I’m excited to share with you that my company, ACS Learning, has reached an important milestone: this year we celebrate 30 years in business! Our clients, partners, employees, and consultants have been a crucial part of our success story. So, how did it all begin?
Over 30 years ago, I told my family I was leaving my job as a computer software trainer to start my own consulting business. They were concerned, and I’m sure thought I was taking a huge risk, but they knew I had role models in my grandparents who had owned and operated an army surplus store for decades. Much of my entrepreneurial inspiration came from my grandparents, Sadie and Mike Levitch, affectionately known as Mimi and Papa by our family.
I spent several weeks each summer staying with my grandparents. I went to work with them at Mike’s Army Surplus in downtown West Memphis, Arkansas.
From folding army fatigues and socks to working the cash register, I enjoyed waiting on customers and making signs to advertise shirts, belts, boots, and fishing poles. We would take lunch breaks in the shoe department where various styles of steel-toed work boots and cowboy boots were on display. I remember the excitement of going with Mimi on “buying trips” across the Mississippi River to visit warehouses in Memphis, TN where Mimi stocked up on camouflage, camping gear, and other supplies.
Much of my inspiration came from my entrepreneurial grandparents, Mike and Sadie Levitch.
Mimi and Papa had distinct roles in the business: she was Finance and Operations and Papa was Sales and Marketing. He could be found at the front of the store, greeting each customer and starting up a friendly conversation. He never missed an opportunity to point out the newest merchandise and the items sold “only at Mike’s”. Often, my grandmother fretted at him for “giving away the store,” as Papa loved to make generous deals.
They worked tirelessly six days a week until he passed away in 1988. She ran the store by herself for several more years, retiring at 86. She passed away a few days before her 88th birthday in 2001.
My grandmother retired at 86, shortly before her passing in 2001.
After graduating college, I started working for a small software training company called PC Concepts. Desktop computers had become mainstream in the workplace in the 1980’s and by 1990, most everyone needed computer skills. I started teaching a variety of mainframe and desktop applications, including VAX, DOS, word processing and spreadsheets. All the classes were at least one or two days, in person, either in a PC Concepts office (there were four locations) or at the customer site. For over three years, I trained dozens of companies along the East Coast, teaching word processing, spreadsheets, operating systems, email, and proprietary systems. We also provided workbooks and job aids, so at times I was asked to develop materials.
In 1992, PC Concepts was bought by a larger company, and it became clear we were struggling against growing competition while trying to meet growing demand for more customized classes. In 1993, I decided to strike out on my own to offer more task-based approaches to learning, where people could learn what they needed to know as quickly as possible, without sitting through material they weren’t interested in learning. I named my consulting practice Applied Computer Services, ACS for short, because I wanted to offer applied learning to meet people’s needs. I was also looking for a name that started with an “A” so I could be listed first in the phone book.
ACS took off quickly as a boutique training consulting practice that offered a variety of training services around PC and Mac applications. Our first clients were pharmaceutical companies, Rhone Poulenc Rorer and SmithKline Beecham, which resulted in the development and delivery of courses that were tailored to audience needs. As technology evolved, my company expanded beyond software training to customized learning solutions for Salesforce automation and CRM applications. In 2001, I changed the name to ACS Learning to more accurately reflect our focus on learning.
Today, ACS Learning helps our customers bridge the learning gap between people and technology.
Over the years, I grew our team to offer more services that supported cloud-based technologies and digital learning experiences including e-learning and virtual instructor-led training. Today, we deliver enterprise-level training solutions that incorporate change management and program management to drive organizational change and technology adoption.
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via LinkedIn if you'd like to learn more about how we may assist with your organization's L&D needs.