From Then to Now
Carolina Data Systems was started over three decades ago by microcomputer industry pioneers Danny Whitford, Joe Sullivan, Laurie Lee and Scott Swanson. Whitford remains Chairman & CEO of the company and Sullivan remains as Executive-Vice President Emeritus. After stellar careers with the company, Lee was appointed to a staff position with the N.C. ABC Commission from which she recently retired, and Swanson took an assignment with the U.S. Department of Defense as an IT executive.
Christopher Whitford, the son of founder Danny Whitford, was named President & COO of CDS in June 2015 after working his way up the personnel ladder over a 15-year period. Employed by the company since he was a teenager, he learned the business inside out. He is in charge of day-to-day oversight and has led the company through a period of impressive growth and product development. His elevation to the executive position has been a cornerstone in the company’s strategic long-term plan for continued growth and profitability.
In January of 2016, Carolina Data Systems acquired SCRC, Inc. The merger added historical depth to the expanded company’s corporate profile. SCRC President & CEO Jim Hurd established his firm upon departing NCR Corporation in 1976, more than a decade before Danny Whitford founded CDS with NCR veteran Sullivan in 1987.
Both firms sprang up in the early days of microprocessors and charted parallel growth paths as North Carolina ABC boards adopted the new technologies and then systematically upgraded over the decades to subsequent generations of computer equipment and software.
The ties established between Hurd and Sullivan during their parallel tenures at NCR in the 1960s and ‘70s played a key role in initiating the dialogue between Hurd and the elder Whitford that ultimately led to the deal. Hurd and Whitford indicated that they had their customers, their families and their employees in mind as they considered each other’s proposals.
“This merger will allow the two companies to combine resources, making a much more efficient company going forward,” said Hurd at the time. “I feel we can now better address the changes that ABC Boards are experiencing and be well-positioned for future changes as well. I would like to thank our loyal customers and assure them that SCRC will continue to service their system needs.”
Hurd occupies a position on the merged company’s Board of Directors.
Danny Whitford signaled after the firms combined that significant impacts for customers would come in the form of broader product offerings, lower prices and more depth in the company’s ability to provide service and support.
“It’s a good marriage for all parties concerned,” said Whitford. “Two really good businesses that were built on service are coming together. The economics will help our company and our customers in a lot of ways as we coordinate and better organize the resources of both companies over the next year or two.”
The most immediate benefit for customers, observed Whitford, would be access to hardware and software products that were previously offered by CDS or SCRC, but not by both. Whitford identified a pair of examples of how this will present opportunities for customers.
“CDS’s Linux-based POSSix™ point-of-sale system has been installed in more of the state’s ABC boards than all competitive products combined, but some of our customers have been asking for a Windows-based, touch-screen alternative in recent years,” Whitford said. “SCRC brings a proven Windows POS solution that satisfies that need and immediately plugs a gap in our product line.
“Conversely, CDS offers a proprietary, Windows-based inventory control system and a suite of excellent accounting modules hosted on hardware ranging from basic PCs to rack-mounted servers. The overall solution can be configured for the largest ABC boards or scaled down for small ABC boards. This will give SCRC’s customers access to alternate paths in the back office.”
Sullivan, a CDS Board of Directors member, still serves as the company’s Vice-President Emeritus. He described the deal as a generational leap forward that demonstrates the firms’ financial commitment to serve ABC boards for decades to come.
“Both companies began successful transitions to young leadership several years ago,” said Sullivan, pointing to the roles of Christopher Whitford and Jeff Edmonds.
Christopher Whitford, the son of Chairman & CEO Danny Whitford, is the company’s President & COO. Edmonds, the step-son of Hurd, is Vice-President of Sales for the combined entity.
“Christopher Whitford and Jeff Edmonds have already demonstrated they are up to the task,” said Sullivan. “They’ve kept their companies on growth paths while managing the challenges of rolling out new technologies. That’s a complex set of responsibilities and they’ve managed it well.”