All in the Family
Through three generations, one family’s story shows that while technology has changed, IBM’s fundamental mission hasn’t
Three generations of the Lucas family, including (from left) Steve, Jason and Bob, have worked for IBM. They are shown here at the 2011 IBM centennial celebration last spring in suburban Dallas. Photograph courtesy of Steve Lucas
How much has IBM changed since 1945? Just ask the Lucas family, whose story spans three generations of growth and reinvention.
Bob Lucas, 91, came to IBM in 1945, following his service as a B-24 bomber pilot during World War II. Before the war, he picked cotton for 50 cents a day during the Great Depression, and then worked three jobs to pay for college. When an IBM recruiter hired him to sell typewriters and dictation machines to Dallas-area businesses—for $250 a month—he fairly pinched himself.
“He wore the dark suit, white shirt, wingtips and hat, and carried IBM office equipment in the back of his car,” recalls Steve Lucas, Bob’s son and now a client executive for IBM in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Retiring in 1975, Bob never learned to use a computer and just missed the changes his sons were about to experience.
Steve and Bruce Lucas, the next generation, also took jobs as office products salespeople for IBM. (A senior client representative, Bruce retired in 2006 after 32 years.) But their father’s era was rapidly changing. Steve found himself moving from a geographically based sales force to a national one, and soon after that to a globally based, highly virtualized business model.
“The biggest shock for me was becoming completely mobile,” Steve says. Like his dad before him, Steve spends most of his time with customers. But technically, he has just one—Dell Services. And far from specializing in office machines, he supports every aspect of IBM technology. “My knowledge is an inch deep and a mile wide,” Steve says. From his home office, Steve frequently holds teleconferences with partners or support staff in Brazil or India. Even on customer calls, two or three months might go by before he sees his fellow IBM partners face-to-face.
Steve’s sons Casey, a salesperson, and Jason, a maintenance and technical support sales specialist, are the third generation to work for IBM. At ibm.com’s call center, Jason sells support products and services through social media or online demos he emails to potential clients. “The majority of my customers don’t even like talking on the phone,” Jason says. “Instead, I’ll get an instant answer by email.”
The power of new technology is hard for his granddad to grasp. “He doesn’t understand how you can sell something to someone sitting in an office,” Jason says. Throughout the years, however, the generations have one thing in common: The ultimate goal is to serve their clients.
As Steve puts it, “I’m the face of IBM for my clients. I may not know the answer to their question, but they know it’s my responsibility to find an answer for them that can address their requirements and provide a solution.”
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