Microsoft Director of Business & Sales Operations - Eric Ligman

Eric Ligman, Microsoft Director of Business & Sales Operations Blog

It has been a fun 15 years.

imageThroughout my career, I have had the great fortune to meet and work with so many fantastic people from across the globe and take on some exciting and challenging projects. In fact, it is that passion for challenging and exciting projects that has guided my career along its path, and this past week marked two milestones for me on this journey: 1) New Years Day marked 15 years since I first joined Microsoft and 2) Wednesday, January 7th, marked two years since I made the move back to the Microsoft U.S. subsidiary and my current role.

As the new year approached, I found myself reflecting back over the past 15 years and how this journey has unfolded. As I followed the journey (below), it was also refreshing to see how my career path has stayed true to the approach I have always tried to take, which I admit can be a little unique, and the “personal brand” I have worked to build for myself. When it comes to the approach, I’ve always approached my career path looking for an experience, not a specific job or title. So when people have asked, “Where do you see yourself next?” I have always been able to describe my next role, but didn’t know the title or if it even existed yet (and many times it hasn’t). My next role will be:

  1. Challenging – I love a challenge and thinking strategically to solve problems or develop solutions that either don’t exist today or someone has said, “we can’t do it and need someone to figure out how.”
  2. Impactful – The role has to provide me the opportunity to make an impact on the business I am in, the leadership I work with, and the people I work with.
  3. Educational – I always look to grow my skill set, so I look for roles where I can learn new skills, new businesses, new geographical impacts, new perspectives, etc.
  4. Flexibility – I love to try new things, things that others haven’t before, and the ability to think and work outside the box and beyond the current limits, so having the flexibility to go after that strategic goal and do what needs to be done to accomplish it.
  5. Great people – Who you work for and who you work with make an incredible difference in a role. I always look to surround myself with great people and to have the opportunity to meet and work with great people, as well as to be able to help others be successful and grow.

From a “personal brand” perspective, I’ve tried to keep mine direct and to the point. For those not familiar, a “personal brand” is the way you would have others answer if they were asked, “Who is X,” which in my case would be, “Who is Eric?” This answer should be based on their knowledge of you, experience with you, and what they have heard about you. For me, this “personal brand” or answer to describe me that I strive for is: “Eric is the one you want in your corner… He just makes things happen.” Now for those of you thinking, “Wouldn’t you want people to say things like: Trustworthy, dependable, high-energy, driven, passionate, leader, etc. in that statement?” The answer is simple… Those words are descriptors of me as a person, but they are not “who I am.” Think of it this way, when someone says, “Who is Eric?” My goal is for people to say, “Eric is the one you want in your corner… He just makes things happen.” Then if people drill further and say, “Why is he successful making things happen?” or “Why is he the one you want in your corner?” Then the answer should be, “Because Eric is Trustworthy, dependable, high-energy, driven, passionate, leader, etc.” What I have also found with this approach to my career is that the phrase, “I/we have a need,” has often been the catalyst to finding my next great opportunity and it aligns very closely to the “personal brand” I have worked to develop for myself over the years, and oh what a fun 15 years it has been at Microsoft:

The first, “We have a need” was when I still owned my partner company and the people I spoke with at Microsoft said they had a need for someone to teach the partners to do what I do, sell Microsoft solutions and better understand and utilize Volume Licensing. Many months later, I began my career at Microsoft and working with our fabulous Microsoft partners in the Midwest District. During this time, the team I was on developed a concept we called, “engaged partners,” where we would work closely with high-potential partners to grow their businesses (think of “Managed Partners” today). At the end of the year, I remember presenting a partner video case study at our WPC Conference and internal Microsoft Global meeting showing how we grew one of our engaged partners from $67,000 in Volume Licensing sales to $1.1 Million in under 12 months utilizing our model.

image The next, “We have a need” was when our Midwest leadership team said they needed someone to find a way to connect with our broad SMB focused partners and build a community to help them grow. I gladly jumped at that opportunity, and shortly afterwards, the Microsoft Small Business Channel Community was launched in our Midwest District. The community started small but in a very short time, it exploded onto the worldwide scene after the launch of the Microsoft Small Business Channel Community SharePoint site was picked up by press across the U.S. and internationally. I still remember that I didn’t actually get to formally launch the site on the planned day because the launch was scooped by one of our SBS MVPs, so I spent the entire day doing press connections and answering questions about the new community. For a trip down memory lane, some of you may recall the promo video for the community:

The next two, “We have a needs” both came from the success of the Midwest Small Business Channel Community initiative.

  • The year after we launched the Midwest SMB Partner initiative, the need was to expand the initiative to our Central Region, which we did. Again, this was received with strong success.
  • The next year, our U.S. SMB Team reached out and said, “We have a need” to have a field based SMB partner focused team and build a strong community effort. It was at this point I made the decision to say good-bye to all of my family, friends, peers, and Partners in the Midwest Area and Central Region as I moved out to Washington state and took a role on the Microsoft U.S. Small Business Team in our Redmond Headquarters with the challenge to expand the Microsoft Small Business Channel Community across the U.S. as well as joining up with the team designing and planning to launch the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC).
    • It was during this time I had the pleasure to take on several big challenges and initiatives, again evolving from “We have a need” situations:

“We have a need” to have a field based SMB partner focused team and a strong community effort.          

Led to: Creating and leading the U.S. Partner Community Manager Team and community

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“We have a need” to drive awareness and excitement about the SBSC brand and program.

Led to: Designing and launching the Microsoft NASCAR sponsorship programs to build exposure for the Microsoft Small Business and SBSC programs

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“We have a need” to provide additional opportunities for customers and partners with Microsoft technology.

Led to: Leading the U.S. Open Value Subscription launch initiative as well as the design and launch of the Small Business Desktop Advantage product offering

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“We have a need” from Microsoft leadership to create a disaster relief program for our customers and partners impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

Led to: Leading a team to design and launch the disaster relief licensing program for Louisiana

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“We have a need” help address the common licensing misunderstandings our customers and partner have.

Led to: Designing and launching the “30 in 30” site, which provided answers to the top 30 questions in 30 second video clips.

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“We have a need” help customers and partners learn how to get the most from their Microsoft licensing investments.

Led to: Designing and launching initiatives such as the “Less Than Coffee” and “Less Than Fries” approach to selling, acquiring, and using Microsoft licensing to it’s fullest.

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The next “We have a need” request came from our Worldwide team as they were looking to engage with our Non-Managed Partners around the world to drive up satisfaction and engagement with them. It was at this time that I decided to expand my knowledge set beyond the U.S. and take on a global experience as the Worldwide Non-Managed Partner CPE (Customer and Partner Experience lead). This experience allowed me to redesign our approach to driving satisfaction and bring a direct “Voice of Partner” and social and community engagement approach into CPE.

The following year, the next “We have a need” surfaced and I had the opportunity to expand my CPE focus from our Non-Managed Partners worldwide to all partners worldwide, utilizing the same direct “Voice of Partner” and social and community engagement approach into CPE. During this time I had the great opportunity to design, develop, and lead several initiatives to expand our engagement with partners worldwide to address concerns and build a more direct connection with our partners, such as:

  • Designing and launching the “Interactive Leadership Forums,” which provided on open forum, live Q&A session with our WPG Leadership Team and the partners around the world on a quarterly basis
  • Bring the “Voice of Partner” into our Add Open License solution to help partners around the world manage their customers’ Open License Agreements on their behalf
  • Bridging the to/from partner connection through the initial VLSC roll-out worldwide to help keep our partners and customers informed on the transition and navigating through it
  • imageDesigning, building, and launching the “Microsoft Partner Info” mobile app (which has evolved into the “Microsoft Info Partner” mobile app now) to help our partners and customers around the world more easily access and find the Microsoft information they are looking for and to keep up to date with information shared by our leaders across the company
  • Starting the traditions of “The Fantastic People of WPC” and the annual Microsoft Leadership “Thank you” posts

It was amazing to see the response and engagement throughout these and several other initiatives I had the honor to be a part of while leading or partner CPE initiatives, and it was even more rewarding to hear Kevin Turner mention each year at WPC how our Partner Satisfaction scores continued to reach new record heights year over year during this time.

The next, “have a need” was one that was both an “I have a need,” and a “we have a need” opportunity. As I noted in my departure post from our Worldwide team, the CPE role I had been in came under a new leadership team that had a very different view on direct Voice of Partner and social community interaction. With this new direction, I found myself saying, “I have a need” to find an opportunity that I believe in and excites me again, and as fate would have it, a former manager of mine reached out at the same time and said, “We have a need” in the U.S. for someone who understands our partners, our sales processes, how to drive strategy and change, and can lead our future direction from a partner Sales Excellence perspective. This led me to my current role, where I have had the opportunity to continue to lead several exciting initiatives from sales role and strategy design across our business to designing, building, and launching an entirely new way to drive impact and insights across our business through the Cloud Partner Insights platform that we now leverage across the U.S. business. (Partners may recognize this as the “Cloud R/F/Y” name it began as)

In taking this walk down memory lane and reflecting back over the past 15 years here at Microsoft, a few things kept coming to mind:

  • These are only a handful of the highlights along the path and it would take far too long to list them all here in this post (Do you have any favorite moments?)
  • This has been a VERY fun adventure filled with so many exciting opportunities and challenges
  • It has been an absolute honor and privilege to get to meet and work with the thousands of people across Microsoft, our customers, our partners, and the press worldwide throughout this journey. I thank you all for allowing me these opportunities to engage with you and I appreciate all of the insights, learnings, partnership, friendship, support, and more that you have shared with me along the way

It is hard to believe it has been 15 years since I started this journey here at Microsoft, and it definitely has been a very fun filled 15 years leading up to this point. I look forward to seeing what the next 15 years of my journey bring with them, but I can tell you one thing for sure, the future stops on my path forward will be: Challenging, Impactful, Educational, provide me with Flexibility, and give me the opportunity to be involved with Great people. Plus, I have no doubt that “We have a need” will play a direct part in navigating this path.

Thank you again, everyone, for being a part of these past 15 years and making this journey the amazing ride it has been.

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Thank you and have a wonderful day,

Eric LigmanFollow me on TWITTER, LinkedIn, and Facebook
Senior Sales Excellence Manager
Microsoft Corporation
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