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J. Sherman Henderson: Channel Exec of the Year

Channel Partners

March 30, 2009

4 Min Read
J. Sherman Henderson: Channel Exec of the Year

J. Sherman Henderson III, Lightyear Network Solutions

Title: Founder, President and CEO

Years in current position: 16

Years with current company: 16

Years in the indirect channel: 23

Past jobs in the indirect channel: President of Charter Network, a long-distance carrier serving the Midwestern U.S.; founder of U.S. Network; founder, president and CEO of UniDial/Lightyear; board member of Beacon Enterprises.

Annual revenue responsibility: $70 million

Main channel goal: “[The main goal is to] continue to drive our unparalleled 16-year, industry-leading agent program to record heights in terms of number of agents, customers and revenue supported by our market-hardened, back-office support systems together with the expertise and longevity of our support staff with competitively priced and feature-rich product sets.”

Biggest challenge: “[The biggest challenge is] helping our longer-tenured agents to jump onto the wireless opportunities that already exist for them and their existing customer base.”

What is the importance of the indirect channel to your organization and what do you see as the future for your channel operations? “Lightyear was founded in 1993 exclusively using the indirect channel as our sales force and that continues today, which should indicate to everyone how important and vital the indirect channel is to Lightyear now and into the future.”

To what extent do you, personally, show leadership within the companies you have worked for, the business community at large, the communications industry and the channel? “I was re-elected to an unprecedented sixth term as chairman of COMPTEL, the nation’s premiere industry association for telecommunications providers. My leadership in this capacity stretches worldwide and involves continuous interaction with the nation’s and world’s industry leaders and regulatory officials.”

How are you innovative in bringing new ideas to the channel? “Lightyear signed the first-ever wireless wholesale agreement with Verizon Partner Solutions in July 2008 with the primary intent of bringing bundled wireless and wireline solutions to our agents’ customers and their employees. Historically, Lightyear was also the originator of the Agent Equity program that has been copied by other providers. However, Lightyear remains one of the few providers that has actually had a payout to agents for their equity position in the company when it dispersed millions of dollars to numerous Lightyear agents.”

To what extent do you engage in activities to promote or advance the channel? “Again, my role as chair of COMPTEL provides our company unprecedented access to influence industry leaders among both the carriers that we all rely on for our telecom services and the regulators that develop the rules under which we all operate today.”

How do you think our country’s economic downturn has affected the telecom industry, the indirect channel and your company’s channel operations? “This economic downturn has affected nearly all companies in all industries. We have to do everything we can to get people back to work, increase productivity and get people re-engaged to spend money to drive our economy. That said, the wireless industry continues to do well because people view their cell phones as a necessity and their usage continues to increase.”

Golf handicap: 9

Frequent flyer miles: 3 million

Special collection: Golf balls, 300 of which are related to telecom

Hero: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Favorite band: Rolling Stones

Biggest fear: Snakes

Personal motto: “Eighty percent of life is showing up!”

What others are saying about Sherm:

“I have known Sherm for 16 years. He is and always has been an inspirational and forceful voice in this industry as well as an advocate for telecom agencies. He is one of the few CEOs who have both survived and thrived through the turbulence and challenging seasons we have all seen. I know of no single individual who is more deserving of Channel Executive of the Year.”

— Steve Olsen, President, PSI Network Inc., Master Agent

“He is the best of the best. He is extremely helpful and resourceful. He is a very customer-oriented person and has a team of highly qualified employees who treat each customer as if they were the only one. He truly wants the customer to be happy, and it shows. I am proud to represent Lightyear and their products because of Sherm!”

— Luann Robutka, Director of Operations West, TeleProviders Inc., Master Agent

“Since the ‘80s, Sherm has worked tirelessly for the agent channel. His drive and initiative always bring new opportunities and products for us to market such as Lightyear’s recently signed first-ever wholesale agreement with Verizon Partner Solutions which allows us to provide a bundled wireless and wireline solution to our customers from ONE company and monthly residuals to us for the wireless revenue. Sherm is a leader and a true visionary!”

— Dave Rickert, President, National Telecommunications Network Inc., Master Agent

“Sherm has dedicated his life to the cause of the independent telecom channel. Without his tireless efforts away from his family and his own business (UniDial/Lightyear) fighting the giants and regulators on our behalf as head of TRA, ASCENT and then COMPTEL, who knows if this industry with its past rewards and future opportunity would even exist?”

— Stu Johnson, Director of Sales, National Energy Services Company Inc., Master Agent

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