Last month, Jeff Schwantes came on board as our new Vice President of Sales for the United States and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have him on the Charlotte team. Between his rigorous on-boarding process and packed travel schedule, Jeff was able to sit down with us for an interview so that we could introduce him in this blog. Without further ado, meet Jeff Schwantes.
Welcome, Jeff. You’ve been busy in the short time that you’ve been with us. What have you been up to?
My first week here was fast and furious, there were many shared meals and meetings with everyone here in Peterborough. You’re really a passionate group of people who love what you do and I want to let everyone in the US know about how special that is. I’m no stranger to the cleaning industry, but there are so many things I’m learning about the products and services that Charlotte provides from the R&D team. I want to really know everything because beyond the innovative trend setting products, I believe that the most unique advantage Charlotte provides is our ability to transfer knowledge to end users. I can’t help with that mission if I don’t know everything about Charlotte’s solutions, too.
What were you up to before you joined Charlotte?
I was born and raised in New Orleans, and worked in hospitality way back in the day. I was actually an operations manager at the House of Blues there! But for most of my career, about 18 years of it anyway, I was working with Cintas in their uniform and textile rental and cleaning services. I also worked at a number of other big-name companies in the services industry, selling hand soaps, carpet cleaning services, safety systems and even defibrillators for a while. Throughout my career, I’ve spent time in both sales and operations throughout the Southeast, which has given me perspective on how a company should really be interconnected. It’s always been very important for me to understand the nuts and bolts of every company I’ve worked for.
You also worked with a major distributor in the Midwest, which gives you a unique perspective in your role with Charlotte. What was that like?
For four years I covered the southeast with a major distributor with more than 2 million products. That role gave me a very unique perspective on the manufacturing side, because I saw what I was looking for from the manufacturers of the products we sold. At the distributor, there were simply too many products and I couldn’t be an expert on them all. I was always looking for manufacturers I trusted who I could bring in to my clients as the expert. I was looking for manufacturers who were engaged, knowledgeable and available.
What will you be doing at Charlotte?
My role is to make sure we are selling our brands to our distributor network and end users. We have a team of district sales managers in the U.S. who are all doing the same thing as me on the ground. It’s our responsibility to make sure that our end users and distributors completely understand what we are offering, how to use our products and solutions, and that they can rely on us to help them.
How do you like it so far?
I was just telling the gang in Peterborough that when people ask me what I do, I’m so excited to tell them now. There’s usually a canned elevator speech you give people when they ask that question, but I love the fact that at Charlotte, my answer is now so easy. I just say, “I am making healthier and safer environments so people can live longer.”
You live all the way in Mississippi. What’s that like?
I moved to Mississippi from New Orleans after Katrina about 12 years ago. I’ve always traveled about 80-90 percent of my work week, so when I’m at home I want to be away from it all. I’m about 20 minutes from the Jackson, MI airport so I can keep up with my busy travel schedule but then when I’m home, I can really disconnect and enjoy my quiet, laid-back community. I live with my wife, Chellie and our family. We have four boys, Matt, 23; Andrew, 21; Tyler, 15; Ryan, 12. We spend a lot of our time watching our younger sons play football and baseball. We love to travel around the U.S., and Napa is a favourite grownup destination for us. When we don’t have a sports game to attend, we like to hit the lake and relax on our pontoon boat.
Any sales advice for us?
Nothing will ever replace a face to face conversation. Ecommerce platforms are convenient, but those face to face conversations add so much value. I just always recommend carving out time and going the extra mile to schedule those in-person meetings to develop the relationship.