The Lifestyle VAR Definition Is Wrong

For years, the channel community has berated and discounted the so-called “lifestyle VAR” as a no-ambition, self-sustaining business that doesn’t contribute to growth. The industry got it wrong and, in fact, should be embracing the people and businesses that call the channel a lifestyle.

By Larry Walsh

First, what does lifestyle mean? We often ascribe attributes of lavish living, leisure and fashion to having a lifestyle. Playboy millionaires and wealth socialites make up the jet-setting lifestylists. Likewise, we call underperforming resellers and solution providers “lifestyle VARs” because they’re more concerned with maintaining their standard of living.

The industry bastardized “lifestyle” as a reflection of the rewards. It should instead look at lifestyle as the way people embrace their careers and businesses. There are scores of people and businesses in the channel that live and breathe technology, that really have a passion for improving their customers’ operations and creating value-producing systems. They’re problem-solvers and innovators that spend their waking moments and sleeping hours coming up with the next big idea.

To the true lifestyle VARs, accomplishment – often manifested in growth and expansion – is everything. They reap the rewards of their investments, while providing strong returns on the products and support supplied by their vendors.

What about the underperformers? Aren’t they doing just enough to maintain a lifestyle? Perhaps. We, as an industry, think of them as measuring success in how much they have rather than how much their business has. Growth to them is a reflection of whether they can take an extra week’s vacation, or buy a second car.

Underperforming solution providers are secure, but not successful. They don’t take risks, as that would put their security in jeopardy. Growth is not a primary objective, because it requires investment. Instead, they plod along, not really caring about the next big thing. Their concern is themselves and maintaining pace. But isn’t this all indicative of a lifestyle? Perhaps, but they’re not living the life of a true solution provider. They’re more like the shadows in Plato’s cave: They’re a reflection of the real channel.

What the channel needs is true lifestyle VARs, partners that are growth-oriented, driven by the outcomes of their customer engagements and thrilled by adrenaline rush that comes with winning. They understand success comes with risk, and it’s the willingness to take a chance that separates them from the pretenders.

Larry Walsh, The 2112 GroupLarry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analysts of The 2112 Group. You can reach him by email:; or follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.