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David Weiss - Family network

David Weiss
Family network
by Robin D. Rusch
November 29, 2004

Dave Weiss took over the family business first started by his father and is now President at Dataprobe. An avid underwater photographer with a background in architecture and urban planning, David spends his nine to five getting computers to talk to each other. Recently he took some time off to talk to us about his work.

[My sons] are very close in age, and when they were like seven and nine, they asked ‘Daddy what does Dataprobe make?’ I said, that I make machines that help one computer talk to another computer. My eldest scratched his chin looking wise and said “Uh huh.” My little one looked at me and said, ‘What do they have to talk to each other about?’

 
 

I said I’m not always sure, but at least it’s very important to some people and it helps keep food on the table.

We’re a hardware manufacturer. We specialize in networking and communications. Specifically in allowing network managers to effectively and efficiently manage multiple remote locations.

We sell a suite of products that IT managers or resellers for a specific company or a value-added reseller would put together to assist in managing remote sites.

[We have a] couple of areas of specialization. Principally we focus on remote power control. This is the ability to say reboot a server, router, kiosk, whatever, when something happens to it and needs to be rebooted. So instead of sending someone in a truck to go push a big red button, obviously that can be pretty expensive, but sitting at your desk and opening up a web browser and making a few clicks to do the same thing is a lot more cost effective. We have quite a few products in that line. The one we are most excited about and is the product leader in that area is the iBoot.

Having been in business for 35 years, we’ve established quite a good reputation in our very specific niche of the industry. We’ve had the same customers for literally 20 some odd years. I’d say repeat customers probably represent 65 to 75 percent [of our business].

I think active listening is the most important [part of being a good salesman]. We go into situations where, the customer has some idea of what they need, but because many of our products are very niche, they can’t say, “I want this” or “I want exactly that.” Our job is to hear what they are saying. To translate that into how we can best suit their need, and then present cogent, cost effective arguments, on how we can help them.

Most of our best products have come from people saying, ‘Well you know I like this product, but can it do something else.’ Or ‘Why can’t this product go with something you’re already selling.’ Even the iBoot came out of an existing product that came over the phone lines.

I’ve been fulltime with the company for—it will be 20 years in February. [As a kid] I spent summer vacations soldering wires together. As I was growing up, my father was always telling me that the business was there and that I should be looking at engineering and getting myself ready to follow in his footsteps. Of course being a teenager of the seventies, I would have none of it. So I pursued my own destiny and moved out west. Then as he got older and I got older, we put our heads together and decided to give it a whirl.

There are definitely many [advantages in having a family business]. The most important one is a long-term perspective. We can make decisions not based on what the shareholders are going to demand next quarter, but rather what builds a long-range growth and benefit for the company. So basically as a family business, everyone that you are answering to [is] coming from the same cultural basis, everyone is looking for the same thing. And that has tremendous value. [But] there’s no doubt the first couple years of working with my dad, I went back to being twelve years old. These are the people that you see on every vacation and holiday. You live it, eat it, breathe it, sleep it. You know, there’s no getting away.

[As a hobby] I started SCUBA diving. Then I would come back and wax poetic about all the things I’d seen and done and everybody said, ‘You know you’re telling us about these great fish, these great reefs, how do we share in that?’ I thought, well I’ll have to bring something back, and that lead into (underwater) photography.

It generates some revenue now. It’s certainly more of an avocation than a vocation. I’d like to be doing it more, but [Dataprobe is] a small thirty-person business, so if I get away on one (SCUBA) trip a year, that has to carry me through the foreseeable future. I got boys to put through college and that comes first.

 
  
Robin D. Rusch is Editor-in-Chief of Brandchannel.
     
 
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