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Mike Schaer, Billings Entrepreneur and Long Time COB Supporter

Mike Shaer talking with a College of Business studentMike Schaer, the founder of Computers Unlimited, spoke to the Entrepreneurship and Marketing course on February 16. Mike is well known as the restorer of Downtown Billings because of his acquisition and development of many of the buildings the line Montana Avenue. The gems of wisdom that he shared with the students included the following:

  1. Do any job nobody else wants to do.
  2. Grab responsibility.
  3. When you are in business by yourself you can kill the bad stuff and promote the good stuff much easier than when you have partners.
  4. Hire people to work for you that are really good and then do what they say.
  5. Know the product. The product is the most important thing.
  6. Hire people that know what they are doing.
  7. Hire an HR person from day one.
  8. Train your managers.
  9. When you are running your operation with five people, everyone knows what everyone else is doing. When it gets bigger you need structure.
  10. When you are first starting out, do not be overly reliant on your sales force.

The Computers Unlimited website states the following about the company:

“In 1978, the same year Bill Gates founded Microsoft in Seattle, WA, Michael Schaer founded Computers Unlimited in Billings, MT, offering hardware and software solutions to local businesses. One of Schaer’s first customers included a welding and gas distributor with whom he had a prior working relationship. Welding and gas distributors soon became a major part of the business, resulting in software developed specifically for this industry. Today, TIMS Software is an industry leader, proudly serving more than 20,000 users throughout the world.

CU has since branched out into similar businesses, developing software for the home oxygen and medical equipment industry and companies that specialize in home infusion therapy. Most recently, CU began offering software for the audiology market.

In April 2009, after more than a decade of learning the business and the industries served, Schaer’s son, David, assumed the role of company president with the same commitment to developing solutions that meet and exceed the needs of customers.

CU’s approach to software development continues to be a key element of our success. Delivering sound software systems using the latest technology is the culmination of over thirty years of knowledge, experience and understanding of our customers’ businesses. The end result—our TIMS Software product backed by our motto, “Our People Make It Happen.”

"We're a software company, but really, it's about the people here at CU," says David Schaer, company president.”

A 2006 article published in the Billings Gazette included the following information about Mike’s downtown development efforts.

Mike Shaer teaching at MSU Billings College of Business“Schaer, … was born and raised in Chicago and went to graduate school in Oregon. He came to Montana in 1969 to teach at Montana State University in Bozeman. There he met Joel Long, another man on the list of the most influential people in Billings. Long knew some people in Billings who needed help with their computer systems, and Schaer, who had taught himself to work with computers, started commuting to Billings from Bozeman.

After some years of going back and forth, he moved here in 1978 and founded Computers Unlimited. He started out on Poly Drive but soon moved to Montana Avenue. Schaer bought his first building there 24 years ago and has been steadily expanding since.

He now owns many Montana Avenue properties between North 26th and 22th streets. Some of them house parts of his Computers Unlimited business and his 170 employees, and some house other businesses of his, including the McCormick Café and Q restaurant.

He and Gene Burgad of the Rex spearheaded an effort to revitalize Montana Avenue in the late 1990s, when property owners put up half the $1.2 million cost of street work, sidewalks, decorative crosswalks, planters and landscaping. The avenue has been booming ever since, and the progress there is credited with spurring other developments around downtown.”

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