Gateways’ business model evolved over the course of its lifetime, as it expanded new systems and procedures were written up and implemented and industry “norms” were adopted for best practice.

Quality control and employee training, customer service levels, sales targets, online time, average call of answer, etc, etc… Gateway was growing and becoming a “Blue Chip”, and all the corporate blue sky, out of the box thinking that comes with it began to creep into the fabric of Gateway’s traditional mid-western values.

Not all of these growing pains were bad, far from it. You need to break eggs to make an omelet right! Most people agree that a growing company needs some “new blood”, some wise heads to take the company into new and uncharted territory.

Unfortunately Gateway would be “taken over” as it headed into the Millennium.  Most of the core values with which the majority of employees worked by were being eroded from the top down. Gateway would be driven in very different directions and its core model, the model that had taken the company reliably in the right direction, was being “downgraded” along with its future…

Gateway was a great place to work.  It had a great work ethic that came from mid-western American values and was exported fairly successfully into each of its global facilities.  Part of the “induction” at Gateway was to understand the “VVM”, Visions, Values and Mission. They might be corny to some, but they “fitted” the ethos of Gateway because they came right from the top, from the CEO Ted Waitt.

Ted Waitt was (and still is) a man full of energy, a person who likes to get things done.  He believed in the Values he shared with each Gateway employee and most importantly, he would listen and engage with any of them at any time.  You got the sense from him that these weren’t just some random set of high-flying words written down in a ten minute meeting.

One of the words used was “fun”.  And it was definitely a fun place to work.  Yes, just like any other “job” you can have good and bad days, but the general atmosphere at Gateway was different, it was something you could feel in the air, the vibe was good and the people enjoyed working there (most of the time!)…

  “Always be happy, but never satisfied!”

Pinned to your desk at all times! From the “Values” Ad 1991

“We are ready to believe you!”

We saw the future?

Gateway was born in the mid west, and it should have stayed there.  When the core “strategy” changed and it emerged that the company was to move its control and command centre to sunny San Diego (California), it rattled the entire company and was akin to Texas Instruments moving to Alaska.  Not only did it mean senior management was moving from home to new digs and leaving the family behind, but it went further and changed the psyche of the company both internally and externally.

Ted had been vacationing in California for years (you can’t begrudge that), but it wasn’t just the heat and white sandy beaches that convinced Ted that a move from Sioux City was the right thing to do.  Outside influences had been trying to convince Ted that to in order to “expand” the business he would have to move to the real Tech Capital.

Ted and “some others” had been working on a plan to push revenues up, a 5 year plan that would radically change the company and most of its core philosophies.  This wasn’t a deliberate action plan to whittle away the Gateway credo or any of its core values, it was a series of unfortunate boardroom PowerPoint presentations that seemed to make sense to those inside the boardroom.

Country Stores emerged from an EMEA requirement to have a “shop front” for potential customers, showcasing Gateway’s current configurations and new technology.  A prestige store in each of the live country markets, ideally located  in the capital city, they were not a commercial concern.  This original store concept proved very successful, but it would soon be expanded under the Country Store brand and that meant Gateway was going retail.

Ted had hired Weitzen and Robino from AT&T, and in his words “We needed to get a better blend of people than we have here, with people who have more experience”.  The San Diego move was influenced by the new hires, it underpinned the future expansion of Gateway and so it was agreed to move HQ.  Only a handful of “old Gateway” stock took flight to California, many wouldn’t and couldn’t leave the safe haven of South Dakota.  

Click images to expand

In July 1998, an Article appeared in Business Week magazine (you can read it below), it seems in hindsight as if the author had been able to travel in time, as the article nails down many of the arguments discussed internally and some of the unfortunate future consequences that were hinted at.  Many still believe that “San Diego-Gate”, coupled with the Country Store expansion were the most influential factors that damaged Gateway’s future, that and the fact Ted fired the Holsteins…

On the ground, the expansion of the Country Store strategy was widely seen as a risk and at odds with the current model. This was an acute change to the cornerstone build-to-order model that Gateway was famous for.   The costs of this new bricks and mortar operation going ahead and the associated costs of staffing, logistics and additional marketing seemed an expensive venture in the wrong direction.

From “Connecting” magazine December 1999

Values, integrity and honesty…

* - The views expressed here are personal and do not express official Gateway/Acer policy.  All views precede the ownership of Gateway by Acer Inc.

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