||© Nathan Mandell
CDW Inc. founder Michael Krasny
for technology' leads Krasny to fortune
CDW founder makes business personal in Kellogg speech
If Michael Krasny hadn't become the
head of CDW Inc., a $5.3 billion technology company, he might
have been a used car salesman. In fact, he once did enter
the family business and sell Toyotas.
But the self-described
"geek" couldn't resist his passion for the high-tech world
of the late 1970s. As he recalled during a speech at the Kellogg
School in January, he used to "hang out in computer stores"
and he bought one of the early PCs in 1977.
never came easy for me," admitted Krasny in an address that
was part of the Kellogg Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker
series, sponsored by the Larry
and Carol Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice.
The chairman emeritus and founder of CDW said that he would
have preferred attending trade school rather than college,
but his parents insisted on the latter.
Science was the only class I really enjoyed," said Krasny,
who in 1984 went on to found a company — in his kitchen
— that has since landed on the Fortune 500 and ranked high
on Fortune's list of the 100 best companies to work
executive recounted how he began his business by selling his
first system for $200, using a classified ad to find a buyer.
He parlayed these funds into more, continuing to buy computers
and resell them. Soon, he was selling 50-100 systems a week
out of his car.
more information, visit the Alumni
Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice at
the Kellogg School has developed the Entrepreneur
in Residence Program to support Kellogg students
who are seriously interested in this field to
learn from experienced entrepreneurs. Each quarter,
over several weeks, an entrepreneur is invited
to spend an entire day meeting with students in
30-minute one-on-one sessions to answer questions
and to provide advice. For more information, contact
Scott Whitaker at 847.491.4907. Interested Kellogg
graduates will also want to mark their calendars
for the annual Kellogg Alumni Entrepreneur Conference,
to be held May 19 at the James L. Allen Center.
had a business plan for CDW, just the passion for technology,"
said Krasny. "I knew that I wanted to control my own destiny,
and the firm evolved from that."
the Vernon Hills, Ill.-based firm boasts some 3,700 employees
and subscribes to the philosophy "success means never being
satisfied." Among other distinctions, Krasny was named CEO
of the Year by Financial World in 1996 and was recognized
by Inc. magazine and Ernst and Young in 1993 as Entrepreneur
of the Year.
his lecture, Krasny accented the importance of cultivating
a healthy working environment for colleagues. "Shareholder
value is not my primary concern, and customers are not my
primary concern," he said. "Put your co-workers first and
all else follows."
several "keys to success" at CDW, including the value of mentorship
and humility. "I've tried to lead with humbleness," he said.
He also highlighted the importance of cultivating shared values
among team members and creating a work environment that is
"fun, but not a country club." Recognizing that "the customer
is the ultimate employer" and implementing highly automated
systems were also vital to CDW's success, he said.
"Make your work
personal and make it more than just a business," advised Krasny.
aside as CDW chairman in 2001, but remains a "very active"
board member. He recalled the firm's commitment to trying
was our middle name, and not everything worked," he said.
"But our people knew it was better to ask for forgiveness
than to ask for permission."