Doug Clausen, president and CEO of VT Industries, Inc. — and a BVU trustee — has carried on the family legacy, helping develop the company started 55 years ago in Holstein by his father, Roger, into one of the world’s leading manufacturers of laminate countertops, architectural wood doors and stone surfaces for residential and commercial buildings.
“When my father started the business, he didn’t know that what he was doing should not work and just kept plowing ahead,” says Doug. “I feel business owners — entrepreneurs like my father —have a better understanding of the value of a customer. Being innovative and customer focused has driven our success.”
Doug knew at an early age that he wanted to work in the family business and learned a lot about it in the trenches, starting in junior high school sweeping floors. He then did various office jobs until he was 18 and went to college, continuing to work in the summers in production and maintenance.
After graduating from the Creighton University School of Business in Omaha, Neb., in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration/accounting, Doug headed to Houston, Texas, to become general manager of VT’s new plant. In 1979, Doug returned to the family-owned company’s headquarters in Holstein where he was data processing manager for three years. In 1982, he was named vice president and in 1989 became president. When Roger retired in 1996, Doug became CEO and owner.
In the years since he became president, the company has experienced impressive growth, adding six manufacturing facilities. VT’s products can be found in commercial and residential construction across the U.S. and in several foreign countries, including such high-visibility locations as Yankee Stadium and Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins.
When asked to join BVU’s Board of Trustees, Doug looked forward to working with others as advocates for higher education. Small, independent institutions such as BVU fill an important role in higher education, he says.
“For a segment of the college-bound population, small schools provide the extra support and community that those students need to succeed,” he comments. “Not being seen as a number and having the opportunity to participate, whether in the classroom, the arts, sports and other activities, motivates many students to excel.”
He says BVU’s curriculum must continue to be well-rounded, and the focus needs to be results-oriented.
“Students must be preparing for a career. The amount of debt that students take on must provide a return on their investment. I am also very concerned about the long-term inflation in the cost of higher education,” he says. “We must do everything we can to continue to make a college education affordable.”
Doug says his interaction with BVU students and through their presentations at board functions has “given me a better appreciation of the additional effort required of students today to get ahead.” With the growing economic, social and cultural globalization of society, he says students must learn how to compete in a global economy.
“Understanding other cultures is a big part of being able to do so,” notes Doug, who knows firsthand how international travel can provide important cultural learning experiences. His business travels have taken him to 15 countries including Korea, Japan, China, Mexico, Ireland, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in addition to visiting several other countries on vacations.
Last fall, Doug and his wife, Joanie, committed funds for a $1 million endowment at BVU to create the Clausen Family Chair in the Harold Walter Siebens School of Business. Their gift to establish the faculty chair was part of BVU’s new capital campaign, See Tomorrow: The Campaign for Buena Vista University.
“We feel that the Harold Walter Siebens School of Business is one of the core units that must help carry BVU into the future,” he says. “Our family has focused our philanthropy on education and we feel this was the logical next step in supporting education.”