Today marks the 41st anniversary of Western Integrated Systems, a business started by owner and founder Jim Hughes. Jim purchased the genesis of the present firm in 1981 from Exxon Office Systems, and continues to provide cutting-edge digital transformation solutions for his clients to this day. The business originally had two locations at its inception—Sacramento, CA and Phoenix, AZ—but has expanded to add additional offices in Oakland, CA and Rocklin, CA. Here’s a look back at the origins of Western Integrated Systems and how Jim has evolved the business more than four decades later.
Jim originally came from a successful sales career (1966-1971) for the Friden Calculating Machine Company, working a sales territory as a sales manager in San Francisco. Jim left his employment at Friden to help found Benchmark Systems in the early 1970s. Several years later, in 1974, Benchmark Systems was purchased by a company called Office Communications (OCI), appointing Jim to the Vice President of Sales position.
At the time, OCI was developing a new technology in the form of a desktop word processor with an integrated high-speed daisy wheel printer. It was at this point that OCI became a reseller for a company called Vydec. Jim’s position at Vydec was the Western Regional Sales Manager for sales and service offices throughout the western United States.
After a five-year stint in this position, he became the Director of Field Operations for Exxon Office Systems, which was the parent company of several companies, including Vydec. Jim worked for Exxon Office Systems as Director of Field Operations and eventually as Director of Marketing and Training.
Jim was working in this capacity when the opportunity became available to own his own company in early 1981. He didn’t hesitate and purchased the ongoing business of the Sacramento and Phoenix offices. This was the beginning of a long career with Western Integrated Systems which has continued to this day.
Throughout Jim’s career, he has served in many capacities and understands the various functions and processes which make a company successful. He has a keen knowledgebase surrounding the management of personnel and technology, and how coupling those translates into a successful organization. He has survived many technological evolutions during his time as a business owner, and has a unique understanding of how to cope with constant changes in technology and business processes.
As the owner of WIS, Jim now positions their offerings to solve ever demanding business processes, drive profits, comply with legal requirements and offer customer facing system applications.
Jim’s success over his career as a business owner can be attributed to embodying the following principles:
- Hiring and partnering with the most honest, ethical, friendly and responsive companies and employees with which to do business
- Positioning the most experienced and knowledgeable employees that interface and work with our hundreds of customers over a span of more than 40 years
- Offering the best consulting services and resources
- The best value and performance product set to serve our customer application needs/requirements
- Unparalleled installation and implementation of our products
- State of the art training and documentation
- Dedicated, friendly and knowledgeable post-sales support
Jim firmly believes in providing end-to-end solutions that encompass all of his client’s needs. From the initial consultation, to installation, to post-sales support—Jim and Western Integrated Systems pride themselves on being a trusted partner throughout the entire business process.
Education & Personal Life
Jim served as a U. S. Navy officer from 1963 through 1966. He holds an AA degree from Warren Wilson Jr. College, a BS degree in Business Management from Kent State University, and attended Graduate School in International Economics at Ohio State University.
While in the Navy, Jim was stationed on an aircraft carrier that was in great peril after a fire broke out in the engine room. With only seconds to formulate a plan of action, Jim directed his unit to the engine room where they extinguished the flames and helped save the ship and the sailors aboard. Engine fires aboard aircraft carriers took the lives of more than 206 American sailors in the Vietnam War alone, injuring another 631.
For his sustained acts of heroism and meritorious service, Jim was honored with the Navy Commendation Medal for his actions that day and the character he exhibited throughout his career in the Navy. The Navy’s Commendation award is historically considered to be one of the highest honors of its kind. Jim received the award for his significant contribution to the Navy, embodied by his swift and decisive actions to put out a fire that endangered the lives of every service member aboard.
Whether he’s aiding his fellow serviceman, or assuring a customer received what they paid for, Jim genuinely cares about helping others. It’s a character trait that has helped his business endure a variety of changes in the tech industry, persevering in a market that witnesses frequent turnover.
“Western was here before Google, before Adobe, before Netflix, before Amazon, before cell phones, PCs, CDs,” said Abe Kleinfeld, President and CEO of GridGain Systems in San Francisco.
“Entire industries have come and gone–and yet–here you are Jim.”
When he’s not providing solutions for his customers, Jim enjoys spending time with his wife Jannie, his Wheaten Terrier named Trevor and his extensive succulent garden. Jim’s green thumb has translated into more than 500 succulent plants finding new homes.
Jim is also one of the true faithful 49er fans, having held season tickets since 1967. He’s attended every Super Bowl the 49ers have been in and rarely misses a game. Jim has seen the likes of John Brodie, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott lead the red and gold to victory during his 50+ years attending games.
Companies rarely make it more than 40 years in an industry. When they do, there is generally a driving force behind that success. For those who know Jim, it’s no secret why Western Integrated Systems has been around for four decades and counting, a true reflection of his character, service and dedication to his company, customers and staff.