Tom Kuhne, WSI-We Simplify the Internet
IB's Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet area professionals. This week features Tom Kuhne, owner of WSI.
Tom Kuhne, WSI-We Simplify Internet
Address: 2813 Interlaken Pass, Madison, WI 53719
Birthplace: Monroe, Wis.
Board Membership: Swiss Center of North America/Chair
Education: UW-Whitewater, B.A. in politcal science, 1987
How long have you been at WSI, and how would you describe your role?
I have owned WSI for three years and eight months. My roles include sales, project management, and to plan for the business' growth.
Who has influenced your career the most, and in what way?
That is a really tough question. If I have to narrow it down to a single person, it would be my father. He worked in a factory and I saw how he came home stressed every time layoffs were being talked about. Then I experienced that myself when I was in the corporate world and decided it was time to take control of my future and not leave it to chance with an HR department. That is when I started WSI.
Who would you most like to be a mentor to or have the most influence on?
That would be my two sons. I want to instill in them a solid work ethic and teach them the value of a dollar. I also want them to be able to go after their dreams and help them achieve those dreams or career choices when the time comes.
What was a personal high point in your career?
I was the manager of the East Towne Champs Sports store, and when I took over, the store was experiencing double digit losses every month. When I left the store at the end of August that year, it was on pace to have a double digit gain for the year and the store was no longer being considered for closure by corporate.
Do you have any long-range goals that you’d like to achieve before leaving WSI?
I want to build a profitable company that promotes a fun and productive work environment for my staff.
What do you read to help keep you current in your field? What trade associations or training do you belong to that you feel are a good referral?
I read every day about what is going on in my industry. It changes so quickly that if you don't, you will fall behind real fast. I am a member of Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, and WSI has weekly training that I attend. On Twitter, I follow Tom Petty of Bay Area Search Engine Academy. He has great posts daily and is a great resource for anyone wanting more information on Internet marketing.
What were your career aspirations when you were in high school?
I wanted to be an intelligence officer in the Air Force, but due to asthma, I was rejected, so I ended up in retail. Although, looking back, I would not be where I am today had I followed that career path.
Can you remember what you did with your first paycheck? Where was it from, and for what job? How much was it?
My first paycheck was from the Chalet Landhaus in New Glarus. I cleaned rooms and did odd jobs around the hotel. I took my girlfriend on a date with the money. The check was around $75, and $25 of that got us through dinner and a movie.
Did you have any entrepreneurial interests at a young age?
Not really. I mean, I always wanted to run my own business, but didn't have any skill sets to develop a solid business on. Only later in life did I acquire those skills to own a business.
What brought you to Madison?
I grew up in New Glarus, so Madison was always like a second home growing up. My career has taken me away from Madison several times, but I always come home. I love Madison.
Is there anything you’d like to share about your family?
I have a wonderful wife who has supported me at every turn as I started the business. As anyone who has started a business knows, it can be extremely hard on the spouse, since financially you may have to make sacrifices in those first years of growing the business. I can't express how much her support has been instrumental in my success so far. Also, my two sons keep me grounded and I enjoy spending time with them. They were also part of my motivation to start my own business, so I could spend more quality time with them.
What do you do outside of the office to relax?
Playing and or teaching my sons football, basketball, and golf brings me joy, although as any father can tell you, it can also create more stress: "No, Daddy, I can do it myself." Golf brings me the most relaxation. When I am out on the course with friends, I can leave the stresses of work behind for about four hours and really relax.
What is your favorite place to travel to, and why?
I have two places. One is Switzerland. I have family there and the country is so beautiful. It is always a special trip when we can go and see my relatives and spend time with good friends. The second is Vegas. My wife and I love going to Vegas, not for the gambling, but more for the people-watching. It’s our little bit of time when we can relax and reconnect.
What kinds of books do you read for pleasure? What’s a recent title that might give us the flavor of what you like to read?
I don't read as much as I would like to. The last book I read for pleasure was a re-read called A Good Walk Spoiled by John Feinstein.
What character in any sport, book, movie, or play would you most like to be identified with, and why?
My wife, Diana, calls me George Bailey at times because I tend to forget how many people I have touched or been a part of their life.
List three words you think best describe you:
Competitive, passionate, and compassionate.