It’s not often that a CEO claims that the proudest moment in his career is… failure. Failure? Yup. But then again Juan Fernandez is not your ordinary business leader.
The CEO of MSP Growth Coalition and co-chair of CompTIA’s Channel Development Advisory Council has helped build several companies and recently started a new business to help mid-sized MSPs accelerate their success—all built upon mistakes he’s made and lessons he’s learned through the years.
Through it all, Fernandez has also been a staunch supporter of CompTIA and its members, and for his outstanding service and commitment he received the 2022 Industry Advisory Council Leadership Award at this year’s CompTIA Communities & Councils Forum. Fernandez recently spoke with CompTIA to tell his story, including what’s important to him and how other MSPs can learn from his experiences to achieve their own success. Here’s what he had to say:
What are you most proud of in your career and what’s helped get you to where you are now?
“Failure. For most of my life my success has been built off of failure. In my presentation at CompTIA’s Communities & Councils form, I said ‘Failure is the tuition we pay for success.’ I needed that in my life. It’s OK to fail because you can learn and move on.
“In addition, I would say a landmark moment for me was when I helped write the new CompTIA A+ certification. And that’s because I remember how I felt when I failed the A+ early on, not because I wasn’t good enough, but because I didn’t study hard enough. But my wife wouldn’t let me give up. I realized I had the capability, but I had to unlock the imposter in me. And when I did, things started to happen. I’m a first-generation technologist so to be able to write the A+, something I was afraid to take and never thought I’d pass, that was a very serious accomplishment to me because I know it can change people’s lives. I’m so excited about that.”
What advice do you have for MSPs and other tech businesses to become more successful?
“Fail fast. The biggest lesson is you never know what works until it doesn’t. Think about playing chess. You don’t always win, but you remember the last move you made that didn’t work so you don’t make it again. Move fast, learn lessons. That’s allow me to create hyper-growth businesses. I’ve learned over the last 28 years what not to do. Don’t let the ‘thought of doing’ stop you from actually doing. Figure out what works, stumble, fall, laugh, cry—but get it done. In the end, you’ll do one of two things, you’ll win, or you learn a lesson. And if you learn a lesson, you can build meaningful relationships doing so. One last piece of advice, successful companies build process and procedures that empower people to be successful. If you can instill amazing culture, you’ll ultimately create an amazing company.”
Why is serving on the Channel Development Advisory Council important to you and what goals do you have for it?
"One of my biggest desires is to help empower others to be successful. In my journeys, I’ve seen a lot of strife between vendors and partners alike. I wanted to be able to share some insights and felt it was important to get the voice of the receiving side of the channel heard, not just the delivering side, which is mostly vendors. That side of the story was not being heard and not being considered. As MSPs, we receive a lot of what everyone thinks we want and need and we should just be willing to accept it, sit quietly and adapt to what we are told. I wanted to bring the voice of the unheard to the table."
“I wanted to represent the MSP community to the world. It was really important to me. It still is today. I remember thinking that I was going to get kicked out right after I joined because I came in and was like ‘Here’s what MSPs want. Start talking with channel partners and not to channel partners.’ But I didn’t and we all work together for the benefit of everyone. Our goal now is to empower the channel, to increase collaboration components. I’m working really hard to break down barriers. There’s no reason we shouldn’t all be talking. The goal for the council is to increase communication, internal and external, to learn how to interact with each other and learn what the new motions are. We all have to provide for our customers’ customers. That’s the real goal, right?”
What challenges/trends do you want to raise more attention/awareness for in your council role?
“The challenge is we talk to each other, but we don’t always want to share what our intentions are when it comes to customers. So the challenge is transparency. We need to recognize that vendors, distributors and MSPs need to be profitable and break down the wall where we don’t want to show our cards, but we want the others to show us theirs. That is starting to dissolve. There is more transparency and choosing a mutual go-to-market strategy. During the pandemic we had to get past that, right? Everybody had the opportunity to say I need you and you need me.
“We still need more awareness to get to a point where customers feel more confident, and when we have joint efforts to support them and we’re all singing the same song. The customer knows they’re paying for a solution. As long as they see success, we as the channel have a so much more meaningful story. The last few pieces of content developed by the CDAC show that, such as the channel marketing playbook. That’s a communal effort from the different members of the council to bridge the channel together, to show all it all works from a unified front. The next evolution we want to look at is what happens after the buyer’s journey. We’re developing an infinite loop chart, for what happens after the buyer’s journey ends, because it really doesn’t end. There’s ebb and flow between vendor partner and MSP and there’s this new world where we all should be focusing on ongoing customer success. That’s where the focus has shifted and where we need to go.”
How are you and the council working with CompTIA to address those issues and promote more awareness?
“It’s really hard to turn big ships. We’re changing a traditional route to market. We’re changing sales, marketing and talk tracks. This is a heavy lift. But it’s also what the customer demands. If you’re not doing it, you will struggle. I’ve seen vendors and distributors try to dig their feet in the sand and not want to move their model, only to get bulldozed by investors asking ‘Why aren’t we performing. Why aren’t we gaining traction?’ They see other companies gaining share and those are the ones engaging with MSPs and resellers differently. They’re doing customer success. So the lightbulb goes off and the companies that didn’t want to move off traditional routes start to realize they need to know. It’s wild to watch.
“This year, when we announced next evolution of buyer’s journey, talking best practices, we’ll start to make noise about what needs to happen to get these ships to turn. Vendors that have not traditionally shared their information, all of a sudden, are sharing success mechanisms that used to be under lock key. CompTIA has been such a great place, with the councils and communities, for people to communicate, stimulate community and promote awareness. We’ve done that through Tech Together, the CompTIA ISAO, and much more. CompTIA is a place where we can come and talk freely and not worry. But we don’t just talk about issues—we do something about it. It’s not just a banter fest, it’s a place to come and make an impact.”
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