Janet Schijns: Utilizing Innovative Approaches to Deliver Effective Results

Janet Schijns | CEO | JS Group

The urge to do things differently to drive disruptive change is one aspect that defines a leader. Making that one decision to pave a different path leading to the end goal, a path that will require sheer dedication, unique efforts, and unmatched passion can be difficult, but taking that one step can change the entire landscape of an industry. One leader who is no stranger to this diverse visionary approach is Janet Schijns, a proven leader with a leading-edge approach to managing challenges using her razor-sharp problem-solving skillset and unique ability to see around corners to deliver optimal business results.

With over two decades of experience building, optimizing, and evangelizing channel programs and go-to-market strategies, Janet now brings her talents to her role as CEO of JS Group. Utilizing her extensive expertise, she has infused a work culture keen on achieving results by implementing essential business methodologies while pushing the envelope on the definition of fast and change. She is also a compassionate advocate for the advancement of women in the technology and telecommunications channels leaving her with a strong and very loyal following in her industry.

CIO LOOK caught up with Janet in our endeavor to find “The 10 Most Admired Women Leaders in Business” and talked with her to gain insights about how she is developing effective channels to market for tech firms.

Below are the highlights of the interview.

Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader before your current position at JS Group. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?

Before being CEO of JS Group, I had a very successful career in Fortune 500 firms and a stint as CEO in my own technology firm that I successfully sold upon exit. I held the position of VP Channels at Motorola, Chief Channel Executive and CVP at Verizon, and EVP CMSO at Office Depot. There were many challenges during my climb to the top that I had to conquer. I found that by using my entrepreneurial skills, and my focus and sheer determination to find a better faster way, I was able to overcome most of these challenges. I also learned that some trials are not as easily solved and require time and patience. One example I would highlight is culture. Some of the teams I inherited during my tenure at many larger firms were very demotivated by previous leadership or by the current results of their business area. This can not be fixed overnight and requires understanding, over communication, revised plans, and a genuine willingness as a leader to roll your sleeves up and be part of the solution. Building the right culture is critical, yet so many leaders don’t focus their efforts here and are surprised when their teams can’t deliver. I always focus first on the team and what the team needs from me as their leader in helping them succeed. This has made all the difference in my career and significantly contributed to my success.

Tell us something more about JS Group and its mission and vision.

After a successful career as a Fortune 500 executive at Motorola, Verizon, and Office Depot, I had a keen understanding of the go-to-market challenges (and opportunities) in the technology and consumer goods industry. Furthermore, with many top-to-top executive relationships, I had first-hand knowledge of the pressure on sales and marketing executives and the needs they had in their business for results.   I realized working with the right team we could build a firm that provided a valuable service giving these busy executives the results they needed without the hassle of traditional consulting firm engagements. And, hence the birth of JS Group. Designed to be a group of highly experienced leaders, the JS Group team has carried the same responsibilities as our clients, we understand the pressure they are under and, most importantly, can deliver optimal results. Our mission is to save the channel by providing the right go-to-market services in three practice areas:  channel innovation, marketing programs, and sales enablement.  Programs are custom built to help our clients drive results via indirect channels in a cost-effective, loyalty-building, and result-oriented manner all with the support of a highly experienced JS Group team.

Enlighten us on how you have impacted the channel consulting and go to market niche through your expertise in the market.

Due to our highly seasoned team of professionals, we can see around corners and leverage future trends in channel distribution; that coupled with our industry knowledge puts our customers ahead of their industry peers. Some examples include redrafting channel strategies to appeal to new channel partners and new distribution methods, launching social selling programs to propel partner sales results, and offering partner recruiting and onboarding services that isolate and grow the next best partners for vendors. During the pandemic we really drove into high gear helping companies redraft their go to market seemingly overnight and we are very proud of the fact that our programs delivered over $1.2B in funnel over the past 16 months.  This is because as a team we measure ourselves on real results vs. inane PowerPoint presentations or verboise strategy documents; we are about real actions and real results. In the last 24 months, we have delivered over $600 million in real sales revenue growth through our client work in the channel and as mentioned earlier have a large funnel to follow for more growth.

Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.

Our culture is one of inclusion, growth and fun. We focus our time internally on educating our teams, empowering them to do good work, and investing back in our communities. We have a very diverse group of people that work with JS Group, and we value all of their experiences. We believe in driving honest communication and practice this in everything we do. We respect the voices of all team members and believe a great idea can come from anywhere in the team. We have fun and celebrate success at every turn. Finally, we are a family, and we care for one another during the rough times; supporting the team’s needs is job #1.

Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?

Technology is the lifeblood of our economy and the key focus area for our consulting practice. We use several technology platforms in our day-to-day work, from social media aggregation for our social media services group to automated intake and planning software for our consulting business. We invest in and use the very technology we work with daily. 5G and Edge Compute are creating a unique opportunity to use technology to aid in our remote work while still offering the chance to have the data clients need close to their physical location.  We anticipate investing heavily in this area in the coming 12 months and have launched a new 5G channel evolution practice to ensure the partners and vendors in this space succeed.

If given a chance, what change would you like to bring in the Management Consulting industry?

I would like to see more firms focus on investing in diversity and inclusion in our industry through education, programs and truly inclusive work places. We need to change how we work, how we value work, and the work we do to include our diverse team members in new solutions that better represent the world we live in.  There is work to be done in this area, and we all need to continue to invest here to create a truly inclusive industry.

What, according to you, could be the next big change in the Management Consulting industry? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?

The advances in Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) continue to bring considerable change to our industry. These technologies will make the routine work of crunching data easier and eliminate the need for many junior analysts. These practices coupled with the data that will be mined from the Internet of Everything will change the landscape for our businesses.  We continue to invest in these tools and train our people to use them and advance their skills to ensure that as these technologies become widely available, we know how to leverage them to help our clients.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for JS Group?

I am exactly where I want to be today; leading JS Group. We have doubled our revenue every year for the past three years, and I would like to continue on that path of growth. For the future, within the next decade, I want to ensure our senior leadership can take over the reins of JS Group, including an ownership stake so that I can work on my charitable organizations helping women in the technology industry expand their careers and stay in the industry as well as learn to be financially independent.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the Management Consulting sector?

If you want to enter the consulting sector, I will give you some advice. First, start with a smaller firm to have a broader experience and determine what part of the consulting arena you enjoy and can add value throughout your career. Second, learn the industry. Study the industry at every opportunity by attending events, reading articles, asking experts for their opinions. Finally, be flexible about your earnings for the first few years; sacrifice some earnings to get the right experiences that will ultimately allow you to earn the top dollars.

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