Janet Schijns, Unleashed
… its 2006 acquisition of MCI. Patrick Oborn, co-founder and vice president of partner experience at master agency Telarus, recalls that after the acquisition, Verizon representatives made the rounds of both Verizon and MCI partners to decide who they wanted to “invite” into the combined program. Despite what Oborn thought was a very positive meeting, Telarus didn’t make the cut.
“It was so bad that that letter that Verizon sent us saying, ‘You’re no longer in the program, best of luck’—I framed that letter and put it on my office wall for a year. I was so angry,” he remembers. “We sold everything but Verizon for many years … until Janet showed up.”
Schijns reached out to Telarus in 2017 in the wake of another Verizon acquisition, that of XO Communications.
“I don’t know what the past administration did to hurt your feelings,” Oborn remembers Schijns telling him, “But we want to make amends.”
Suddenly, the Verizon channel had a very different feel. Schijns gave a human face to Verizon’s very corporate channel, and it paid off in spades. During her tenure as channel chief, the telco giant’s indirect sales channel went from forgettable to “one of the fastest-growing sales engines inside Verizon Enterprise Solutions,” according to a company spokesperson speaking on the record in 2016.
“Under her direction at Verizon, they made great strides in showing their commitment to the channel through better contracts, marketing and support,” says Karin Fields, CEO of master agency MicroCorp. “Whether talking one-on-one or in meetings, she was always engaged, supportive and looking to do things better and different. She just brings a positive energy to the conversation.”
Schijns helped to rebuild Verizon’s channel strategy and completely overhaul its relationship with partners. Prior to her tenure, the provider’s channel program had lacked direction and personality. Worst of all, it had fallen out of touch with its agents. But Verizon Business Markets CMO Jake Heinz told Channel Partners in 2017 that Schijns’s work with Verizon’s partner program had set the company up for future success. “I can’t say enough positive things about what she has done with the program,” said Heinz.
Partners felt Schijns fundamentally understood their challenges. Cheaper VoIP licenses and UCaaS had given rise to more robust telecom solutions but shrinking revenue margins and residuals for agents. While SMB customers were clamoring for “one provider to rule them all,” many agents were struggling to expand beyond telecommunication solutions and include IT services in their offerings because these customers already had an MSP. Partners didn’t have the reach to grow beyond their local markets or the resources to handle larger managed IT projects. The industry was evolving fast — so fast that even a pure-play telecom behemoth like Verizon couldn’t give agents all the resources they needed to survive and grow in a cloud-enabled channel.
A Most Surprising Move
In 2017, Schijns surprised and confused the channel when she left Verizon to help build a go-to-market strategy for, of all organizations, Office Depot. Business hadn’t been good to Office Depot in the years leading up to Schijns joining the company. With the rise of online commerce, brick-and-mortar retailers for electronics and office supplies struggled to retain their competitive foothold. In 2017, CEO Gerry Smith told investors that the company was done trying to descale, saying his focus was to …