Dave Dutch can look back on his morning commute by going to his personal computer and punching a few buttons. Up pops a map showing the route from his home in Coronado to his office north of University Towne Centre. The map includes speeds, other data from the trip plus the current location of the other family car.
Dutch is using his own product from Networkcar, a service that collects location data from specially equipped vehicles, plus diagnostic data from a vehicle’s onboard computer, and presents it to certain Internet users.
Networkcar was founded in 1999. Since the end of 2002, it has been wholly owned by Reynolds and Reynolds, a $982 million corporation out of Dayton, Ohio.
“It’s probably the biggest software company you’ve never heard of,” Dutch said, explaining that Reynolds provides software for automotive dealerships.
Reynolds brought in Dutch as Networkcar’s president around the time it took full ownership of the company. Before joining Reynolds in 2001, Dutch was an executive with CoreComm Ltd., a telecom, Internet and data service provider. Before that, he was a management consultant with A.T. Kearney. Dutch is a Naval Academy graduate who served as a Navy special operations officer. He received his M.B.A. from Michigan State University.
Dutch noted that since he started at Networkcar, the company has taken on a work force that, increasingly, has been educated in Michigan. A green flag with a white letter “S” occupies a prime spot in his office. “My goal is to have a whole Michigan State Spartan community,” Dutch said.
Networkcar employs 30 people in San Diego. Since Dutch’s arrival, it has shifted its focus to the fleet market.
Name: Dave Dutch.
Title: President/chief executive officer.
Education: Bachelor of science in ocean physics, U.S. Naval Academy; master of business administration, Michigan State University.
City of residence: Coronado.
Birthplace: East Lansing, Mich.
Family: Wife, Michelle; four children, Maggie, Gunnar and Grace (twins), and Mia.
Essential business philosophy: It’s all about building and motivating the right team. There has been many a successful company with mediocre product supported by a superior team. I cannot think of many instances where the opposite is true.
Best way to keep a competitive edge: Use your own product. Use your competitor’s product. Listen to your customers.
Guiding principles: The customer is king. It costs more to win a new customer than to keep a current customer. The customer knows what they want and what they are willing to pay for better than you do. Culture is as important as talent or product in building a successful and scalable business.
Yardstick of success: When a customer provides unsolicited positive feedback about an experience with someone on your team. That’s when you know “philosophy” has made the leap to “culture” and your company will be a success.
Goals yet to be achieved: An IPO and getting my kids through college. (As for the initial public offering, Dutch said, “It doesn’t have to be this company.”)
Best business decision: Completely changing our business from the consumer market to the business market.
Worst business decision: Spending a large amount of money with an advertising agency to pick names, fonts and colors (which we never ended up using).
Toughest business decision: Letting a talented manager go. This person worked hard and did nothing “wrong,” but culturally detracted from the team and the company’s direction.
Biggest missed opportunity: Not selling a dial-up Internet division prior to the boom of broadband. This was two companies ago.
Mentor: Nathalie Dutch , my mother. My dad is a great guy and I am proud of him. But my mother raised 10 kids, worked full-time as a nurse, volunteered at the church, managed the family finances, did the taxes, started several small businesses, got her master’s degree, actively trades stocks and seems to have complete balance in her life. She taught me that family comes first but that does not preclude you from chasing and fulfilling your dreams.
Word that describes you: Lucky.
Reason for getting into the high-tech business: A finance professor who I greatly respected always encouraged me to find a growth business in a growth industry. I have done my best to follow that advice and it has led me to be involved with technology businesses ever since.
What you like best about the high-tech business: The talented, energetic and interesting folks who populate and are attracted to high-tech companies.
What you like least about the high-tech business: The lag time between developing a solution that has great value and educating the market that it has great value.
How the high-tech business has changed: Businesses are much smarter about purchasing high-tech solutions. I see fewer folks buying technology for technology’s sake and more folks buying technology to solve a problem or improve a process. The marketplace has also come to understand that technology is an integral part of doing business, but good technology is useless without good people and good process.
Pet peeve: People who believe they are victims. You are the master of your universe , so change it if you don’t like it.
Most important lesson learned: Collect stories, not stuff.
Person most interested in meeting, living or dead: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Regardless of your view of his politics or performance as governor, he is an incredibly dynamic individual that has accomplished so much in his life already. Talk about living the American dream!
Most-respected competitor: Irwin Jacobs and Qualcomm. Though we do not compete directly with Qualcomm, we provide services in an adjacent space. He and his company are a great example of what you can accomplish when you are passionate, dedicated and build the right culture. No disrespect intended toward Dr. Jacobs, but I look forward to the day when San Diego renames Qualcomm Stadium to Networkcar Stadium.
Three greatest passions: My family, my business and the gym.
First choice for a new career: Teacher. I have always enjoyed tutoring and I have long wanted to be a teacher. I would teach math or public speaking/communications to high school or college students.
I’m currently reading: “His Excellency: George Washington” by Joseph J. Ellis. My wife got it for me for the Fourth of July.
Favorite quote/saying: “The harder I work, the luckier I get” , Samuel Goldwyn, founder of MGM studios.
Favorite cause: Sacred Heart, our church and associated school on Coronado.
Most influential book: “Illusions” by Richard Bach. It was the right message at the right time.
Favorite status symbol: The Christmas card I send out every year with a picture of my kids.
Favorite movie: “Being There.” I still chuckle every time I think of it.
Favorite restaurant: The Brigantine, Coronado (with the kids); George’s at the Cove, La Jolla (without the kids).
Favorite place for business meetings: Harry’s Bar & American Grill, San Diego.
Favorite vacation spot: Villa del Sol, Zihuatanejo, Mexico. A friend recommended it to us eight years ago and we have been going back ever since.
Favorite way to spend time: At the beach with wife, kids, stogie and wine.
Favorite automobile: 1964 Chrysler Crown Imperial convertible. I had one 15 years ago and I am still regretting the day I sold it. Michelle knows that once we are past the need for minivans, I will be looking to replace it.
Favorite place to go in San Diego: Balboa Park. There is something for everyone.