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A Look into a Family Business in the SMB Alliance

October 22, 2021

A Look into a Family Business in the SMB Alliance
powered by Sounder

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

How technology has changed

While Jim Bittle was in the Navy, he specialized in computer communications. As part of his training, they sent him to several schools, one of them being IBM, to learn about the technology that went into it.

Release of the PC

In 1986, after he left the Navy, he opened CommPutercations. At the time, they were selling 9600 baud terminals for $2,500. Then, the PC was released.

It had a profound impact on the direction of the business.

“We realized that in order for these PCs to be really worthwhile, they had to be networked,” Jim says. “So, we got into the networking business.”

In those early days, they were selling boxes and giving service away.

Managed services shift

Eventually, the industry shifted over to managed services. On Devaughn’s recommendation, CommPutercations made the transition back in 2005, and they’ve been following that path ever since.

Their journey is best represented in how the tagline of the company has changed.

“Our original tagline was the convergence of communications and computing,” Devaughn says. “It’s not relevant today because everything has converged.”

The Cloud

Today, the big shift is towards cloud.

“If you’re not doing it, you need to start doing it quickly,” Devaughn says.

A family business

Jim didn’t originally envision CommPutercations becoming a family business. After all, he was preoccupied with simply paying the bills in those early years.

However, he admits that maybe in the back of his mind he was hoping that Devaughn would be interested in it.

Devaughn’s first stop, though, was tourism management. With time, his path began to converge with technology. He got a job with MCI, a large telecommunications company, and then eventually, he went to work for his father’s company.

Changing hands

Though COVID caused a lot of challenges for both the company and the industry as a whole, the two credit it with making the leadership transition smoother.

Because of COVID, Jim wasn’t able to easily access the office. He jokingly says that it was great for their business relationship. It really allowed Devaughn to have full autonomy in taking control of the company without his father around asking questions and second-guessing his decisions.

“The dynamic is totally different than other businesses that don’t have family involved,” Devaughn says. “COVID was good. It allowed him to step back and it’s been good for both of us.”

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