that can be personalised with their company details, access to all supplier agreements, basic listing on the Synaxon website and a three month free trial to our stock procurement platform EGIS.
"In addition, we also offer the Synaxon Technology Premier Partner which costs £99 per month and offers a free professionally overprinted bi-monthly mailer, detailed listing on the Synaxon site, priority leads via the call locator system, free use of standard EGIS and a ten per cent discount on all other Synaxon services," added Jones.
One of the key things that he is keen to point out, is the level of support the organisation has had from all quarters of the channel. At the time of going to press, the number of distribution partners stood at eight, with names such as Entatech, CMS Components and Widget all on board.
It's not just distributors that have been singing the praises of Synaxon's plans. During the summer, the organisation took ten reseller partners to the organisation's German event to give them a flavour of what to expect when the organisation gets up to full speed early next year.
"I think the key thing is that Synaxon is structured differently to other organisations in the channel," commented director of Edinburgh-based reseller Drum Brae Solutions, Mike Hoffman, who was one of the people the firm took to the main conference. "That's not to say it's something brand new, it's just that it's the first to bring everything together in such a cohesive and useful way.
"I think the key thing is that its back end system isn't necessarily a threat to buying groups' existing purpose; in fact if anything, it could free them up from having to develop their own solutions to focus on getting their members the best deal possible, even more so than they can do at the moment," added Hoffman. "The way I see it is that there is the potential for Synaxon and the channel's buying groups to work together and to all benefit."
The PCA's chief executive Keith Warburton echoed Hoffman: "There's nothing to say that a reseller can't belong to multiple groups. In these times resellers need all the help they can get."
It is Synaxon's EGIS (Enterprise Global Information System) that it sees as one of the key reasons behind its success. "Unlike some other systems, this has benefits not just for resellers, but also for distributors and many others involved in the partner programme," explains Jones, echoing Hoffman's suggestion that even existing buying groups could benefit from the system.
Room for one more?
And despite running an already established trade body in the UK himself, the PCA's chief executive Keith Warburton said that choice was always a good thing: "The more options resellers have, the better." He was also keen to sing the praises of the EGIS system: "Synaxon seems to have quite a clear differentiator, its EGIS system."
He was also eager to encourage retailers and resellers to investigate how the group could help them. "It seems to me that resellers have nothing at all to lose by being part of Synaxon – base level membership doesn't cost them anything at all – and they can benefit considerably from the advantages Synaxon offers."
However, for the time being, Synaxon isn't planning to imitate every aspect of its German parent. "I think the key thing to bear in mind is that the UK isn't Germany; things that work there might not be so successful here so we can't rush blind into situations," Jones told us.
One example of where the organisation isn't planning on copying its parent is in terms of franchising. "We're not looking at introducing the franchise system to the UK, but you can never say never. It's just not one of things we feel is most important to focus on at the moment."