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Top Gun 51 Profile: Comcast Business’ Craig Schlagbaum on the Primacy of Partner Experience

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… pioneer in the channel world at IBM in the late ’80s, and he helped them launch what is now the I/T channel of 150,000-plus partners nationally. I was looking for a sales position and he encouraged me to look at his space, and so he introduced me to one of IBM’s partners called Businessland, which was in Southern CA. I started selling PCs to large Fortune 500 companies in Orange County working with many vendors such as IBM, Compaq, HP, AST, Microsoft and many others.

I then moved to Denver for an opportunity to work for a distributor (now called Ingram Micro) as a vendor manager for NEC and then on to Sony, IBM, and now many years later the network communications space. It was the best business decision I ever made!

CP: Do you have any advice for someone looking to make a career in channel leadership?

CS: My advice for someone looking to make a career in channel leadership is to spend as much time in the field with your partners and truly look through the lens of the partner to understand how they view their business, what they need to be successful and what their core metrics are to be profitable while driving revenue.

Throughout my career I have always tried to put myself in a partner’s shoes and to be in their places of business to build those relationships. You cannot do that from your office and behind your desk, so I have logged nearly 3 million miles on various airlines over 30 years in order to do that. I have visited partners in every state in the U.S (except Alaska) and visited partners in other countries including Europe, South America, and Asia. People do business with people who they know, who they trust and who they feel treat them with respect and that has been my true north over my career.

CP: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

CS: Our industry is rapidly morphing into a recurring revenue service model, with the shift from physical hardware to virtualized services like SDN, security, routers, UCaaS, DaaS and many more. The old, on-premises model is being replaced by the cloud and what we’re experiencing with AWS, Azure, Google and others is only the beginning.

Partners who once focused building a business on top-line, one-time revenue now must adapt to a world of recurring revenue. If they don’t, they may cease to exist… think Blockbuster vs. Netflix or Uber vs. taxis. The channel needs to sell to customers the way they want to buy, not the way they want to sell. Success and growth will require a pivot to create a digital transformation map for their survival.
Companies now want one provider for their desktop apps, storage, communications, networking and security needs. Partners that can fulfill and deliver all those needs for their customers will survive. The Comcast Business team is here to help educate our partners on how to make that switch.

We cannot wait for what 2020 will bring, and it may very well be the most exciting year ever in the channel in my last 30!

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