Great Plains Communications may be a thriving 30-year-old firm today, but its founding was less than auspicious.
“Nobody else would hire me,” Jim Bevilacqua said.
That wasn’t entirely true. Bevilacqua was with Western Electric, a subsidiary of AT&T, when the company split into smaller ones. He was laid off and didn’t like his options.
“The economy was not very good back in the early ’80s,” Bevilacqua said. “It was really hard to find a job in the field that I wanted to be in – in the telecommunications field.”
So he became a subcontractor for other telecommunications companies. That evolved to him offering product lines to those companies.
“It was business telephone systems. That was our goal, to develop a customer base that we would service and sell to,” Bevilacqua said. “We had no idea where it would go from when we started it to where it is now.”
His wife, Rhonda, had been at KG&E. She joined Great Plains eight years after Bevilacqua started it.
The company now has 22 employees and between 2,000 and 3,000 customers.
“We’re a major provider of telecommunications systems in the city of Wichita,” Jim Bevilacqua said.
Six years ago, Great Plains added an IT department.
“That’s growing real well,” Jim Bevilacqua said. “It’s been pretty substantial over the last six years.”
The IT business, which includes managing and servicing networks, accounts for nearly a third of the company’s business now.
“The IT department, I think, is going to be a key factor,” Rhonda Bevilacqua said of growth in the business.
She handles human resources and bookkeeping for Great Plains and, as her husband puts it, “A lot of the odds and ends that filter through.”
He works on the sales side and in operations.
“A lot of people say they don’t take it home,” Jim Bevilacqua said of work. “Well, we do. But really it’s a good thing.”
The calm outside of work can be helpful, the Bevilacquas said.
“You know what the other person’s going through,” Rhonda Bevilacqua said.
The business has ongoing challenges with technology.
“We stay current with all of the technology so that we can keep helping our customers evolve their systems, but we also make sure that the manufacturers we picked continue to evolve their product,” Rhonda Bevilacqua said.
“There’s always a learning curve involved with bringing technicians, sales people and customers into … new technologies,” Jim Bevilacqua said.
“Once you think you’ve mastered the newest technology that’s out there, right around the corner is another innovation,” he said. “It’s a never-ending process.”
Rhonda Bevilacqua said, “You have to hire people who like continuous challenge.”
Though there have been many challenges, Jim Bevilacqua said there have been many successes as well.
“It’s been a rewarding business for us.”