When Craig Schlagbaum began his career circa 1990, he envisioned being in sales, but more on the creative side.
He never even considered a career in technology, much less working for a communications company. But flash-forward to 2018 and he’s Comcast Business‘ vice president of indirect channels — with a long history of building successful channel programs from the ground up.
He’s also one of our eight Channel Influencers and a founding member of the Channel Futures Think Tank. He has been instrumental in driving rapid growth and positioning Comcast Business as a serious player in cloud services. The job is especially difficult because Comcast Business has fierce competitors and an aggressive direct sales arm.
Cary Tengler reports directly to Schlagbaum and is responsible for Comcast Business’ national sales partners, including master agents and “e-tailers.” He also manages its technology alliance partners.
“Craig has an unmatched record when it comes to building channel programs,” he said. “Before the CenturyLink/Level 3 merger, he could lay claim to having created three of the top five telecom channel programs. He is an innovative and calculating risk-taker who constantly challenges me and the rest of the team to get the most from our partners. Craig has built an amazing team at Comcast Business and we pride ourselves on being the best and running our business the right way.”
Schlagbaum graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
“Right out of college I started a company that made posters of creative images and we were selling them to college bookstores, and for a variety of reasons that didn’t work out,” he said. “My father was actually in the technology business and worked for IBM, and he was running part of their channel back in the day, in the 1990 time frame. He got me started in technology because he told me, ‘Hey, there’s this company called Businessland, which doesn’t exist anymore, but at that time sold PCs,’ and I went to work for them out in Southern California and was one of their top reps.”
Schlagbaum eventually went to work for a distributor now known as Ingram Micro, and from there took on various channel roles throughout his career. He has spent more than 28 years in various indirect channel positions in sales, marketing and business development with NTT/Verio, Qwest Communications, IBM, Sony and Intelligent Electronics.
From the standpoint of technology and how things are sold, the channel has undergone massive change since Schlagbaum first entered it.
“Back when I first got into it, certainly in the hardware space, there were substantial margins for selling hardware and even software back in the 1990s, and that’s all changed because a lot of that went from that sort of client-server world into more the cloud world,” he said. “And the reason I got into the communications space is I was working for IBM and Lotus at the time, and I saw the movement toward the internet, which some people even then weren’t convinced was going to revolutionize the world we live in. But it certainly did, and when that happened I realized I needed to …