A Publication of WTVP

Scott Klaus has worked for Klaus Companies since college and has been serving as vice president for 15 years. He manages the company’s Whirlpool territory and field sales, and is proud to be a part of a family-owned business in Peoria. When his grandfather began the company in 1919, he sold electronic parts out of a saddle shop in Eureka. Through their hard work and dedication, three generations of the Klaus family have grown the business to include the information technology and audio-visual integration services they offer today.

Klaus believes in serving the community through both professional and personal endeavors and is currently a board member of the Children’s Hospital of Illinois. In years past, he has served on the board of the Children’s Home, Pediatric Resource Center, Saint Francis Foundation, State Home Builders and the Peoria Country Club. He is also a Lifeflight member and holds a pilot’s license with over 4,000 hours of flight experience.

In his free time, Klaus enjoys watching his son and daughter excel at the sport he loves and played for years: tennis. He also enjoys traveling, flying, playing racquetball with the guys and keeping up on college basketball and football.

Tell us about your background and education.

I was born and raised in Peoria and went to Wilder-Waite Grade School in Alta. Since Dunlap didn’t have a tennis team at the time, I made the choice to go to Bergan High School. While at Bergan, our team finished ninth at State in my sophomore and junior years. During the latter, Tom Westphal and I made it to the quarterfinals in doubles, but lost to the eventual champions. I continued playing tennis around the Midwest and the country, and, at an early age, had set my sights on a tennis scholarship.

Growing up, my idol was Jeff Spietz, a tennis player who earned a scholarship to Bradley University and went on to become all-Missouri Valley. He allowed me to come to the Bradley practices and play with the other guys there. Jeff and I also used to sell programs for basketball games at Robertson Memorial Fieldhouse, which today is probably a “no-no” with recruiting rules for high school athletes. I learned a lot from Jeff; through tennis, we built a friendship which has lasted for years. After working hard at tennis, and with advice from Jeff, I started looking at colleges and their tennis programs.

I ended up accepting a scholarship to the University of Nebraska and was really excited about playing Division I tennis.
I remember the day I signed my national letter of intent—there was no one around. I remember seeing athletes sign in front of cameras, but I guess that doesn’t usually happen for tennis players! Many people knew Nebraska as a football school, but they also had a pretty good tennis team. In my junior year, Nebraska finished third in the Big 8, and I was named to the all-Big 8 team. I played for two years, and opted to take a medical scholarship after having rotator cuff surgery during my senior year. After realizing my tennis career was nearing an end, it was time to start thinking about coming back to Peoria and working for the family business. I began my career for Klaus Companies on the Monday after graduation and have been there ever since—24 years so far.

As a man born and raised in the Peoria area, was it expected that you would help with the family business?

The opportunity to come back into the family company was always there. I was told, however, that I would have to work my way through the ranks, so I started working summers in the warehouse. From an early age, I loved coming to work with my dad and hanging out in the warehouse. When Dad was out of town, I used to ride my mini-bike through cornfields to get to work by 8am. When I started playing tennis, I used to walk up from the racquet club to get a ride home with Dad. I remember doing my homework in his office (currently my office) as sales meetings were going on. Later on, after I had started working for Klaus Companies, I remember going to lunch with my dad and grandpa, and people always commented on how lucky I was to work with both of them. Not too many kids in a family business get to see three generations at work every day.

Coming back to Peoria to work for the family company was always a goal for me. In a smaller city, you can meet a lot of people and build many good business relationships. I remember going to the Bradley games with Dad, and it always seemed like he knew everybody. There is something to be said about a community the size of Peoria—people still like to do business with a locally-owned and operated company.

Each day I am reminded of our history. There are still several pictures in the halls showing the people and history of Klaus Companies. One of my favorites is of my parents with Ronald and Nancy Reagan at the White House, which is special, as my grandfather and great uncle used to double-date with Mr. Reagan when he was at Eureka College.

One of the stories we were always told around the dinner table was that Wilma Klaus, my grandma, gave Mr.
Reagan his nickname, “Dutch,” and her brother, Garland Wagner, was Reagan’s boyhood idol and the reason Mr. Reagan went to Eureka to play football.

My dad told another story. One day he got a phone call from Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. They had a concert somewhere and needed some kind of electronic part that no one else had. Dad, not knowing who they were, met their private jet they had sent to get the parts at the airport. Since he had not heard of Jerry, it was C.O.D., and they paid him on the spot. Today I still work with my uncle Rick (treasurer), my cousin Kevin (inside computer sales), and my dad, Robert (president).

What were the original services and/or products that Klaus provided when it was established?

When Klaus Radio was started back in 1919, my grandfather sold electronic parts out of a saddle shop in Eureka.

Tell how the Klaus Companies have evolved its products and services over the years.

As the age of telegraphs started, my grandfather used to wire the founder of RCA, David Sarnoff, and eventually, we became the first independent RCA distributor in the U.S. Whirlpool appliances needed distribution, so they sought out the RCA distributors. We distributed RCA and Whirlpool products to 83 counties in Illinois and Iowa for many years. As we started getting into the electronic parts business as well, we entered the professional video arena. As there became a stronger market for audio-visual, we broke our professional video group off into its own division.

We have enhanced our pro-video group through the years to become a major player in the audio-video arena. This includes everything from a simple conference room with a projector to a full-blown teleconferencing system. We have technical designers who design rooms to meet each of our customers’ unique needs. We also provide expert installation and service.

What has remained constant through the years?

We have endured many changes through all those years and have used our longevity to build good business relationships with many companies throughout the Midwest. The biggest thing to remain constant, though, is continuous ownership of the company. We have diversified as the market changed, but we are still a locallyowned,
family company. The other constant has been the location at which we have done business for over 40 years.

What services does Integrated Computer Resources, your information technology division, provide?

Integrated Computer Resources provides standards-based and custom solutions, including hardware, software, installation, network administration and maintenance services. We are an outsourced IT department for small businesses, educational facilities, medical practices, law firms and other organizations. Our staff receives ongoing training and industry certifications that allow us to stay current with technical knowledge and best practices.

The company’s designations as a Microsoft Certified Partner and as the only downstate member of the Intel Channel Partner Premier program allow us deeper access to the resources and materials we deliver to our customers. The Premier partnership with Intel allows us to create custom-built computer solutions with accelerated support based on leading industry technologies. We sell and build systems for anyone from District 150 to CAT to Advanced Medical Transport.

Integrated Computer Resources, being involved in the computer field, has allowed us to expand into many different areas. Many products are run around computers these days, opening up many different avenues for us to explore.

For example, we have been working with many medical offices to help with solutions for storing medical records. With the medical community trying to go paperless, we are provided with new opportunities to help our customers. From computers to projectors, SMART boards to plasma and LCD TVs, we can tie them all together, making us a value-added company, providing customers with the technology they want.

Last year, we attended INFOCOM in Los Angeles, where Lance Piper, one of our salesmen, was recognized as one of the top 10 producers in the country for Panasonic projectors. It takes a team effort—and we have a great team—from salespeople to installation technicians to a shipping department. It takes all of us working together to finish a project for our customers.

There are many times when our installation team has to work long hours to get a room done in a timely fashion. Matt Eppel, division manager, has created a very organized group. He listens to the concerns of not only the customer, but the employees as well. The people in the trenches everyday have their ears to the ground, and we can quickly react with a solution if issues arise. We are a team, from management on down. I think what makes us successful is the trust that customers give our salespeople and the install group. When a customer takes time out to call or email me complimenting our staff, I know that we have gone above and beyond and established trust with that customer.

Describe some of the customized technology/media systems that you are putting in conference rooms today.

Many of the conference rooms we do today have projectors or plasma screens. We also install many retractable screens, sometimes hidden in the ceiling. Churches and schools in the area are getting more into technology and sound for their sanctuaries and classrooms. Many customers want one remote that does everything. We do the turnkey from design to programming the remote system.

Our technical people listen to customers, making sure we design and/or provide custom systems that fit their needs. One of my favorites is in the Foster MBA room at Bradley University—the projector retracts into the ceiling after use for a clean look.

We have worked on board rooms at Proctor, Methodist and OSF Saint Francis Medical Centers, as well as many of their classrooms. Many of the CAT and State Farm conference rooms have been upgraded with our equipment. Bradley basketball and Illinois basketball and football also use a lot of our equipment.

We integrate the latest technology to design control systems that make all the newest audio-video technology easy to use. You can have the most cutting-edge technology in the conference room, but if it is not easy to use, it will be underutilized.

Our touch-panel LCD control systems are customized for each installation. Our solution can control lights, shades on windows, screens and all of the other audio-video components in the room with a friendly interface made up of images and text on a single LCD touch-panel display. Switching between high-definition audio-video sources, computer systems or video conference cameras to the different display options in the room (LCD and plasma flat panels or digital projectors) can be easily done with the touch of a finger—and without the distraction of finding several remotes, hitting the magic buttons and then getting back to the focus of the presentation. We strive to make the latest technology usable for everyone.

What do you see in the future for office technology?

The future is mobile. From more robust handheld devices and laptops to interfaces based on touch-screen improvements, the mobile professional will be working from almost anywhere. As technology continues to improve, barriers keep dropping. Faster devices; more efficient power use and increased battery life; broader wireless access; and software innovations will bring it all together. Communicating with colleagues outside the office will be greatly enhanced by improvements to video conferencing through matching environments, display placement and high-definition audio-video. Meeting attendees in remote locations will be visually placed at the conference table with you. These improvements help to bridge the visual gap and allow greater collaboration on team projects because attendees will not feel disconnected.

What are some of the challenges for the installation of media systems in offices and homes?

Most businesses use their conference rooms so heavily that it’s a challenge to get the room booked for the time it takes to install the new or upgraded equipment. Audio-visual products are increasingly moving toward the information technology arena in design and communication methods by using Ethernet networks—both wired and wireless—to communicate between devices and other resources. Gaining approval for access to the corporate network for the AV products can also be challenging. These days, networks carry heavier loads with everyday usage, especially with audio-visual department needs and phone-related requests (voice-over-IP) all communicating over the network.

In some building projects, audio-visual requirements and designs are not thought out early enough in the planning process. Keeping the finished product in mind, we encourage designers to get us involved early in the architectural phase of a project to allow for a design which can be smoothly integrated into the construction and final stages of the installation.

We have been positioning our company as a leader in technology services. Our customers want to know about the latest and greatest products and have access to our knowledgeable sales people, keeping them abreast of the quickly-changing industry. Customers rely on us to keep them informed of solutions their company could benefit from.

Conference rooms by Klaus have anywhere from a simple table-top projector to a ceiling-mounted unit accompanied by a touch-panel remote system that does everything in a simple way. The remote allows users to control as much or as little as they like—i.e. DVD, CD, TV, satellite, lights, screen, curtains, sound, etc. We design custom systems to fit individual customers’ needs. One system we are very proud of is the teleconferencing system we did at Methodist Medical Center to enable Dr. Igor Singer and his heart team to communicate with Arizona Heart Care.

How do you help businesses deal with security issues in a wireless society?

We start by educating clients of the risks and weaknesses of wireless communication when used in their offices or while traveling. We implement network solutions that take into account the weak points of wireless devices in their offices and add layers of security so access to their private networks are not gained or compromised by outsiders.

You have been a board member for the Children’s Hospital and OSF Saint Francis for more than a decade. What led you to volunteer in this area?

I became very interested in the medical field in college, after I spent a lot of time in the training room nursing a bad shoulder and in rehab after surgery. I remember when Dad came home from a board meeting at Saint Francis Hospital when I was younger, talking about a new piece of equipment the hospital had just purchased—an MRI. It was very interesting to hear him talk about it. With Dad on the Saint Francis Community Advisory board, I used to love (and still do) hearing him talk about all the medical technology that was coming to Peoria. Peorians should understand that we are blessed to have so many great hospitals in our city.

One night, Pete Vonachen called me and asked if I would be interested in serving on the Children’s Hospital board. I had talked with Dick Ullman, my neighbor and a good friend of the family, about Children’s Hospital many times. He was the first president of the board. I felt honored to be asked, since I had two healthy kids who didn’t require treatment from the Children’s Hospital.

The stories of families who have experienced the great care the hospital gives make it truly rewarding. The Milestone Project that recently got underway is another reminder of the commitment the Sisters have to helping the children of downstate Illinois. We are also excited about the way the community has embraced this project.

The Children’s Hospital board has been special for me, especially having had the honor to serve as board president. Looking around the table at meetings and seeing the people who give up their time to help serve shows the caliber of individuals we have in Peoria.

What prompted you to become an assistant tennis coach at Richwoods High School?

When Steve Knight was the coach at Richwoods, he asked if I would like to help coach the tennis team that my son, Chase, was playing on. I jumped at the chance. There are certain things I see as a former player that a parent who hasn’t played might not see. During the last two years, the new coach, Patti Shaw, has allowed me to continue coaching Chase at tournaments. Most recently, he was honored with the state sportsmanship award and finished 10-16, earning all-state honors.

My daughter, Abby, also plays on the Richwoods team, as a sophomore. A very proud moment for me was when Chase and Abby both won Tri-County titles just as I had in the past.

What would you like our readers to know about Klaus Companies that we haven’t asked?

Klaus Companies has been around the Peoria area for more than 88 years. We have managed to change over the years and continue to service the technology needs of central Illinois. Peoria has many great family-owned businesses, and many are like Klaus Companies, in that they still have second- and third-generation family members actively working for them.

Good people make a good company. There are lots of big companies out there, but people still like locally-owned and -operated businesses, and we feel we can respond to their needs better than a company in New York can, for example. Customers know that because Klaus is a locally-owned company, if they have a problem, we will promptly come out to resolve it. We have built our reputation on being honest with our customers and listen to what their needs are before giving them a solution. Peoria has always been good to the Klaus Companies, and I hope we have been good to Peoria. IBI