Published March 16, 1999
Volume 7, Number 3

David Clausen Doesn't Sell Computers — He Sells Knowledge

A quick word of advice to anyone contemplating a career in the computer industry: If you don't like change, choose another profession. 

David ClausenDavid Clausen, chief executive officer of Clausen Computer Solutions, has seen nothing but change in his years in the industry. 

He remembers the days when his mother worked as a key punch operator at Crown-Zellerbach, working with enormous computers that dwarfed their human operators. After a tour in Vietnam and obtaining his degree at USC, he worked selling computer tapes, which had replaced keypunch. 

In 1978, he opened the 13th ComputerLand in the nation, selling machines with "upwards of 100 kilobytes of memory" to consumers in Los Angeles. 

The changes didn't stop with his founding of Clausen Computer Solutions in 1984, nor will they stop anytime soon. 

"For our industry to not be in a state of change would be a death wish," he explains. "We have to be constantly changing. Our business plan is truly in liquid formwe literally don't know what our next great opportunity is going to be. " 

Clausen's expertise is substantial. He holds a variety of certifications in systems engineering, networking, and computer telephony integrationintegrating the computer network with the phone system from Compaq and other hardware and software manufacturers. 

This knowledge has earned Clausen a seat on a number of reseller advisory councils, including a position as just one of 25 resellers nationwide on Compaq's Small/Medium Business (SMB) Council. 

"Serving on that council gives us an opportunity to help move the manufacturer into the 21st century, so that they recognize that their emphasis shouldn't be on selling boxes, but on SMB solutions," he explains. "At Clausen Computer Solutions, our intent is not necessarily just to sell equipment, but to maximize the technology and minimize the impact on the pocket book. We're teaching Compaq how to see things from our perspective."

Frequently, Clausen notes, companies forget about their network infrastructure and programming, making sure that applications work efficiently, and setting up standards in the organization so that files are stored in appropriate directories, so that they're easily retrieved later.

These services are now at the core of what Clausen offers. 

"We provide network installation and support for the small/medium business, and we focus on that market because we feel that we're better able to respond to their requirements and that we bring something to the table that they can't have in-house," he says. "With the plethora of products that are coming out on a daily basis, it's very difficult for a small business owner to determine which of these products fits their business, if any." 

In essence, he allows his clients to get out of the computer networking and product evaluation business so that they can focus on providing the goods or services that are their specialties. 

It's a big change from the business model of just a few years ago, but Clausen has it in perspective. 

"I like to compare it to the automobile industry," he explains. For a long time, dealers made their profits on unit sales, but that started to change with the introduction of compact cars with smaller profit margins. 

"Now, it's to the point where a reseller of vehicles barely survives on the profit margin associated with the sale they get it on rebates from the manufacturer, but they get most of it from their service departments." 

This understanding has helped Clausen find a secure position amidst the change. 

"The reseller channel can never go away because people need service and people need support," he says. "Without the service and support, the product at the manufacturer's level is useless."


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