Eric Crown

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Eric J. Crown (born 1962 in Rome, New York), is the co-founder and current Chairman Emeritus of the Tempe, Arizona based Insight Enterprises.


Eric Crown was born in New York and studied at the Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business. He received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems in 1984. [1] In his senior year, he was given a project in Entrepreneurship class in which he had to develop a business plan for a potential business. His business plan was for a company that would later become the precursor to Insight.

Hard Drives International[edit]

In 1986, Eric Crown and his brother Tim Crown obtained a $2,000 advance on a credit card, enabling them to place a single advertisement in Computer Shopper, a computer parts magazine. The brothers wrote an advertisement and sent it to Computer Shopper for them to publish in their next magazine issue. At the time that the brothers wrote the advertisement, they were advertising a hard drive for a sales price that was less than the cost of purchasing the hard drive from a supplier. They were gambling that, in the 20 days it would take to publish the magazine issue, the cost of a hard drive from a supplier would decrease so that it would be less than the selling price that they wrote in the advertisement. The gamble succeeded, as prices fell below the advertised price, and Hard Drives International became well known for having the lowest prices on hard drives. [2]

Insight Enterprises[edit]

Given the success of the Hard Drives International model, the brothers repeated the strategy and altered the business by changing the name of the company to Insight Direct, Inc..

Originally, Insight attracted customers through advertising and the use of inbound toll-free telephone lines. In 1993, the company expanded its marketing mix to include catalogs and added outbound telephone account executives to focus on establishing a larger customer base. The company eventually became a large catalog company that mailed tens of millions of product booklets annually. In 1995, Insight debuted on the World Wide Web.[3]

Insight Enterprises timeline[edit]

In 1995, the company went public and became a whole-owned subsidiary of Insight Enterprises, Inc. Upon becoming a public company, Insight Enterprises, Inc.'s annual revenue was approximately 200 million. [4]

The Montreal, Canada startup succeeded and soon after this, the Insight brand was launched in the United Kingdom and Germany. The United Kingdom expansion occurred through the acquisition of Plusnet and Choice Peripherals. Plusnet Technologies Limited was an internet service provider (ISP) and web site hosting company based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK.[5][6] Insight Enterprises, Inc. purchased 85% of Plusnet (which was doing business as Force9). Choice Peripherals was based in Workshop, England. It was founded in 1992 and it was the United Kingdom's leading director computer marketer, at the time of acquisition. [7]

In 1999, the Insight brand launched in Winnipeg, Canada.

Then in 2001, Insight acquired Action Computer Support, Ltd., which was based in Chelmsford, United Kingdom. Action Computer Support, Ltd. was founded in 1996 and it provided small businesses with services designed to maximize technology investments. They provided managed services (which focused on prevention policies to deter downtime due to broken equipment), on-demand services, business continuity plans, etc. [8]

In 2002, Insight acquired Comark, which was a private company based in Chicago, Illinois that was a software and network equipment retailer. [9] In 2000, Comark's revenues were 1.56 billion dollars and it had 1,364 employees. [9]

Insight acquired Software Spectrum, a global software reseller which specialized in enterprise software license sales and software asset management, in 2006. This acquisition increased the number of countries in which Insight Enterprises operated. Before the purchase, the company operated in 3 countries, (US, Canada and the UK) and after the acquisition, it operated in 24 countries. This caused the organization to rival Dell and Hewlett-Packard in information technology (IT) supply. The acquisition also enabled Insight to supply its products to 170 countries and consequently, Insight started the process of expanding its product range in each country.

Calence, LLC was acquired by Insight in 2008. Calence, LLC, which was based in Tempe, Arizona since its founding in 1993, provided networking solutions and built, managed, and optimized networks to enable organizations to plan, build, provide, and operate their network, security and infrastructure. This included network strategy formulation, network assessments, wireless infrastructure solutions, and IP convergence assessment. Currently it operates as a subsidiary of Insight Direct USA, Inc. [10]

In 2011, Insight acquired Ensych, a Tempe, Arizona professional services firm which held multiple Microsoft Gold competencies. In the year prior to the acquisition, Ensynch's service revenue was $16.2 million. [11]

In 2012, Insight acquired Inmac in Germany, Inmac was founded in 1982, and it was a direct sales information technology organization. It then evolved into an information technology trading organization, and ultimately it grew into the information technology procurement industry. It currently is a medium-sized company with more than 50,000 active customers and it offers more than 50,000 information technology products.[12]

Today, Insight has more than $5 billion in annual revenues,[13]

As of today, the former business-to-consumer (B2C) company has evolved into a business-to-business organization that delivers value-added products and services. Some of these include project management,

Eric Crown and Insight in the late 2000s[edit]

Eric Crown has resigned from the board as CEO, however he still retains his honorary title of Chairman Emeritus. In the meantime, his brother Tim still serves as Chairman, though he has little involvement in day-to-day operations.

The history of the company was filled with constant evolution. Yet even after every evolution, the company stressed a high-volume/low-margin model. Eric Crown's focus was based on scale and high-risk/high-reward rapid growth.

The company's history has also been that of growth. In 1996, its annual revenues were approximately one billion dollars. Today, its revenue grosses $5 billion annually.

Company culture[edit]

Eric Crown was known at Insight Direct (c. 1988-1995) for wearing simple loafer shoes with no socks. He was creative with publicity and employee morale. In 1995, after studying "casual" dress workday sales patterns, they announced that salespeople would no longer be required to wear ties. However, employees had to keep dress clothes available at all times in the event of a walkthrough. It was also mandatory to wear dress clothes on Monday.

As another example, an employee had lost his hair due to cancer treatments. Crown announced that in solidarity, employees could volunteer to have their hair shaved in the front lobby for free. He promised to donate $100 to the American Cancer Society for each head shaved. He also promised to shave his own head if 100 employees took place in the volunteer hair shaving drive. Over 100 employees shaved their head, and Eric Crown held true to his word.

When the company began to grow, a state-of-the-art company headquarters was designed and built. It contained four giant arenas for salespeople to hold training presentations and coaching for sessions from a centralized hub. In acknowledgment of the newly built headquarters, Crown wanted to notify the local businesses that 2,000 employees were now based in the area. So he sent a letter to local restaurants alerting them that all of the employees would utilize only $2 bills. This would enable the restaurants to know the direct impact of the newly located company. This known direct impact would then be utilized as leverage in negotiations conducted to obtain employee discounts for local area purchases. Employees were instructed to only use $2 bills.

Leadership style[edit]

Eric Crown's leadership style is that of determination and decisiveness. As his brother said of his leadership, Eric Crown has a committed "burn the ships behind you" leadership. His decisiveness was of special importance in a dynamic market, such as that of the computer industry. In his own words, he "was always a firm believer in the sharp knife: it's easier to cut with a sharp knife than hack it to death with a butter knife".

In fact, one phrase that he utilizes to express his management style is "ready, aim fire" The rationale behind such phraseology, as he has expressed, is "we don't have time to try these things until the end of time. We're not a bunch of accountants! Get it going!". Nickname, Cheap E stemmed from that one tab he picked up in 1987.

Personal thoughts[edit]

Twenty years after his graduation, Eric Crown was the commencement speaker at the W.P. Carey School of Business's Graduation. At this event, three beach balls were being batted around the Wells Fargo Arena by the graduates. For the solemnity of the ceremony, security guards were removing them from the event. But while Crown was sitting with dignitaries of the college waiting to speak, one remaining beach ball landed right in his lap. Instead of removing it, he stood up, and served it back to the crowd as if it were a volleyball. When it was time for him to speak, he recommended, "don't get all A's. I got pretty much straight B's. B's are good. Drink beer. Keep the ideas flowing."

During a lunch in 1998, Eric Crown told a group of his employees that he subscribes to about 100 magazines. Contrary to intuition, almost none of the magazines are related to computers or the information technology IT industry. But, he reads them "pretty much cover-to-cover".

Eric Crown has worked with Tyler Metcalf, the president of Entrepreneurs@ASU, to provide the Crown Innovator Scholarship. This scholarship assists entrepreneurial students with $2,000 towards their tuition along with mentorships, contacts, and once in a lifetime experiences. [14]


Since retiring from Insight Enterprises, Eric Crown has continued to operate as an entrepreneur. He has invested in dozens of organizations and participated in their growth.

Crown Foundation[edit]

In 1997, Eric and Tim formed the Crown Foundation to benefit charitable causes. This non-profit organization is based in Arizona.[15]

Summit School of Ahwatukee[edit]

In 2001, Eric Crown, Tim Crown and William Andrew, created Summit School of Ahwatukee, a 501(c)(3) (not for profit) private, independent school in Arizona, serving families in the Ahwatukee community of Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe, and Gilbert, Arizona. They founded this organization after Tessearact Schools (a public company with over 40 schools nationwide) declared bankruptcy. Eric and Tim created an organization which became the debtor in possession (DIP). It provided financing for Tesseract in an attempt to ensure that no school closed during Tesseract's liquidation process. Eric and Tim Crown were ultimately able to purchase fixed assets and learning materials from the bankruptcy trustee. They then purchased the school building and property from a REIT. At this point, Summit School of Ahwatukee began, and it initially enrolled 50 students. It has now grown in size and it teaches 350 students (Pre-K through 8th Grade). Summit School of Ahwatukee is a private, non-profit, independent school. Elementary and middle school are accredited, by the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), a division of AdvancED®. Preschool is also nationally accredited, by the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children). The school's mission is to "foster academic excellence and the love of learning through a liberal arts education". [16] Now, Eric and Tim Crown are on the Board of Trustees of the organization. Bowl[edit]

In 1997, Insight Enterprises sponsored a small NCAA football game that was based in Tucson, Arizona. Renaming it from the Copper Bowl to the Bowl, this small bowl game eventually moved from its Tucson-home to Chase Field, the Major League baseball stadium in Phoenix, Arizona. At this time it was renamed the Insight Bowl. A few years later this bowl game moved again to Sun Devil Stadium. This move occurred when the Fiesta Bowl moved from Sun Devil Stadium to the new football arena in Glendale, Arizona, which is home to the Arizona Cardinals. [17]


In September 2003, Crown started the group "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians", and, in, 2004 filed an initiative for the November 2, 2004 ballot. This initiative would amend the Arizona state Constitution, and ban the use of Clean Elections money for political races. Crown, who had contributed $30,000 to the campaign, said:

Crown said the group planned to raise about $500,000 to cover the cost of gathering 184,000 signatures by July. After getting on the ballot, the group intended to raise money for television spots and other advertising.[18]

In Spring 2005, Eric Crown, in partnership with other Arizona business people formed the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, after expressing frustration with what they viewed as the rapid expansion of the state government and the lack of a tax-cut mentality at the state capitol. Ultimately they hoped to reignite the philosophical battle over the role of government.[19]


  1. ^ "Eric Crown". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  2. ^ "Insight Enterprises shifting focus to IT services". May 22, 2005. Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  3. ^ [1] Archived October 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "Home | IT Solutions and IT Services | Insight Canada". Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  5. ^ "You want cables with that?". Forbes. 1998-08-24. Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  6. ^ ""The Internet doesn't know borders"". Forbes. 1998-08-24. Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  7. ^ "Insight Acquires Choice Peripherals in U.K. - InternetNews". InternetNews. Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  8. ^ [2] Archived July 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ a b "Subscription Center". Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  10. ^ "Calence, LLC: Private Company Information - Businessweek". Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  11. ^ "Insight to Acquire Ensynch". Business Wire. 2011-09-19. Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  12. ^ [3]
  13. ^ "Insight and IBM : Partnering for Success" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  14. ^ [4] Archived November 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ [5] Archived September 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ "Mission - Summit School of Ahwatukee". Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  17. ^ Pittman, David (1997-12-25). "INSIGHT.COM BOWL - Tucson Citizen Morgue, Part 2 (1993-2009)". Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  18. ^ "End Of Election Fund Goal Of Insight Chief: California Clean Money Campaign". Retrieved 2015-11-07. 
  19. ^ [6] Archived September 11, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]