My name is Christian Buckley, Director of Product Evangelism (and recently awarded SharePoint MVP) at Axceler. I’m currently serving as president of the Seattle Chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP). Along with my chapter co-founder and Treasurer, Jeff Shuey of Kodak, we will be blogging about our efforts to grow our chapter, build membership, and provide value to our companies and to the local community.

 
Our intent with these posts is to do two things:
 
  1. Encourage Microsoft partners to get involved in their local IAMCP chapters, or, if a local chapter doesn’t exist, to consider starting one.
  2. Outline step by step what has worked for us and what has not, so others can avoid our missteps and repeat our successes as they build chapters of their own.
 
My introduction to IAMCP came during my first Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington, D.C. The small SharePoint ISV I was working for, a Microsoft Gold Partner, had just been acquired by a larger SharePoint ISV, also a Microsoft Gold Partner. As part of our growth strategy we were moving away from an entirely direct sales model toward a mixed model with channel partners as a way to rapidly scale and grow. WPC was to be our first big push for partners.
 
WPC was a learning opportunity. We had a steady stream of visitors to our booth and signed a few partner agreements that led to customer sales. No complaints there. But the real value of attending these kinds of events is usually around the relationships you build in the periphery — making personal connections with people who become advocates for you and your company.
 
While in D.C., I made a number of these personal connections. I fell into a crowd of old friends and new faces – a combination of Microsoft employees and partners. I was invited to a dinner where the topics veered from pending changes to the partner competencies, to the quality and quantity of food in front of us, to local and international IAMCP events. On that last point I had no idea what they were talking about.
 
To be honest, my first impression of IAMCP was that it had something to do with charity golf events and adult beverages. But it was explained to me that the purpose was partner-to-partner networking, and that I really needed to sign up and join my local chapter. After hearing a lot of personal testimony about the value IAMCP had brought to other businesses, I agreed to join. When I got back to my room that night I signed up online. And when I returned home to Seattle, I went looking for my local chapter and other local members.
 
That’s where things came to a halt. There wasn’t an operational chapter in the Seattle area. There had been a chapter at one time, but it melted away after its leaders left the region. That’s right – Microsoft’s home turf, and no IAMCP chapter. My emails to a handful of local members went unanswered. Then things got busy with work, and as happens in cases like this where traction is low and other pressing priorities, IAMCP dropped off my radar.
 
Fast forward 10 months. The next WPC was imminent, and my strategy for the event had matured. We were having solid success with our partner network, with a steadily increasing portion of our revenue coming through the channel. And it wasn’t just my company changing how we planned to approach WPC – Microsoft was also changing things up, putting more emphasis on peer-to-peer connections, and expanding the WPC Connect model (Great move, Microsoft. HUGE difference between events!).
 
Through one of the friendships I solidified at WPC the previous year, I was invited to share my community-building experiences in a panel on MPN Live (view it here). Tiffany Ingargiola, the IAMPC communications chair, confronted me with the fact that an entire year had gone by and I was still not engaged in IAMCP. She challenged me not to sit around waiting for others to build a chapter, but to get one started myself (If you know @TiffanyWI, you know how strong a motivator she can be.).
 
Having extensive experience building communities, hosting networking events, and running user groups, I knew the level of commitment required – the need for structure, consistency, and committed leadership. So I stepped up to the challenge to restart the Seattle chapter. Thankfully, I was able to convince a couple others to join me, and together we got things moving. A few months later, we have our first official chapter meeting behind us and are preparing for our second. Our board of directors is filling out. We still have several committee vacancies, but our mailing list is growing.
 
We invite partners in the Seattle area to join us the third Thursday of each month from 11:30am to 1pm. For those outside Puget Sound, I look forward to sharing our story, and hearing your feedback. You can reach me directly at cbuck@axceler.com​