Last month, I shared the story of a trip RCI President & CEO John Whitcomb took to deliver a paging system part to a customer in Northern Virginia. Of course, that trip was all in the line of duty, but little did I know that this month, at the time of this writing, John would be on another road trip – this one purely recreational, visiting National Parks across this great country of ours.
RCI history, this got me thinking, could do with a worse metaphor than a road trip. Both began with John Whitcomb and a loose plan. And both took him to some interesting places.
You start a trip in a place you already know. John had finished serving in Air Force, where he had instructed other Air Men in computer programming. His background made him a shoo-in for many technology jobs.
Where he ended up going was a company that manufactured telephone systems. A telephone system, as it turned out, was a computer.
But after a few years of working for that company, John wanted to go out on his own. And he chose to go into custom engineering for telephone systems. In the late 1970s, telephone systems needed custom engineering to get them to do the sort of things they do out of the box today.
John’s services were needed all over the United States. So he was doing a lot of literal traveling on this metaphorical road trip.
Your Fellow Travelers
When taking a trip, look out for the well-being of your traveling companions. At this point in RCI’s history, John realized he was missing too much time with his family because of his business ventures.
It’s also essential when taking a trip to have some flexibility with your plans. Needs change. You get detours. You find out about sites that interest you.
RCI History: Changing the Plan
John Whitcomb decided to revamp the company. He became more locally focused. Business phone systems were also changing.
By the 1980s, telephone systems were starting to have more functionality out of the box. As a result, it made sense for RCI to get into the sales and service of business telephone systems.
The Right Vehicle
When you’re traveling, you need to have a dependable vehicle. In business, you need a reliable product or service.
In the 80s, RCI’s history intersected with Toshiba’s. Toshiba was the premiere business telephone product. Their systems were so solid that we still have systems we installed than in service today.
As RCI grew, our customers wanted to know if we offered additional services. The first of these services that RCI expanded into was overhead paging. It was a natural outgrowth because paging systems were hooked into telephone systems.
That led to other AV systems and later surveillance systems. In addition, RCI was creating the networks for all of this technology. In the beginning, this meant running cable. In the modern day, that also means wireless networks.
By the new millennium, RCI had grown quite a bit. We had thousands of customers, primarily in Southwest and Central Virginia but also some in the surrounding states. Most of those customers were doing their daily business on Toshiba Telephone Systems.
Now we’re going into modern RCI history. In the late 2010s, Toshiba made a surprising announcement. They were getting out of the phone business… in about five minutes.
Responding to Detours
John needed to find a new telephone manufacturer to partner with. And he needed to move quickly. Just because everything was changing in the industry didn’t mean the customers’ needs were changing.
John partnered with two separate telephone system providers who offered VOIP, cloud, and digital telephone systems. Although since then, their digital telephone systems have been discontinued.
That’s just another fork in the road of RCI history. But, oF course, RCI still has plenty of Toshiba knowledge and parts for customers who like their classic cars.
The People You Meet Along The Way
Some of the best parts of traveling are the journey itself, particularly the people you meet along the way. RCI has had many employees come through who learned the trade and then went on to do IT work for major corporations such as AT&T and Advanced Auto Parts.
They still come back and visit John to this day.
Today, there’s a staff of four technicians, one salesman, John, and two support staff members. Many are family. The two longest serving RCI employees besides John are Service Manager Sam Whitcomb (son of John) and Steve Corell, Sales Engineer.
Customers know both by name. Sam is frequently requested as the preferred tech, although he is often busy managing the department. Steve is known for answering many questions over the phone and being the last guy you ever want to talk to if you’re running a telephone scam.
Telephone systems today run off of VOIP. So basically, everything is internet connected. So RCI has become a full-service IT company. It’s interesting because John started with computers, and now RCI is back again.
Most trips eventually bring you back to where you started if you’re an RCI customer or part of RCI history, thanks to being part of the 45-year (and counting) journey.