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Silicon Valley Success Story: Dasher President Al Chien Retires, Looking Forward To ‘Next Chapter’

“It’s been a wonderfully fulfilling ride, but I want to spend more time with my wife, children and, most importantly, my parents,” said Chien. “I’m really looking forward to being with them and not being absorbed and consumed by work. I’m also looking forward to the next chapter in my life dedicated to giving back to young people that are starting out in this business.”

Al Chien, who started in the technology business as a engineer at Hewlett Packard 34 years ago and became a highly-regarded Silicon Valley solution provider superstar, is retiring as president of Dasher Technologies.

Chien joined Dasher, Campbell, CA as Executive Vice President of sales in 2008 just as the financial meltdown was taking hold and went on to grow Dasher’s annual revenue six-fold during his 12 year tenure. Under Chien’s leadership, Dasher has evolved from a regional solution provider into a national SP500 powerhouse, No. 144 on the 2019 CRN SP500.

“It’s been a wonderfully fulfilling ride, but I want to spend more time with my wife, children and, most importantly, my parents,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being with them and not being absorbed and consumed by work. I’m also looking forward to the next chapter in my life dedicated to giving back to young people that are starting out in this business.”

As part of that “next chapter,” Chien- who started a successful sales rep trainee program at Dasher- has started a consulting business, The Chien Group, advising and coaching young aspiring talent, and helping steer burgeoning executive careers .

“While vendors do a great job of product training, there is a glaring lack of sales fundamentals and skills training for young talent,” he said. “I've been blessed by working with and for some of the best managers at Hewlett Packard where I started my career, and I'd love the opportunity to give to others as much as I've gotten from my mentors.”

Chien said he feels blessed to be able to have the financial means to give back to young people and at the same time enjoy life with his family: his wife of 20 years, Kim, and their children, Chip, 34, Director of Sales at web search optimization provider, Algolia, and Kyle, 32, an entrepreneur who started companies like Sriracha2Go and OnMyWhey and has parlayed that success into real estate, and his 18-month-old grandchild, Lyla.

Chien said he is also looking forward to spending more time with his 85-year-old parents Jack and Dana. “They are my heroes,” he said “I’m really looking forward to being there for them in their twilight years.”

Chien, whose longest vacation since he began his career as an HP technical consultant in 1986 was 2 weeks, said he felt the time was right given the staying power of the 21 year old Dasher business.

With Chien leading the charge, Dasher dramatically increased its engineering and technical team and greatly expanded its solution portfolio with Platinum certifications with eight manufacturers. Dasher has grown its professional services by 400 percent over the last two years. “We moved and pivoted in the direction that our clients wanted us to go,” he said. “Our networking and cyber-security business has grown exponentially over the last five years. Dasher is a juggernaut now, a true trusted partner to its clients and has an unparalleled reputation in our industry.”

Chien said he has tremendous respect for the entire Dasher executive team. “The legacy I’ve left behind is one of high integrity, tremendous work ethic, and an incredible will and passion to make customers successful”, he said. “We instill that philosophy in every Dasher employee and the results speak for themselves.”

An American Success Story

As the eldest son of Chinese immigrants, Chien’s American success story is a tribute to his 85 year old parents Jack and Dana, both of whom separately escaped the Communist Revolution in China and made their way to Taiwan. They both immigrated to San Francisco, met on a blind date in 1961 and were married in 1962.

Chien, who was born in 1964 and raised in San Jose, Calif, followed in the footsteps of his Dad, an advisory engineer who worked at IBM for 35 years and holds many patents. Chien’s Dad was on the original development team for IBM’s legendary Winchester Disk Drives- which were introduced in 1973 and remained a standard for removable media until 2011.

Chien, who earned an BSEE from the University of California Los Angeles, concedes that he did follow in his father’s footsteps, but with one big difference. “He is brilliant and I’m not,” says the self effacing Chien.

After retiring from IBM and after a one year break, Chien’s father joined Phillips Semiconductor where he worked for another seven years before hanging it up for good. "As much as my Mom loves my Dad, she wasn't ready for him to be around "all the time" and pushed him into a second career." "I have been so fortunate to have had my parent's unwavering love, support and guidance. They really are some of the most generous and gracious people I know, and I know I owe them so much for the sacrifices they made to provide for me and the family."

Chien started his career as a technical engineer for Hewlett Packard, but quickly pivoted into sales and subsequently, spent the next 20 years at HP climbing up the channel sales ranks. In 2005, he became the Director of sales for the Hewlett Packard Industry Standard Server business unit, a $2.4 billion business at that time. Chien helped create channel programs to launch HP's introduction of C-Class BladeSystems, which, within two years, became the worldwide leader in blade market share.

With the opportunity to run the sales team at a small solution provider that he had admired, Chien joined Dasher as Executive Vice President of sales in 2008, just as the financial crises was just hitting the country. Chien was undeterred by the downturn. He was excited to take the sales lessons he learned at Hewlett Packard and put them to good use to grow the Dasher business.

“I wanted to run an organization on my own and build it in the image of HP, “ he said. “I tried to model the Dasher culture from a lot of the things I learned from HP. At Dasher, I had the autonomy to make decisions and carve a path for the company’s direction going forward.”

Integrating the employee and customer-first culture of HP founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard into Dasher was a winning formula. It led to a client-centric template at Dasher that consistently resulted in 100 new customer logos year after year. “Growing the customer base and going wider, servicing more clients is a hallmark of the Dasher model,” he said. “It’s a very diverse customer base. We invested heavily on demand generation/lead creation.”

Today, no single Dasher customer represents more than 10 percent of the business. That’s an anomaly in the regional solution provider market where a number of partners rely heavily on a few large customers.

Under Chien, who was named president of Dasher two years ago, the company built its own internal farm system for developing sales reps. That successful sales training program has been a big differentiator for the company. It also earned plaudits for Chien from the young trainees who went on to become successful sales reps at Dasher.

“What we have done is nurture from within by bringing on young recruits and training them,” he said. “I am extremely proud of that program. Half our salespeople have gone through our farm system. Those reps know how to prospect on their own and establish strong relationships with customers. Watching the development of these young sales professionals from trainees to inside reps and then to outside sales reps was really rewarding.”

During his Zoom meeting going away party, a number of the sales professionals personally thanked Chien. “It made me feel good and it was very humbling, but they do all the hard work. I was simply there to open a door and give them an opportunity,” he said.

Angela Armstrong, an 11 year Dasher veteran who started at the company when she was 22, said Chien has mentored her and many young people starting out in the IT business.

“A lot of the sales team and employees at Dasher came from completely different industries,” said Armstrong. “Al had a way of finding people with the right personality, work-ethic and drive. He would bring them into Dasher and then teach them proper business and sales practices. He built the sales model, the farming and mentoring program at Dasher. He really mentored all of our employees and sales team.”

Chien was able to inspire people to build long-lasting personal relationships in the field with customers, said Armstrong. “Al’s vision of the sales team at Dasher was personal relationships go a long way,” she said. “He would tell us people work with you because they trust you and believe in you. He had a way of making people feel like they were the most important person in the room. People would want to work with him and accomplish a goal for him because he had created that trust.”

Armstrong started out as a marketing manager working for Chien, moving up the ranks to vice president of marketing and then to a sales role with mentorship all along the way from Chien. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Al,” she said. “He believed in me, trusted me and always encouraged me to have confidence in the decisions I made. He gives employees the confidence to trust their own ideas. That has helped us all to deliver better results.”

Chien’s ability to create long lasting, personal relationships is key to his success, said Armstrong. “I have both a personal and professional relationship with him,” she said. “My kids call him Uncle Al. What keeps people loyal to him is that he invests in them not only professionally but personally. That is what makes our sales team so successful.”

Lessons From The Channel Sales Trenches

Chien said he found the biggest difference between the solution provider and OEM side of the business was the “sense of urgency” to grow the business in a fast moving technology market. “If we don’t do it our competition does it for us”, he said. “There is a velocity on the reseller side that most manufacturers don’t have.”

During his career, Chien said he was constantly amazed by the blinding speed of the technology solutions market “I can’t help but think about how quickly the technology has evolved,” he said. “At one point I was selling 5 ¼ inch 1 GB hard drives for $3,000. Now we are talking about zetabytes. When I started, wireless networking didn’t exist. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of this business.”

Chien said the key to channel success in the future is recurring revenue models with offerings like Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) GreenLake pay per use platform. “You have to move to where the puck is going- not where it is now,” he said.

Chien said he greatly admires the HPE team he was worked with particularly HPE Managing Director North America Dan Belanger, North America East Sales Chief Terry Richardson and former HPE US Sales Vice President Rob Schaeffer, who recently stepped down to become the president of SP500 powerhouse CBT.“Dan, Terry and Rob are great leaders,” he said. “Dan is tireless and demanding of his team with tons of integrity. His passion for the business is infectious. Terry is a great sales leader, always present and available to help and no one has a better pulse on the channel than Rob.”

Chien said he is going to miss spending time with the Dasher team and top vendor partner sales executives like Belanger, Richardson and Schaeffer. “I worked hard to build relationships with our vendor partners so that we were mutually trusted advisors,” he said. “I will miss that.”

Chien said he strived each and every day to “treat everyone respectfully and to give them my full attention, to be “present and engaged”. A big part of that involves “taking the time to listen, giving honest feedback and always putting the customer first,” he said.

Dasher’s Armstrong, for her part, says Chien’s legacy is the long lasting impact he has had on people and the company. “To me Dasher is Al Chien,” she said. “He built who Dasher is and how we work with our customers and partners. Obviously we are all sad to see him go but he has created a long lasting impact on all our lives and the company itself. As long as we can keep his mindset in place we’ll continue to be successful. I don’t think he’ll ever be out of our lives.”

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