This article first appeared here.
Former Verizon channel chief and executive vice president of services and solutions for Office Depot Janet Schijns is still as active as ever in the channel, but this time helping vendors as well as solution providers survive and grow profitable in the changing IT landscape.
Schijns, a well-known channel executive, left her post at Office Depot in January and returned to the helm of her own company, JS Group, a channel consultancy firm that she launched alongside her father in 1997.
Having spent time on the vendor side, Schijns was compelled to return to consulting to help vendors better understand their distribution options, and to work with partners who are trying to decide which solutions to add to their portfolios as digital transformation reshapes the tech industry, she told CRN in an interview.
Schijns ran the JS group until 2008 when she took a position leading the channel for Motorola. In 2010, she joined Verizon Wireless as its vice president of the then-Business Solutions group, and later was promoted to chief channel executive and then vice president of Verizon Business Markets.
After that, Schijns joined Office Depot and quickly climbed the ranks from senior vice president of strategy for copy, print and tech services, to executive vice president, leading the company’s solution and services business in the wake of Office Depot’s acquisition of systems integrator CompuCom. The deal gave Office Depot an instant, established IT services presence in North America, not to mention, a services-based reoccurring revenue model.
With a history of building strong channel programs under her belt, Schijns is now using her experience to re-open her own company built on her passion: helping the channel succeed.
“Hundreds of times, I saw partners and vendors I couldn’t help because I was working for a specific vendor, and I struggled with it,” she said. “When this opportunity came where I could step out, I had endless notes from partners and people asking me to bring back the JS Group.”
Schijns moved to Florida in 2017 with her husband, Roy Schijns, who has channel experience of his own having previously served as a regional sales vice president for Avaya. He re-launched the JS Group two years ago and has been doing consulting work since March 2018.
“It was an easy decision for me to come back and really get engaged again with those partners and vendors that need help and perhaps can’t afford someone full-time in a channel chief role but can benefit so much from the program I’ve done before and am doing now,” she said.
The JS Group is already growing rapidly. Schijns’ daughter has joined the multi-generational family business, among several other consultants who have joined the JS Group, including some managers who have been impacted by the voluntary severance buyouts that two of the major carriers recently announced, Schijns said.
“We have a great group already, and I’m excited to say we have another great group of folks coming in,” she said. “We’re probably at about half-mast of what we’ll need.”
Partners and vendors working with the JS Group with a consultant for several days to build a customized, but flexible, Market Action Plan. The JS Group consultant will stay alongside its client for 100 days to do daily catch-up and coaching calls to make sure the company is hitting its goals.
The JS Group is helping its solution provider clients sell new, as-a-service-based offerings. “It’s a huge risk for the channel because if they don’t plan, and look closely at these vendors, this could be their downfall from a profitability standpoint. It’s a whole new world and I want to help partners survive that, she said.
On the other hand, it’s important for emerging vendors to embrace the channel as a distribution path, rather than go around partners. The JS Group is already having conversations with services-based vendors on how to get into indirect sales, which partners they should be investing in, and what they should be offering partners.
Vendors often incorrectly look at their indirect sales business as one of the first areas to trim costs, Schijns said.
“I’ve fought those fights. I know what it takes for a vendor to win those battles, and I also know what it takes for a partner to be successful in, say, submitting a MDF [marketing development fund] request,” she said. “I think that’s where we have a lot of secret sauce.”