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Industry Mourns Passing Of ‘Channel Icon’ TIG Founder, CEO Bruce Geier

Geier founded Technology Integration Group (TIG), an early PC reseller pioneer headquartered in San Diego that he built into a highly-respected and formidable global technology solution provider powerhouse. He was 68-years-old.

As an undergraduate on a wrestling scholarship at the University of Utah, Bruce Geier was a fierce competitor who often outlasted his opponents with his hard-nosed determination.

Those years in the wrestling circle served him well as an entrepreneur who 40 years ago founded Technology Integration Group (TIG), an early PC reseller pioneer headquartered in San Diego that he built into a highly-respected and formidable global technology solution provider powerhouse, No. 86 on the CRN Solution Provider 500.

Geier, 68, who was viewed as one of the top channel business leaders for four decades, mentoring colleagues and driving vendor and distribution partners to build a rich and vibrant channel ecosystem, passed away after a long battle with cancer, friends said.

Friends and colleagues mourned him as a channel icon who was able to navigate one cataclysmic technology shift after another, always with an eye toward growth and helping customers succeed. They said Geier’s relentless focus on delivering breakthrough technology solutions that delivered huge benefits to customers through what he called the TIG Experience was key to the company’s ability to succeed one decade after another.

Geier, a student of the industry with a keen mind for business, was always ready to make the next big technology bet to help customers leverage the power of technology solutions to grow their business.

Geier’s drive, determination and ultimately his success as a technology entrepreneur made him a beloved mentor for many solution providers and vendor and distribution executives.

Geier, who was born in Sendai, Japan, was the son of a U.S. Army captain, World War II and Korean war veteran, Paul Geier, who passed away in 2007, and a loving mother, Setsuko, a homemaker who crafted traditional Japanese dolls and passed away in 2016. His father and mother instilled in Bruce an intense desire to compete and win, but also a generous heart that was displayed in his love and commitment to his own family, his TIG family and his many, many industry friends.

TIG CFO Tom Janecek, who worked side by side with Geier for 30 years, sent an email to TIG employees on September 11 at 7:35 AM PST informing them of Bruce’s passing.

“It is with profound sadness that I inform you of Bruce Geier’s passing,” wrote Janecek. “Bruce passed away early this morning at his Park City (Utah) home comforted by those he loved. For all of you who have been fortunate to know him over the years, you saw in Bruce the ultimate competitor. His battle with cancer was no different as he kept his fighting spirit until his last moments.”

During the “closing chapter of his life,” Janecek, said, “Bruce was at peace as he looked back and drew comfort upon what he had accomplished in life, the close relationships he had forged and, most importantly, the family he deeply loved. In addition to the legacy he leaves with his immediate family, he also leaves one in his TIG family. Bruce deeply cared about those who have been part of TIG through the years and who have made the company what it is today.”

In fact, Janecek, said, that over this past year, Bruce “told me on numerous occasions how proud he was of everyone who has stepped up to get things done as he focused on his health. It gave him great comfort knowing that he was leaving the company in such dedicated and capable hands. The meaning and substance of One TIG has truly been realized.”

That One TIG vision was key to the success that the company experienced one year after another–through economic downturns and vast changes in the technology solutions market. In fact, Geier’s passion for the business and customers inspired fierce loyalty among TIG employees. TIG had a track record for retaining top sales and technical talent that was the envy of competitors.

Geier had a President’s Club not only for top sales talent but also for operational, support and warehouse staff that were key to TIG’s growth. “It wasn’t just about sales to him, it was the whole family,” said Janecek. “We have many, many employees that have been with us for 15, 20, 25 and 30 years with Bruce. This is my 30th-year anniversary. That exemplifies the One TIG philosophy that Bruce instilled with his mentorship and in how he built this company and how he depended on people to grow the business.”

The One TIG philosophy and the TIG Experience became mantras for the company during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Janecek. “Bruce gave voice to that One TIG philosophy, which became super important with regard to keeping our TIG family together during the pandemic,” he said.

Janeck said Geier could be an imposing figure, like a great coach driving his team to do their best, putting on his game face to compete for business, but through it all he was always a “loyal” supporter of his TIG family. “I often looked at Bruce as a coach,” said Janecek. “TIG was a team and a family to him.”

One TIG Family

In the end, Geier knew the company he built with so much love and passion was in good hands with his One TIG family, said Janecek. “Bruce knew that his vision had been seen and embraced years ago,” he said. “He had no concerns about the business. He knew we were on the right track and headed in the right direction. He was so confident of the team that he put in place that it gave him peace of mind.”

TIG Senior Vice President of Professional and Managed Services Vince Lamb, who joined the company 21 years ago, said he decided to join TIG because of Bruce’s unmatched commitment to IT services. “I joined this company because of Bruce’s vision of high value services,” he said. “A lot of companies do not have the vision and commitment to services that the customer community needs. That is why I decided to hang my hat with TIG in 2000. Year over year, Bruce’s commitment to high value IT services is why we are so successful.”

Geier made sure that the technology services team delivered at the highest level, said Lamb. “In the 20 years I have been here, there have been a lot of economic twists and turns, and through all of it he never waivered in that commitment to provide high-value service and solutions to customers. He felt it was something the customers needed. He didn’t view it as selling. He viewed it as providing optimal solutions that customers needed.”

One sign of Geier’s entrepreneurial drive and spirit was his commitment to move into one geography after another, building a global business with the opening of a Shanghai, China office in the midst of the 2008 economic downturn.

“People were getting crushed and pulling back on aggressive strategies in 2008 because of the economy,” said Lamb. “Bruce put his foot hard on the gas because he felt that he had a vision to be global and provide the high-value services we have in the US in China.” That business continues to thrive with high value managed solutions, said Lamb.

Geier’s desire year in and year out was to end each fiscal year growing the business, moving the business forward, said Lamb. “Bruce felt as long as the business was growing, he felt great about the direction of the business and the team that he had built to get us there,” he said.

Other solution providers always marveled at Bruce’s ability to be a “voice” for other partners to help build the business and channel ecosystem. “Bruce was an icon because he fought for the channel,” said Lamb. “Of course he cared about TIG. But he felt it was important for the future and growth of the channel to speak out. Bruce saw the relationship he had with all parts of the channel ecosystem as a partnership.”

A Businessman From The Start

Geier had an entrepreneurial drive that was present even as a student at the University of Utah where he received his bachelor’s degree in computer science and his master’s degree in business administration. As a student, Geier would make multiple trips each semester to Mexico, where he would buy jewelry from craftsman and artists to sell at a profit on campus.

After graduating, Geier went to work at Ernst and Whinney, which is now EY. With a knowledge that the personal computer would change business forever, Geier decided to start his own business, incorporated as PC Specialists–later renamed Technology Integration Group. One of the top Ernst and Whinney managers at the time laughed off Geier’s PC passion as a passing fad. But Geier knew that he was on to just how big an impact technology would have on the business landscape. He wrote his own accounting software and began selling it to businesses.

With Geier’s technology vision and competitive fire, PC Specialists soon became a technology force to be reckoned with in the San Diego market. Year after year, the company grew more and more successful, riding the PC wave, the local area network explosion, the client server boom, the internet tidal wave and finally cloud services.

Kirk Robinson, the chief country executive at Ingram Micro, the $50 billion distribution powerhouse that has counted TIG as a top partner for more than 30 years, began calling on TIG and Geier as a sales rep 25 years ago.

“Bruce was part of our VTN community from the very beginning. He was always one of the biggest—if not the biggest customer—within our community,” said Robinson. “To see someone in our industry build a business to the size that he did was impressive. He was a voice for other partners. He understood how the vendors and distributors worked. He was a big voice in the industry. Think of the respect he had from his peers and all of us in the industry. He was a true leader in our industry.”

Robinson credited Geier with playing a key role in building the channel ecosystem. “Bruce learned early on the more you give the more you get,” he said. “Bruce didn’t mind being that mentor for many, whether it was other partners, vendors or distributors. A big part of our relationship was understanding what type of help Bruce needed from a distributor and how we could grow in supporting his business. By doing that we supported all the Ingram partners. He was a big voice in the Ingram partner network and a friend with many of us at Ingram.”

Robinson recalled Geier as a friend but also as one of the “toughest” customers he has ever had to deal with at Ingram. “He taught me many lessons about how to deliver customer service at a higher level. Anything else wasn’t acceptable, and he wasn’t afraid to let you know. I love that about him. I learned a lot from him as an unbelievable entrepreneur. I needed to raise my game, and Ingram needed to raise its game. That is where the respect comes from. You grow along the way, and you deliver. With that came a friendship.”

Robinson has great memories spending time with Geier on the annual Ingram Vista trips for the distributor’s top partners to many exotic locations around the world. “Those trips were a unique opportunity to bond with partners in places that you could never imagine going and seeing,” he said. “With Bruce you could go from in-depth conversations about problems the industry needed to solve to family and life to just side-splitting laughter. He was always a hoot to be with. He was just a ball of energy and fun to be around. When someone passes that is close to you like Bruce, it is a reminder to stop and smell the roses and live every day to the fullest. Bruce is a great example of someone who lived everyday to the fullest. We are saddened by his passing.”

Steven Jow, executive vice president of sales at TD Synnex, which became the biggest distributor in the wake of the recent merger of Tech Data Synnex, said Geier became a close friend some 20 years ago, well before Synnex did business with TIG.

“I would run into Bruce because we would be at events together, and we would sit down and chat about stuff,” said Jow. “He was just such a great guy. I loved the man. With Bruce what you saw was what you got. He included everyone in his circle. He was much more than just business. He was iconic. He transcended business.”

Geier had an entrepreneur's drive that constantly pushed TIG to step up to meet the ever-changing technology solutions needs of customers. “Bruce was always looking at new entrepreneurial ways to grow the business; he was always thinking, he never stayed still,” said Jow. “He was never satisfied with the status quo. He was always looking at how he could grow the business. Once he got his mind behind an idea he would just do it.”

Every year, during a major event, the Synnex and TIG teams would get together at a dinner to celebrate the friendships that developed between the two groups. “We would catch up on our personal lives, it was just a grand old time,” he said. “Every year we did those get-togethers they would get bigger and bigger and bigger. That was the way Bruce was: if you were his friend and part of his ecosystem, he would connect you with more people. Through Bruce I got to meet his professional family and his real family and through that they became part of my family. The thing I loved about Bruce was he was so good at building relationships. Bruce just loved people. That is what I’ll remember about him. I am really sad that he is gone.”

Jow said one of the things he loved about Bruce was his bigger-than-life personality. “I knew if there was anyone strong enough to beat cancer it was Bruce Geier,” he said. “Every time we talked he would say he was going to beat it. He was such a big personality that you never doubted that.”

Friends and colleague said Geier brought an indomitable spirit and drive to both his personal and professional relationships.

Scott Dunsire, an industry veteran who knew Geier from his time as a channel chief for HP and Lexmark and as a peer as CEO at ACPCreativIT, No. 119 on the CRN SP500, said he sees Geier’s college years as a wrestler as the perfect training for navigating the rough and tumble technology business.

“The fact that Bruce was a wrestler speaks to how he was able to survive and thrive in the ever-changing technology market year after year,” said Dunsire. “He was somebody who was always grinding it out. You would have to be a grinder to make it 40 years in this business. To be able to start and build a business like that over the course of 40 years is a testament to Bruce’s vision and leadership. How many owners are still running their business after 40 years? This is a sad day for the channel and the industry. I am shocked. We have lost a channel icon.”

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Dunsire recalled recalled Geier as a fixture at industry events, always bringing his keen intelligence to make the channel stronger for both partners and vendors.

“Bruce was always front and center at industry events, listening, taking notes in the front row, always looking for opportunities to invest,” said Dunsire. “He really cared. He wasn’t just killing time. He was there to learn, participate and provide feedback. Bruce was always listening and not afraid to tell you if there was something he didn’t agree with. But he did in a very respectful way.”

In fact, Dunsire said, one of the things that he took away from working with Geier was how to handle delicate and difficult situations with dignity. ”That is a lost art in many ways,” he said

Turning Business Relationships Into Personal Friendships

Frank Vitagliano, a 30-year-plus channel veteran who is now CEO of the Global Technology Distribution Council, the industry association representing technology distributors, said he met Geier in the early ’90s. “Bruce built a tremendous business and was really loyal to the people that worked for him over the years,” he said. “Everyone in the channel knew Bruce. Many people in the business looked for help from Bruce, and he would always take the call and help out.”

Vitagliano recalls calling Geier many years ago when a colleague’s son in San Diego was looking for a tech job in San Diego. “Within a week, Bruce had interviewed him and offered him a job,” said Vitagliano. “He was just a great guy who was friends with many people in the business. He was an honest and down-to-earth guy who was very well-liked and really popular.”

Geier had an uncanny knack for turning business relationships into personal friendships, said Vitagliano. “With Bruce you couldn’t help but quickly become friends with him and going to a Chargers or a Padres game with him,” he said. “Bruce had great relationships throughout the industry. He epitomizes the strength of the channel. He started his business in 1981 and built it into a very successful business. There is constant change in this business. Bruce built a big viable business and developed extraordinary long-term relationships that endure even to today. It is highly unusual to see the scale that Bruce built the business to as an independent solution provider.”

Vitagliano said he regrets not being able to get to see Geier at an industry event in the last several years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “You knew if there was a big industry event Bruce would be there. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see him over the last couple of years. That is sad. I wish I got to see him one more time to tell him what he meant to the industry.”

Blaine Raddon, the CEO of The Channel Company, the parent company of CRN, who knew Geier for 30 years and was a Park City, Utah neighbor and fellow University of Utah alumnus, said Geier was a huge positive force in the channel ecosystem.

“Bruce was part of the channel ecosystem in every company I have worked with for the last 30 years,” he said. “Bruce was all about building deep personal relationships.”

Raddon credited Geier with building a solution provider powerhouse that has thrived over four decades in the midst of massive changes in the technology business. “Bruce was able to grow TIG through all the different evolutions of the channel,” said Raddon. “I saw him take the business from a reseller of PCs to a global solution provider powerhouse. No matter what happened in the technology industry, Bruce made sure TIG adapted and thrived.”

Besides his passion for his family and TIG, Geier was a sports fisherman, skier, world traveler and adventurer. He was also a huge sports fan with season tickets to both the San Diego Chargers and San Diego Padres.

Victor Gallego, who knew Geier as a close friend before taking a job at TIG two years ago as as senior vice president of field sales, will always cherish the many international trips and sporting events he got to attend with his friend, including 15 Super Bowls.

One of Gallego’s fondest memories was attending the Super Bowl in Detroit where they went to the unassuming Detroit suburban home where Bruce grew up. “It was a tiny house,” he said. “Bruce hadn’t seen that house in 20 years, and it was exactly the way Bruce remembered it. It was great to see where Bruce grew up.”

Gallego said Geier never forgot his roots and the strong work ethic and generosity instilled in him by his parents. “Bruce was very giving, generous and wonderful to be around. That generosity had a life-changing impact on many TIG employees,” he said. “Bruce was very old school in terms of maintaining strong and loyal friendships with his TIG employees. He understood the commitment and sacrifices of the TIG team. He valued that and rewarded it with incredible acts of kindness and generosity.”

In his message to TIG employees, Janacek said Bruce is survived by his wife Bonnie, sons Kenji and Trent, daughter Nicole, son-in-law Alec, granddaughters Lilah and Lavender, and brother Bob.

“I will deeply miss my great friend and partner as you will,” said Janacek. “We will mourn his passing. But may we also live our lives always cherishing the great memories we have of him. The family and I will share updates regarding a future celebration of his life. Keep the family in your thoughts and prayers. Please pass this news on to the many others who have known him and who have been part of his life.”

No service has been planned as of yet, but Geier’s family said donations are welcome in his memory to The University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute, a research facility and hospital where Geier had been treated.

When Geier was was first diagnosed with cancer about two years ago he was only given six months to live. “He was a Japanese warrior who battled to the very end,” said Gallego. “Bruce was a loving and loyal friend who was always there for his family, friends and his TIG employees. We all loved him so much. It’s heartbreaking to say goodbye to him.”

Donations can be made in Bruce’s name at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

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