By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA
Steve Cuntz, the founder & CEO of BlueStar and one of the most influential executives in the retail IT channel, passed away Nov. 4. Steve was an unwavering supporter of the channel and a fierce advocate for small businesses. “Steve was always there for the resellers big and small,” an RSPA VAR member told me upon hearing of Steve’s passing.
If there was a retail IT channel version of Mount Rushmore, Steve Cuntz no doubt would have earned a place there.
Steve was an exemplary representative of our industry. He became successful by grinding every day. He relied on dogged determination, persistence, hard work, accountability, and proven principles to build BlueStar from a company of three to a billion-dollar organization.
The typical successful businessperson profiled in a magazine or on TV appears to be glamorous, suave, and refined. Steve played running back on the Xavier University football team, and that’s how he tackled business challenges – calling it like he saw it, blunt and unfiltered. He possessed great intellect, but when it came to the channel, he led with his heart.
Please allow me to share a few of my favorite Steve Cuntz stories with you:
- My first in-depth conversations with Steve took place at an RSPA Inspire conference in Hawaii. Vendors had just been integrated into the association as members, and there were discussions about a new committee called the Vendor Working Group. The dilemma was time – when could so many busy executives get together? A man of action, Steve proposed we meet the next day at 6:00 AM Hawaiian Time. “I mean we’re all going to be awake any way,” he said. The next day, crack of dawn, a group of us were having coffee and getting to work. I was honored to present Steve with a plaque years later when the Vendor Working Group was sunset because vendors had been successfully integrated into the association.
- At another Inspire, where afternoons are free for excursions or time at the resort, I found myself poolside with Steve and a few others. For two hours, I heard the nuts and bolts of how to operate a growing business. As a young executive, I was eager to take it all in – though I wish I had a notepad with me instead of a pool towel. One nugget I recall is Steve saying how a healthy organization has to be fully committed to its customers. Steve said he would occasionally pop his head into BlueStar internal meetings and ask those around the conference table, “Tell me how this meeting is benefiting our customers.” If the replies didn’t cut it, the meeting was over.
- Steve was tough as nails but he was an optimist as well. When I shared a car with him during an Inspire conference in Aruba, he gushed about how friendly the people were and how beautiful the island was. At another event, we sat next to each other during dinner, and most of the conversation was him describing why he felt so lucky to be an American – and why we should all feel lucky to have the opportunities only available in the United States.
- Back in 2012 when BlueStar had the audacity to host its annual VARTECH partner conference on a cruise ship for the first time, Steve took zero credit for what proved to be a well-received idea. “When Mark Fraker (then BlueStar VP of Marketing) suggested we have VARTECH on a cruise ship, I said, ‘We will never, ever have VARTECH on a cruise ship,” Steve said to me with a huge smile. “And here we are today.”
Many executives let their growing business become an obstacle between them and their family. They leave for work early, come home late, and travel non-stop. Steve instead intertwined the two, using his business to stay close with wife Vicki and daughters Katie, Emily, and Chelsea who all have contributed to the BlueStar cause. Many in the RSPA community, including myself, met the entire Cuntz family at industry shows and got to know them over the years.
My last conversation with Steve took place on the show floor at RetailNOW 2023 in Orlando. We were discussing the challenges of the changing channel which Steve saw as opportunities. He wasn’t about to dwell on any problem. At one point he paused, smiled, and said, “Man, aren’t we lucky? We are so fortunate, and we are so blessed.”
We are fortunate that Steve Cuntz invested his talents and time in our industry. Those who knew him are better for having him in our lives.
May his memory be a blessing.
In place of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made in Steve’s name to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Cincinnati, Cincinnati/Dayton Office Staff, PO Box 29, Milford, OH 45150, or donate to St. Timothy Catholic School, 10268 US-42, Union, KY 41091.