What Happened at the BTA Grand Slam 2019?

A Gathering Full of Analysis, Insight, and Good Times




It’s a shame I haven’t been to more Business Technology Association events. I mean, I’ve spent several years now speaking with dealers about revenue, products, services, acquisitions—growth, not to be cliché. And what better setting is there, really, to sit down with a dealer principal, salesperson, or otherwise and have a meaningful conversation? Compared to OEM dealer meetings, where you just have to catch up with friends and contacts, the BTA provides a more close-knit and intimate experience, one that jives with both who I am and how I prefer to learn.


The sad reality is that I hadn’t been to a BTA event since 2015, in Boston—like I said, shame on me. It should go without saying, then, that I was excited for Grand Slam 2019, hosted by BTA East at the Sheraton New York Times Square. Over a couple of days in mid-September, 82 reps from 51 dealers were treated to a round of seminars and afforded ample time to converse with exhibitors, of which there were 49 (OEMs, ISVs, consumables vendors, leasing companies, IT-related firms, and more).


Education is the name of the game. On Day 1, the dealer panel dissected and discussed net-new business (cross-selling in existing accounts is oftentimes more profitable than contracting with new clients; humanize and nurture the sales process). The next day, along with a pair of sessions on sales/marketing and coaching, the omnipresent Charlie Brewer delivered “Vendors Find the Urge to Merge Irresistible” (supplies industry is in a downturn; consolidation of supplies providers could be very prevalent in the next 6–18 months) and the dry-humored John McIntyre presented highlights from BPO Media’s dealer survey (34% of the 71% of respondents who offer software offer three or more applications; dealers emphasizing network/device security and scanning have a higher renewal rate than those stressing low CPP and process/workflow). However, it was the program bookends—keynote address on Thursday, final seminar on Friday—that resonated most with me.


The BTA Grand Slam 2019 Dealer Panel (left to right): Robert Hilyard, CEO of Hilyard Business Solutions; Samantha Lahey, Content Creator and Digital Marketing Professional at Benchmark Business Solutions; and Harry Spaight, Sales Director at HGi Technologies.


Though I work in the tech sector, I had no clue who Chris Messina is before reviewing the schedule. Once again, shame on me—he’s just the guy who invented the hashtag for crying out loud! Messina brought with him a multifaceted message that introduced the idea that the iPhone was the first true personal computer (let that marinate for a minute), after which he branched out on the concept that technology shapes us and we shape technology. With speech recognition increasing in accuracy, Messina believes voice tech will soon become huge (we’re nearing a completely hands-free experience). Hotel rooms powered by Alexa, “conversational computing”, adaptation > behavior change > culture change, all of these will lead to the ultimate: the brain-to-computer interface. But what made the address even more impressive was his subtlety. Messina, an open-source advocate and an altogether intriguing dude, went about his business and never moved into the office, also known as the bread and butter of the audience. Rather, he allowed his words to breath and, in turn, allowed the crowd’s imagination to take over and ponder the possibilities of the smart workplace.


Brian Suerth, President of Technology Assurance Group, had the unenviable task of closing out the educational portion of the event, yet he managed it with confidence and aplomb. The topic: cybersecurity-as-a-service. Perfect. I’m a big fan of anything that can convince dealers to expand beyond the box and invest in areas primed to move the needle. Plus, it’s pretty darn difficult to not perk up when seeing the following stats…


  • 52% of businesses feel helpless to defend themselves from cyberattacks
  • 89% of SMBs have cybersecurity as a top priority in their organization
  • 97% of breaches could’ve been prevented with today’s technology


If that’s not commanding audience attention, I don’t know what is. And the fact of the matter is, though a poll of the room revealed that more than half of the dealers have a managed IT practice, my suspicion is that many of them aren’t pulling a high enough EBITDA with their service. For those non-players, well, the time is now, and cybersecurity is a golden gateway to a new revenue stream.


So, what was the worst part? Pfft. On the traffic-riddled ride back to Jersey in my Hyundai commuter, it took me an hour and 45 minutes to go less than half a mile on 11th Avenue.


Shame on me for deciding to take the tunnel, not the bridge.


They Said It

“When I took over as Vice President of Davis Business Machines, I immediately became a BTA member and have attended as many BTA events as my schedule has allowed. I absorb the knowledge given at these meetings and partake in BTA webinars, too. The sharing of best practices and ideas from my peers is invaluable. Hopefully, someday, I will have half the business sense and industry foresight as my fellow BTA members.” –John Maguire, Vice President of Davis Business Machines


“This was Zultys’ first BTA event and we couldn’t be happier with becoming a vendor/member. The BTA is an impressive, organized group, and it’s clear that the dealers just feed off each other. A common theme was the desire to diversify product offerings, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to help them increase margins and recurring revenue with our VoIP/Unified Communications platform.” –Len Bachmann, Director of Northeast Sales for Cloud & Premise Unified Communication Solutions at Zultys


“Grand Slam 2019, hosted by BTA East, marked our second consecutive event in Manhattan, much to the enjoyment of our attendees. Like all the association’s district events, dealers came to New York for the networking and learning opportunities. Manhattan is a special place, of course, and our closing reception on the 100th floor of One World Trade Center was very well received. Some asked me onsite: ‘How are you going to top this?’ We welcome the challenge and are already discussing plans for next year.” –Brent Hoskins, Executive Director of the Business Technology Association


TAG’s Brian Suerth capped off the educational series at BTA Grand Slam 2019 with a session on cybersecurity.


Be sure to register for BTA Fall Colors Retreat 2019, running October 17–18 in stunningly beautiful Asheville, North Carolina!