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Home | South Texas | Spotlight | Jim and Jennifer Hartman, Owners, VCS Companies, Victoria, Tx

Jim and Jennifer Hartman, Owners, VCS Companies, Victoria, Tx

image Jim and Jennifer Hartman at Christmas with their four grandchildren, back row, Kyle Henke; front row, L-R: Ryan and Ethan Hartman and Katelinn Henke.

SOUTH TEXAS – Jim and Jennifer Hartman have been married for 49 years and although Jennifer says Jim was the first “cowboy” she ever dated, their successful union and success in business can be attributed to a strong faith in God and family.

    In 1985, Jim and a partner bought Victoria Communications. It was the start of a growing operation that now includes four businesses. Many of the employees have been with the Hartman’s since the beginning, with one employee explaining it as “the best place and family to work for in Victoria.”

Tell me about your roots and family in Victoria, Jennifer.
    My grandfather, Walter Rode, was a contractor or carpenter in Victoria. Some of the buildings he built are still standing. My grandmother was from Austria. Her parents put her and her sister on a boat to America when she was 13 years old. Her brother was a Lutheran pastor in the Hallettsville area, which is where she met my grandfather.  They had six children.
    My dad, E.R. “Nook” Rode, is the only one who stayed in the area.  He was in the Navy Seabees during WWII. After he came back, he worked for the railroad and in the oil fields until he retired. He started Rocket Workover retiring from that in 1984. The Rocket logo we use today is from his business. He also played semi-pro baseball as a pitcher for the Victoria Rosebuds.
    My mother is Marge Huddleston Rode. She was raised in Palacios by her grandmother and moved to Victoria.  She met my dad while she was working at Foster Field Air Force Base. My dad’s sister also worked there and introduced them.  She has been a volunteer at Citizens Hospital for 59 years serving in local, district and state offices through the years.
    I have a brother, Ronnye Rode. They live in Tennessee, but are moving back to Texas soon at his retirement.

What did your parents teach you that you have always carried with you?
    My dad instilled in me to always put your faith and your family first in all that you do.
    My mother is giving and caring. She was always involved in the church and the community. She taught me about giving back.

What were Jim’s early years like?
    He was raised in Corpus Christi and graduated from Miller High School in 1963. He was very active in livestock showing during his school years.
    His father is R.F. “Dick” Hartman originally from Cuero and his mother is Dorothy Smith Hartman originally from Victoria.  His father was the Ag rep for CP&L and he traveled the state. He chaired and judged many stock shows across the state and world, was responsible for organizing many “community clubs” in Texas.    His mother’s family ranched in the Victoria area. When they retired, they moved to Victoria.

What did he take from his parent’s lessons and way of life?
    The same as me – God and family first. We were not affluent. We knew where things came from. There were a lot of similarities in the way we were raised.

How did the two of you meet?
    My best friend was Jim’s cousin and she set us up on a blind date. It was interesting. I’d never dated a cowboy before! But he was a total gentleman. We dated for two years and got married in June 1967 when I was 19.

What did you do next?
    Following graduation from Victoria High School, I received my Associates degree from Victoria College in 1967. Jim and I moved to Kingsville following our wedding where he was attending Texas A&I University.
    I worked on campus, and he was a police officer at night while attending classes in the day. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in January 1970 in animal science.
    When we moved back to Victoria, he worked for the state, and I worked for First Victoria National Bank. Jim also went to work at First Victoria National within a short time. After the children were born, I was a stay-at-home mom and involved in our church, their schools, Junior League, the HEAR Foundation and others groups through the years.
    In 1985, Jim and a partner bought Victoria Communications. It was struggling, so they asked me to come in and help.

How did that go?
    I realized pretty quickly what some of the most pressing issues were and knew I needed to be able to make quick decisions without having to go to them every time.
    They agreed to let me run the business, which I ended up owning at the dissolution of the partnership.  
    God had a plan for me and it’s been fun. It was a challenge, however, not to get a paycheck for several of the beginning years!
    I had very limited knowledge about what the business entailed. I knew what a 2-way radio was, which in the beginning was all that we sold. I had to learn about the FCC and FAA, radio products and systems and so much through training, reading and basic hands-on learning. I continue to take advantage of opportunities to learn and grow my knowledge in this world of technology.
    In 1988, I was approached to be an agent by Cellular One and GTE Mobilnet. I went with GTE Mobilnet which, through many mergers, is now AT&T Wireless. We’ve stayed the course and been very blessed by this decision, being a leading AT&T Authorized Retailer in this area.
    We’ve expanded our footprint beyond radios and have a very strong focus on Motorola and all of their solutions.  We’re proud to be their lead partner in this entire area offering their full portfolio of products.

You also started a second business at that time, right?
    Yes. In 1998, we started VCS Security Systems Inc. It started as burglar alarms in homes and has expanded to both residential and commercial in the areas of burglary, fire, CCTV, access, automated homes and office, audio and cinema.    I would say we do 60 percent of our business in construction of new buildings, home and commercial. Our products and systems are a permanent part of the finished project.  We’re privileged to be the preferred subcontractor with known general contractors and residential contractors in many areas.

What are the other two companies under the VCS umbrella?
    In 2006, we bought Infiniti Communications Technologies (ICT) and in 2011 Rocket Oilfield Services began.
    ICT provides network design and maintenance, computer services, network cabling and infrastructure, business phone systems, Wi Fi and fiber optic technology cabling to support many of the solutions we provide as well as within our customers’ locations.
    Rocket Oilfield Services handles boring and trenching for the installation of pipelines, cabling and other applications.
    In 2013, our son, J.R. Hartman Jr. and a partner, started Rocket Field Services, which also handles boring and trenching, site preparations in the oilfield such as pipeline, well hookups; road, location and facility construction; fencing and gates; lease crews.
    We’re all intertwined and see the businesses as offering most ‘all’ solutions from a single basket.  Our children are officers in respective corporations and share our passion about them being truly a ‘family’ business with each of us sharing the load.

What is your philosophy towards your employees?
    We have a goal of cross training everyone. We have a lot of employees with long tenure. It’s a blessing in today’s world. We have a great team. We stress professionalism, integrity and honesty. If you have that, it opens the door to both gain and retain customers.  Excellent customer service is a vital key to success.

Tell me about your family.
    We have two married children. Our daughter, Kelly Henke, handles accounts payable for two of the companies. Our son, J.R., is involved in management.  Both have basically ‘grown up’ with our businesses.
    Kelly has two children, a 14-year-old and a 9-year-old daughter. J.R. has twin boys who are 12.  The grandchildren are the highlights of our life!
    Our children and their spouses are all involved in their families lives, our community and exemplify what Jim and sincerely believe….we are blessed so that we may share and bless others.

What do you do when you are not working?
    We are very involved in our church, First English Lutheran Church. It was the first English speaking Lutheran Church in Victoria. We both serve on various boards and committees.
    Jim recently acquired some registered Brahma cattle, so he is having fun with them. To our grandchildren we are “MeMe” and “P”.  All four are very active at school, make excellent grades and truly bring joy whenever we’re with them…..yes, I’m a very proud grandmother!  Our granddaughter and “P” are very tight. She loves to drive him around the pasture to feed his heifers while the boys are always eager to be outside hunting, fishing and doing the guy things.
    I’m on the board of Theatre Victoria and Future Sight (our daughter-in-law’s nonprofit). I’ve been honored to serve on multiple boards and with organizations that share my passion to give back into our community and particularly to children. 

Do you travel?
    Not much. Jim doesn’t like to travel, and I go on the occasional business trip.  We have a place in Rockport that I love and Jim ‘tolerates’.  Being in the salt air and watching the water is great therapy and sufficient ‘travel’ for me while Jim prefers the pasture on his tractor or hunting as his ‘travel’.
    We love to do things with the grandchildren and love watching them at their various events and sports.

What are the keys to being a successful business owner?
    One, believe that God has chosen you to do this
    Two have family support of what you do.
    Three, you have to be willing to work. You have to be willing to do anything you ask your employees to do. Work ethic is key.
    Four, include extracurricular activities to keep your sanity.

You were very close to your dad, weren’t you?
    Yes, and I miss him very much. People around here knew him and knew his reputation as a person, a Christian and a businessman. One thing I learned from that is to keep your reputation in business at a level that will benefit you, as well as your heirs.  I loved being asked if I was Nook’s daughter when getting started and even still today.  He was truly my mentor in many respects.  He never met a stranger and was always professional.  I hope that I’m the same way. –cw

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Sue Johnson sjohnson@constructionnews.net