Check Point’s Frank Rauch on the State of the Channel in 2020
During my recent Zoom discussion with channel luminary Frank Rauch, he tried not to frame everything around the events of 2020. But Frank, who has led channels for HP, VMWare and now Check Point, and was recently recognized with a Top Gun 51 Lifetime Achievement Award – couldn’t help but acknowledge how this year’s chaos and catastrophes have brought important issues to the forefront in our industry – all taking place as he is just completing his second year in the role.
When the pandemic hit, businesses everywhere were forced to adapt. Companies like Check Point and their channel partners have been on the front lines helping customers quickly secure remote workers and protect them against security threats. Now, security and “easy to buy” purchasing have never been more important, and finally, the value of diversity to a company’s culture has never been more apparent.
Join me through my frank conversation with Frank, where we explore these topics along with his take on the top three things every partner should be doing now.
Q: What enticed you to go to Check Point?
I wanted to get into an interesting growth industry and I’ve always been fascinated by security. I also wanted to go to a company with great products because I don’t care how good your channel program is, it won’t solve a bad product. And I didn’t want to go where the company might have been at the top of the curve in the channel. I wanted to be able to make progress, add value, fix whatever needed fixing and be able to evolve a great culture that was empowering and inclusive. I wanted to go to a company where you didn’t get handed a strategy but where you actually had a voice and a seat at the table. Check Point checked all the boxes.
Q: Tell me about Check Point’s current partner portfolio?
We have around 6,000 partners worldwide with sufficient geographic coverage and a strong legacy channel of security and data center partners that have developed security practices. We are seeing momentum move towards new types of partners like born-in-the-cloud companies that are focused on creating and augmenting capabilities, so they aren’t necessarily taking share from our existing partners. And we have good relationships with Microsoft, Google and AWS – some of that partner base wants added security and we welcome that unique skill set. Our focus for the channel now is really selective adds. We announced IoT Protect, so now we’re working with Armis, Ordr, Clarity and Medigate, which have their own partner networks that are more boutique and very good at IoT.
Q: How do you see partners changing in the world of cybersecurity?
Most have reexamined what they are doing. The pandemic heightened the need for remote access and the importance of supporting remote workers. It’s clear the demand for these types of services, which started in the March/April timeframe, isn’t going away.We are operating in a new normal and unfortunately, there are a lot of bad actors looking to take advantage of the situation.Marketplaces will be a big part of the future because we’ve all become more accustomed to a virtual world and buying low touch.And there’s a movement towards pay per user for security because companies want that flexibility, especially during uncertain times.
There is something to be said for working for the greater good. There are countless examples of how we and our partners have helped out manufacturing and transportation customers so they could free capital to transition into making ventilators or quickly get goods to the shelves. These are situations where we bypassed traditional paperwork, rushed them the security they needed, and in some cases arranged flexible payment schedules.
Q: How are partners innovating to expand that margin envelope?
We are seeing a little bit of everything. Partners are doing a really good job in threat analysis in terms of check-ups and assessments dealing with the front end of the services cycle. Partners are also focusing on day-one experience and accelerated deployments of security technology. It has become a very services-oriented business that has responded quickly to everything that is happening right now. It is impressive how partners have adapted in line with their clients’ needs, and how they are working to thwart the bad guys who are looking for every opportunity to take advantage of vulnerabilities during these difficult times.
Q: How are you transforming to encourage a focus on customer lifetime value and incentivize lifecycle engagement?
We are talking to our partners about LAER (Land, Adopt, Expand, Renew) model methodology but with balance and without overcomplicating programs. You’ll find partner programs where there are 10 steps to get paid in that customer lifecycle and you can imagine the complexity that comes with that. You want to incent partners to be able to do it – to get the new logo, to maximize the ultimate value of that customer, and to help them accelerate the road to complimentary products. You want to motivate and incent this behavior. The question is whether to do it at every step in the lifecycle model or have discrete motions that point them towards doing the right thing for the customers. We’re a bit more in that latter category.
Q: Talk to me about your experience running teams and how they ultimately make you successful?
The cool thing about success – and about awards, be it Coolest Cloud Companies, Top 50 Channel Chief or Lifetime Achievement Award – is that they all represent teams. What we do in the channel isn’t an individual sport; it just doesn’t happen that way. When I had the opportunity to be interviewed this year for the Lifetime Achievement Award, the one thing that I was really proud of was being able to name over 20 people I’ve worked with on teams who have emerged as either running their own channel or have very significant roles in the channel.
Q: What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion at Check Point?
Just look at Check Point’s executive team right now. How many companies have a female CFO, Head of Products and R&D, Head of Field Marketing, Head of Americas Channels, and Head of Sales for half of North America? That’s a big deal. When recruiting, we really focus on underrepresented minorities and we work with companies like Tech Qualled to identify veterans that we can bring into Check Point. With our Israeli background, we take military service seriously and I’m very proud of that.
Q: If partners could only do one or two big things, what would Frank do?
While at HP, a former CEO taught me that strategy is really the art of de-selection. So sometimes it’s not what you are going to do, it’s what you aren’t going to do. It’s also important to stay focused and follow the money. When you follow the money into the growth markets, look for the natural adjacencies. Determine how you can string things together, whether it is security or IoT, and be able to fully monetize and grow branches on that tree. And finally, do everything in your power to be able to not only please your customers, but to absolutely delight them.
A Closing Note: Always Play One Move Ahead
Being a channel rock star doesn’t preclude one from also becoming a lover and purveyor of great music. In 2017, Frank helped his son purchase John and Peters, a historic music venue in New Hope, Penn., where greats like Norah Jones and George Thorogood have taken the stage. Prior to the pandemic, John and Peters was home to live music 350+ days a year for 40+ years. Like businesses everywhere, it has had to adapt to stay afloat. Some of the changes are temporary while others will be permanent, but the ability to pivot is the only path towards longevity.
Through it all, Frank’s philosophy as a board advisor, investor, philanthropist and channel leader remains the same: always play one move ahead. Or as hockey G.O.A.T Wayne Gretzky once said, “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”