Channel Influencer Spotlight: Craig Schlagbaum Talks Comcast Success, Qwest-Level 3 Legacy

Comcast Business' Craig Schlagbaum

… get out of the world of just selling technology products to understanding what this whole thing the internet was, and that’s when I went to work with Qwest, which is now CenturyLink, and I learned all about that.”

From the Ground Up

Schlagbaum is well known for building channels from scratch. He was a key channel architect with Qwest, which is “now the biggest channel out there with CenturyLink and Level 3,” he said.

“I built one for a smaller company – Verio, a hosting company – and largely I was the architect of the Level 3 program,” he said. “It takes a lot of experience because I’ve seen what to do and what not to do, and I’ve done it many times over. I’ve seen all the things that you do in the channel, how you recruit, how you enable, how you engage, how you retain partners, and I’ve done it many, many times over to learn the best practices. It’s a combination of that — and then you’ve got to hire the right people and bring in top talent. And I’ve been able to do that, and recruit and retain the best talent in the industry.”

Comcast Business' Dalyn Wertz

Comcast Business’ Dalyn Wertz

Dalyn Wertz has known and worked with Schlagbaum for more than 10 years at Level 3 and Comcast Business.

“Craig is a true visionary and an unmatched leader in the channel,” she said. “He is laser-focused on results and pushes all of us to never accept the status quo. Craig encourages us to think differently and to innovate. As a working mother, I am a positive role model for my two young kids. They see me happy, valued and recognized for the work I do and the impact my team has made in Craig’s organization. I owe most of this to Craig; I am grateful to him and the positive impact he has made on my life.”

Schlagbaum also built Comcast Business’ channel. The “kernels of success” in building a channel have to do with people, and then understanding what drives and motivates the partners, and allows them to succeed and the support systems necessary for them to succeed, he said.

“And then beyond all that, there’s the internal selling where a lot of the executives of these companies are much more direct-oriented and to give them channel religion is incredibly hard, and it was here, too,” he said. “I had to spend an inordinate amount of time doing a lot of that internal missionary work to get people to believe in the channel and its capabilities, and not everyone knows how to do that. I have been a channel advocate my whole life, so I was speaking from experience. To get a company the size of a Comcast to believe in a channel when they never had any channel religion is a major feat, and that has a lot to do with our success as well. Those are some of the core elements for success.”

A key issue in every channel program is managing channel conflict, Schlagbaum said.

“That’s a hotbed,” he said. “One of the biggest challenges is that issue of how does the vendor or the supplier view its direct sales team against its channel. I think the most important lesson is you’ve got to be consistent. If you keep flip-flopping on your strategy of working with direct or not working with them, then you’re going to be viewed as …

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One comment

  1. Avatar Matt Heron March 9, 2018 @ 8:59 am

    You and your fantastic team at Comcast continue to greatly influence my role in the Channel at Shaw here in Canada. You have definitely build a strong program, but most importantly, you have built one of the strongest teams I have seen in any industry.

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