Great ideas can strike at any time.
In 1982, a 28-year-old, out-of-work college graduate named Michael Krasny needed cash and decided to sell his IBM personal computer. He placed a $3 classified ad in the Chicago Tribune and was shocked when offers came pouring in. Krasny quickly sold the computer for a $200 profit, and a company was born.Realizing there was a ripe market for PCs, Krasny became a computer broker, buying and selling computers for a small profit. He originally named his company MPK Computers. That company later became CDW.
Krasny’s goal was to make CDW the most successful seller of IT products in the U.S. He began by establishing a computerized database of product and customer information to improve execution. To combat inventory problems, Krasny created algorithms that gauged product sales and demand. He also installed a 25-foot, hand-operated roller in the warehouse, which helped fill a three-day backlog in one day.
“We went from area to area of the company looking for our weakest links and turning them into strengths,” Krasny said in 2002. “Every time we increased automation, we reduced the number of steps, wait time and keystrokes. We learned a lot by looking at other (resellers) and exploring the things they did and didn’t do.”
During his nearly 20-year reign as head of CDW, Krasny not only created one of the world’s most successful resellers of IT products, he also developed a hybrid business model that melded the distribution and technology solution provider functions. What’s more, he created a company that’s long been recognized as one of the nation’s best to work for.
By 2000, however, Krasny realized it was time to expand the company’s management team. If CDW was going to continue its growth as a Fortune 500 company, it needed new leadership. In 2001, John Edwardson was named CDW’s new CEO and Chairman.
Over the next decade, Edwardson led CDW through a period of strong growth and expansion while positioning the company for continued success in a rapidly changing industry. Under Edwardson’s leadership, company revenues rose from $3.8 billion in 2000 to more than $8.8 billion in 2010. The company also acquired Berbee Information Networks in 2006, which solidified CDW’s current strategic direction.
After a thorough search to find an eventual successor for Edwardson, Thomas Richards joined CDW as president and chief operating officer in 2009. In 2011, he was named CEO, and in 2013, he also became chairman of the CDW board.
For the past several years, the company has been transforming itself from a supplier of IT products to a full service technology solutions provider—helping fulfill a greater share of its customers’ needs and propelling CDW’s record growth. In June 2013, CDW listed its stock on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “CDW.”
Today, CDW’s future looks brighter than ever. The company’s revenue reached an all-time high of more than $13.9 billion in 2016, and Richards credits CDW’s coworkers for their ability to adapt to new technologies and changing markets. See the related infographic “A Brief History of CDW and IT.”
“I believe it all goes back to our coworkers,” explains Richards. “We have always operated on the principle that if we treat our coworkers well, they’ll treat our customers well. And we want our coworkers to go home at the end of the day feeling so good about what they’ve been able to do for their customers, that they want to come back the next morning and do it again.”