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Channel Influencer Spotlight: Office Depot’s Janet Schijns

Channel Influencer Award logo

… one of the channel’s most successful, charismatic and intelligent business leaders.

“Janet Schijns is an inspiration,” says Nancy Hammervik, executive vice president of industry relations at CompTIA, the world’s largest IT trade association.

As each has risen through the tech industry’s ranks, they have developed a strong working relationship and mutual admiration.

“Janet is a visionary who always sees the big picture and opportunity,” says Hammervik. “She challenges the status quo, sets her sights high, builds winning teams and strategies, executes with hard work and tenacity, and never loses her wonderful sense of humor and fun.”

Schijns in the Spotlight

Where Schijns shines most is in sales. Make that sales presentations. A pitch for her is performance. She rehearses her delivery, cadence and posture too. If you’ve seen her speak, you’ve surely noticed the quick pivot, the confident strut and the persuasive vocal stylings. A Janet Schijns keynote is as masterful as it is memorable.

Take the keynote address she delivered a few years ago at a Channel Partners event in Las Vegas. There Schijns spoke in front of more than 500 telecom agents, vendors and industry professionals. Schijns followed a presenter from rival AT&T. That performance was professional, succinct and on message. It was also 100-percent compliant with event organizer’s demand that presentations not devolve into commercials. Sensing the audience was a tad underwhelmed, Schijns took the stage. In heels as tall as stepladders, Schijns strutted around the stage offering inspiration, discounts and thought leadership that brought the audience to its feet.

AT&T was appalled. Channel Partners was shocked. But the talk was the hit of the event.

Success aside, there have been setbacks in Schijns’ career, cringeworthy moments too. But almost every time Schijns has faced adversity, she’s managed to learn from it.

Take the time she experienced her first #metoo moment. To escape from a workplace abuser, she resigned her post. But in typical Schijns’ fashion, she transformed the appalling episode into a positive moment. After quitting, Schijns established the JS Group and landed her first client. The company? Her former employer, whom she convinced that it still needed her skills despite her resignation. (What the company didn’t need, it agreed, was her former antagonist, who was summarily fired.)

Schijns 1, workplace creep 0.

Then there was the time Schijns humbled herself in front of the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton. Filling in for a colleague after a last-minute request to attend a dinner for the United Way, Schijns found herself amid business leaders that were a tad above her pay grade. As things turned out, she sat next to the corporate legend unaware. When Schijns turned to her dinner mate and asked, “So, who are you?” Walton replied, “I’m a salesman.”

After the dinner ended and the evening reception began, she quickly learned of her faux pas. Rather than shrink from the moment, Schijns approached Walton and asked, “Why didn’t you tell me you were Sam Walton?” Without a pause, Walton deadpanned, “Because, ma’am, anyone running a company who doesn’t believe they are a salesman is either a fool or looking to be one.”

In conversation that ensued, Walton went on to explain that, as Walmart CEO, his job was truly that of a salesman. Walton told Schijns that he sold promises to banks, visions to communities, ideas boards of directors, and so on. The message stayed with Schijns, who subsequently went on to sell L’Oreal products to Walmart. It was a company first and the biggest sale of her young career.

Schijns 2, #Awkward 0.

Since introducing L’Oreal to Walmart, Schijns has closed more blockbuster deals, none perhaps as large as …

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