B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro
B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro

Episode · 1 month ago

A Look Into a Family Business in the SMB Alliance

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

There are many family businesses within the SMB alliance.

In a special As the Gears Turn edition of B2B Tech Talk, we’re looking into the journey of one of them.

Patrick Cash interviews Devaughn Bittle and Jim Bittle, Devaughn’s father and the owner of CommPutercations, about:

- How technology has changed over the years

- Whether he originally envisioned the company becoming a family business

- The dynamics of running a family business

To join the discussion, follow us on Twitter @IngramTechSol #B2BTechTalk

Listen to this episode and more like it by subscribing to B2B Tech Talk on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher. Or, tune in on our website.

...you're listening to B. B. Tech talkwith ingram Micro a place to learn about how to grow your business andstay ahead of technological advances before they become mainstream intoday's episode we're introducing a new business and technology minded seriesbrought to you by ingram Micro's smb alliance community called as the gearsturn hosted by two ingram micro snb alliance council leaders Mr Devinbiddle and Mr Patrick Cash both successful MSP. S and both ready tocall the business of I. T. As they see it. So with that said let's make ithappen Welcome to as the gears turn. Welcome to another episode of B. Two B.Tech talk with ingram Micro special as the gears turn edition where your hostStephen biddle from computer cations out of Frederick Maryland and Patrickcash from blue store networks out of Atlanta Georgia and actually out ofFrederick Maryland uh today as well. Yeah there's gonna be a fun podcastDevon I'm actually in the CPI office where the magic happens and today I'mgonna be talking with Devon and the founder of Cp I mr jim biddle where uhyou know there's a lot of family businesses in the S. And P. Allianceand and even across the board just in general and so you know it's alwayskind of fun to find out firsthand how that journey has taken place and someof the obstacles that get overcome. And so today we're just going to chat and Iam so excited to have both of you here today let's let's dive in, definitelywelcome Patrick to Frederick. It's good to have you I yeah, I've only been to D.C. Twice. And so I had no idea that there was like areas outside of justlike I thought we were just coming. You gotta explore, you can explore a littlebit cool little town. And we've got my father Jim battle the founder. Welcomedad. Thank you. Thank you. I'm really looking forward to this. So jim, we'regoing to jump right in. You actually have some military background. Uh Thankyou. Come out of the Navy. You know myself being an Air force vet. We'renot going to talk politics about, you know, which one is a little bit betterthan the other. We'll just leave that on the table for now. I fullyunderstand. Yeah. You know, not everybody can get the navy. So. Well,just fair point, fair point. So you went through the military and thendecided, I think it was in like late 1985. And then you launched in early 86,a technology business. So let's talk about how you got started with computercations. Well, uh I got into this field through the Navy. They sent me toseveral schools. IBM was one of the schools. So when I got out of the Navy,I ended up getting into technology went to work for a California company andthey were selling if you remember this electric typewriter. IBM had convertedSelectric typewriters into uh digital terminals and the company I was workingfor was they were buying those and they called him a J 8 40 ones. That's how Igot into the business outside of the military. So I did that for severalyears. Eventually then in uh 1986 I started computer cations Came home oneday and told my wife I was going to start a business and she thought I wascrazy. But I told her, well I put $10,000 in and if it doesn't work, I'llgo get a real job. So I still don't have a real job. And the the 1st 10,000has not been repaid either. That's true, true. It's very true. That's true.That's true. So it was, my background was community communications from thenavy. And so that's really what I was doing when we first started that andthe IBM protocol converters And uh some...

...uh ironic we were selling uh 9600 bawdterminals for like $2500 back in the late 80s. And uh it just boggles mymind. You can, you know, when the PC came out, you can buy a whole computerfor less than that. Right. Right. Well, and and nowadays, you know, you thinkabout the technology that you carry in your pocket and what that would cost in1986 purchase. Yeah. Well, and, and Devin talks about it sometimes becausehe mentions that you actually sold like one of the first three abacus that wereuh, the early, early computers. Yeah, so, you know, we were touching kind ofon the early phase of technology when you started C p I, let's chat a littlebit kind of how you've seen the technology shift in. Maybe notnecessarily from there at the beginning to now, but maybe through like the 1st10 or 15 years. Well, like I say, it started out in communications and uh,the PC had come out and of course we were, we were a nobel dealer and uh,realized that in order for these pcs to be really worthwhile, they had to benetwork. So we got into the networking business and uh, the mentioned theprotocol converters and we were using BT 100, which probably nobody remembersthose anymore. And we were using dumb terminals too replace expensive IBMequipment for 27 32 seventies and we became a break fix shop. And uh, wewere giving really, we were giving service away, we were selling boxes andgiving service away and uh, we eventually then became an MSP. And thatwas really with Devon's prompting, he came one day and said, look, I think weneed to go in this direction. And I said, okay, we'll give it a try. And uh,that was back in 2000 and five, I believe, 2005 and uh, so we've beenpushing that boat for quite a while now well, and it's, you know, it's kind offascinating cause you're talking about using dumb terminals in, in the lateeighties, early nineties and we're full circle. That's true. You know, you talkabout remote computing and where we're at with cloud and V. D. I and yeah,obviously a lot different in terms of what you can do. Yes. But thetechnology is a base is still the sexual thing and in fact, you know, are,I think this is worth mentioning, our original tagline was um, theconvergence of communications and computing and that's where the computercations comes from. And while it's a great tagline, it's not relevant totoday because everything's converged. So we, we've since changed our tagline,but that was the original tagline because that's what we were doing atthat time or what you were doing. I was just putting stickers on boxes to sendout the door in the summers when I didn't want to be here. You know, I'mhere right well. And, and so, you know, as we're talking through change andstaying kind of on that topic of changes, jim, as you were growing thebusiness modifying the business kind of flowing with the way things were going,did you envision a point where devin was going to come on board And I meantalk about scary changes, you know, I, I mean, was that kind of a plan whenyou, you know, you took 10,000 on a whim and, and told the missus that, heyyou know if it works out it works out if it doesn't work out, it doesn't workout, but was there you know, was there a thought maybe back there that heythis could be a family thing um you know across time? Not really, not everdid I that I think it was gonna be a...

...family thing, I was more concernedabout just being able to pay the bills And uh like Devin said, I mean we'vebeen in this building, we bought this building in 1989 And so devin reallyhas been in this business since 1989 downstairs putting stickers on modemsand uh you know, I guess in the back of my mind I probably would would, I wasthinking this would be great, you know if Devin wanted to get into thebusiness or his sister of course he fired his sister once but uh I thinkshe quit, we'll leave it at that. Although if we could do like a phone afriend right now I would totally do it, put that on speed dial and that wouldbe a great conversation to add to this mix. But I like I say, I guess in theback of my mind yeah, I was kinda hoping that maybe he would beinterested in but uh really, I I didn't think that he was he was he was prettyburned out putting stickers on. That's tiring. I wasn't there you go. Uh Ialways had an interest in computers. I mean he was always bringing home youknow the latest computer and uh and I would you know play with that and justtanker which I think is how most I. T. Guys start anyway so you know withoutknowing it I guess I was getting into it and then I went to work for someother companies I worked for M. C. I. Which was the large was a largetelecommunications company. Um And learned a lot there but my degree incollege is nothing you know I don't have any degree in computer science. Mydegree was in tourism management. I was really headed in the direction ofbusiness and tourism management. That's a story in itself calls me, he calls meone day and said dad I I figured out what I'm gonna do with my major. I saidwell what is it? He says it's uh it was called leisure studies or studies. Isaid these are studies, you've been doing that for two years already so I'mtrying to figure out so you have a background in leisure studies and andand yet you know there was a recent trip that some folks took that kind ofgot co planned and there was very little leisure planning that shonethrough that that degree. So I'm you know jim if you've got you know apullback maybe on some of those uh those college funds you might wannathat's not so, well, that's that's cool because, you know, I mean, you'restepping in from a role that, like you said, initially, you had some interest,but it wasn't necessarily like what you thought would be your road plan of, hey,I'm gonna go do some college and then come back and just, you know, work inthe business. And it's it's an interesting dynamic when you, you talkabout some family businesses where they're designed that way, it's gonnabe a heritage and, you know, some that obviously aren't. And so, you know,we've talked about, you know, C. P. I one point, oh, now we're kind ofstarting into C. P. I two point Oh, a little bit, you know, because, I mean,devon's been here for, you know, Like you said, I mean, since the late 80s,putting stickers on boxes, but, you know, the last 10, 12, 15 years, reallykind of digging in and kind of putting his stamp and and so devon from yourviewpoint and the way technology has shifted from when you came in to whereyou're kind of things are today. What are some of the the changes that youfeel like you're seeing and and we, like, we talked about V. D. I, you know,we talked about the dumb terminals and now we've got remote desktop, um, youknow, let's talk about that. Yeah, so uh I mean, yeah, the full circle isvery evident and I at least at a young age was able to see some of some ofthat, you know we'll call it old computing the old style and how thatwas working. You know I I when I was at M. C. I. They still had token ringnetwork there so you know I I know what that stuff is because I I was around itand then to be here today, I mean...

...obviously through the managed serviceshift that was a big shift into the MSP side and you know, coming from, youknow and I think that's probably at the point where my father told me that youknow, we used to have text and we didn't charge anybody for the you know,service and That's come completely done a 180. And really the hardware sales isjust you know it's sort of extra it's not where we, you know as you know wedon't make our money on hardware, we make our livings on service and um youknow so so I think that's kind of an interesting shift as well and thenmoving into today and what the future holds now, I mean the shift is isdefinitely cloud is here and if you're not doing it you need to get doing itquick because you're behind the eight ball and that and that is you know V. D.I. Virtual desktops, you know that's where it's at, that's where it's allheaded, where you know some customers will still have servers but a lot won'tuh it's definitely moving out of that. So it's interesting to have seen thatshift even at a young age two now. Right well and you know I mean wetalked about it a lot on a lot of different episodes about this work fromanywhere dialogue that we're shifting to and so Covid last year brought abouteverybody going home and working remotely and now it's turned into, okay,well suddenly I trust the fact that I can send people out to their homes orto their vacations locations or whatever and you know they can work andbe productive and so the convergence, you know the remote the cloud and thensecurity, you know like when you think about dumb terminals and token ringnetworks, you know completely different than the complexity that we live intoday with so many devices that are connected and the way that those areinteracting with our corporate networks and our personal lives and you know wehave conversations and you know devin you and I have talked offline withcustomers about don't take your business laptop home and put it on yourpersonal life i network right? Because you've got you know your kids are ontheir your spouses on their the neighbors are probably on their youknow, you know it's like everybody shared the wifi password andeverybody's on your network and so now suddenly you know you've got thesegateway entry points. Um, and we talked about it earlier in the year with watchguard got all these access points. And so, but you know, it's still likeGevinson, our tagline used to be convergence of communications andcomputing really today. What you just went through there were stillconverging communications and computing. All right. So we've talked jim with youa little bit about where you started and then we've talked a little bit moreabout kind of devon coming in. This is unique for me and probably for a lot ofour listeners, let's talk about the family dynamic. So, um, and, and I didnot bring a therapist with me. So, um, and I think you guys have like somepillows that if you need to like, you know, whack each other with, that'sfine. But let's talk about the family dynamic, you know, in the business and,and kind of how that's how that's worked for you guys. Well, uh in allfairness, Covid was a great, uh, seriously agree seriously, because Imean Devin has really been running the company probably for the last three or4 years. And uh, you know, pesty dad has been around and asking questionsand he thinks I asked too many questions, he doesn't and I tell him ifyou worked somewhere else, they'd be asking the same questions. But whathappened when with Covid is uh, my wife and I went to our other home and uhabout two hours away and so I wasn't easily, it wasn't easily accessible tocome into the office and drop in. So uh...

...it really was, has been good for ourrelationship and for the businesses relationship for devin to, you know,start taking the bull by the horns. And uh this room here is evident of that.This would have never been approved if he was still, yeah, I could, I couldprobably see that, you know, from, from what I know of the two of you and thedynamic a little bit uh you know, unfortunately for those listening, theyhave no idea the environment that you've established as we've done ourpodcast series this year, but wow, let's just say, I took it serious. You,you you took it seriously to maybe a little bit of, you know, I called it aroom, it is a studio, it definitely is. And so devon from your perspective.Yeah, so I think uh I think we've always had a good relationship and Ithink we've done a good job of keeping business and family life separate andit's worked fairly well. I'd say, I mean, you watched some of these tvshows where you've got a family business and there's a lot ofinfighting and the family and it's a lot of, you know, it can be real realbad at times, I can certainly relate to that. I mean, I'm not gonna sit hereand say it hasn't happened, but you know, it's definitely not to the levelthat you see on tv and uh and I have a lot of friends who are in theirfather's businesses, so there's there's that I have that to kind of lean on tounderstand, you know, that dynamic is totally different than than a lot ofother businesses where you don't have family involved, but I think it's it'sgoing really well. I also agree that Covid was good. It kind of kind ofallowed him to step back. It did and um and it's been good for both of us Ithink. Right? Yeah, Well and it's interesting, you know, I think if youlook at a more mature businesses and again, you know, I mean we're kind offocused today on that family business, but even if you've got a 20 year orsometimes 10 year really business that you've got a partner in, I mean youkind of become a little bit of family anyway and um you know, I think it'sgreat that, you know, you guys have been able to say, okay, when we walkout the door at five o'clock, six o'clock, seven o'clock midnight, youknow, depending on the day of the week and what's broken, you know, hey, we'regonna leave it at the office and you know, now we can just, you know, it'sthat father son dynamic, not that, you know, co managed business partnerrelationship and I think we've I think we've done a good job of that, we we wewe've never really said, you know, we're not going to do business or talkbusiness outside of work, but we we tend not to we we try to avoid that, Imean, you know, if there's if there's a big thing or uh customer problem, youknow, devon will bring it up or ask me about this or that, and and uh you know,I do the same with him, ask him, but it's a I see you looking, No, I'm wellI'm catching his eye because you know, it's I'm trying to I'm trying to get aread again, you know, I I did some relational study in the business,family business dynamic and so I'm just to prepare to prepare for this. Youknow, if if there was any kind of intervention that needed to take placeeither during or after that I'd be prepared for. So, well, Devin broughtsomething up just a minute ago about friends his age and they're in thefamily business and it reminded me that, you know, people tend to be aroundpeople, similar people, similar business people, that sort of thing.And uh again, we talk the us old guys talk about the boys are the kids thatare in the business now and as part of the family, devon has a sister, we have,we had two kids and this was our third kid computer cations right, And uh youknow Devon and I'm saying, I said about Devon, but really talking to all myfriends that have a similar situation, we all say the same thing, you know,they don't treat the business like we...

...did. You know it is uh it was it's it'sa child to us, you know, it's near and dear not that it isn't necessarily tohim, but you know, it's uh he didn't give birth to it if you will. Rightwell you're gonna see it differently. Yeah, totally agree. Uh and I thinkthat changes from generation to generation too, so even thirdgeneration owners see it differently than the, you know, their fathers did,their mothers whomever's in charge. But you know that's definitely aninteresting dynamic, I definitely appreciate the point of view and Ican't understand that because it's, I didn't build it from the ground up. Umyou didn't put in the 1st 10 k but he put in thousands of stickers Right,right, so I mean if you, if you average it out, it's probably about equal atthis. Okay, well Devin normally gets to ask this question, so um I'm excitedtoday. Yeah, this is good. One of the questions that we ask every member orevery guest I should say on B two B tech talk as the gears turn edition isas a whole when you think about technology, where do you see thingsgoing in the next year. So jim I'm gonna start with you in the next andthe next year. Yeah, well I think that artificial intelligence is going tobecome much much more important as we all know the uh supply chain isdisaster right now and uh it seems to stem around people not wanting to comeback to work and to me it seems very clear this is just going to push A I.And robotics much faster similar to what Covid has done to the remoteworkers and uh I think that uh as I said A I and robotics is going to bevery very important, it's going to uh come, come to the main line much fasterand I think uh from our standpoint being in technology we need to all belooking at A I. And and the robotics part, we're basically um service typepeople and those things are going to need to be serviced and so I think thatuh it's a matter of necessity right now and uh so I think AI and robotics isgoing to be a big thing much quicker than anybody thought it was going to be.Okay, devon this is gonna sound so cliche because that's exactly what hesaid but but I think you can go back to the first podcast where you and I wereinterviewed, I think I said ai as well but I agree ai is definitely the hottopic. I mean cloud is still very relevant and still hot because you knowvery well a lot of people have gotten into it, but there's still a hugemarket there to still jump into cloud and it's gonna happen, it's just gonnatake longer for some than others. But a i is the next big thing and I and Ithink you know you're right, it's out of necessity because One thingbusinesses do is they tend to be agile. At least successful businesses areagile and we'll adjust to whatever the economic situation is to continue theoperation of the business. And I think that's gonna just become a necessitythat they're gonna have to go down well and I think it's fascinating. So we'vegot two generations of medals that you know 30 years, 15 years in the businessand we come down to one question and you guys agree. So my work here is doneuh unscripted, unplanned. But yes, I feel like I I you know I have fullymelded um the entire thing together, you guys are welcome. Um you know, I'llsend you my bill. I was just gonna say there's a there's a for counseling.Yeah nothing is I'm glad that you know, we could draw you guys together so jimdevin. Um you know from my standpoint thank you both for your hospitality. Umit's just super awesome to actually be sitting in the studio together as wehave this conversation and so where devin can folks um learn a little bitabout you and about computer cations.

So our website is C P I M S P dot com.Um You can also find me on linkedin and you switch to dad I guess for his jim,you can find me in a goose blind. Uh so we didn't season's coming up. There yougo. There you go. Alright well hey again to both of you. Thanks so muchfor the time today there's more information for this episode found onthe Anger Micro sme portal. If you're already a member, you can access thisinformation at any time. If you're not a member, we always ask why not? If youhave a specific question, you can reach out to your ingram Micro Rap for moreinformation on how you can get involved with S and B. Thanks for tuning in toas the years turned and subscribing to be to be tech talk with your micro.You've been listening to B to B. Tech talk with ingram Micro special as thegears turn edition hosted by Devin biddle and Patrick Cash. This episodewas sponsored by ingram Micro's Smb Alliance B two B. Tech talk is a jointproduction with sweet fish media and Anger Micro. Anger Micro productionhandled by Laura Burton to not miss an episode, subscribe to the show on yourfavorite podcast platform if you're listening on apple podcasts, we'd lovefor you to leave a quick rating of the show. Just tap the number of stars youthink the podcast deserves until next time. Mhm mm.

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