The Evolving Corporate Story

Forest Blog

A company’s history, if you look hard enough, has all the elements of a good fairy tale. It is multi-layered, with multiple moving parts and multiple players; it is a constantly evolving and shifting entity. There is the workforce, the executives, those that have resigned or been hired, the product line, the “wicked” take-over team, the difficult but brilliant employee, the research that drives product development, and the customers whose winning insights change the company’s direction and narrative forever. Or the pivotal elements could be entirely different; the main point here is that each company has its own distinctive story-line.

The Main Characters

In an earlier post, I described my professional beginnings as president and senior engineer of a small but industrious engineering firm. We did water resource engineering consulting work and we developed water engineering software designed to assist in these projects. This smaller company was acquired by a much larger, multi-disciplinary behemoth of a software development company (we will call it “Goliath”) on the pretext that Goliath was motivated to develop the water resource engineering segment of its products. Our software, we were told, would be added to Goliath’s existing suite of engineering products. A smooth marketing campaign launched by Goliath and an enhanced software package consisting of Goliath products combined with ours would translate to a greater market share. I and our staff would be seamlessly absorbed into the core of Goliath’s engineering and software development team. Our two workforces were to merge and grow as one happy, highly functional engineering family.

A Major Plot Development

Shortly after acquisition, however, Goliath decided to switch market focus. I and the entire development team that was acquired scrambled to find new positions within a strange and reorganized company. I knew there was a real need for the kind of product we were offering, but it became lost in the acquisition, a “victim” if you will, of Goliath’s new development strategy. I left the company as did some of my original team members in order to resurrect a dying mission. CivilGEO was launched soon after.

More than Just a Brand

An interesting article ran in the April 2016 issue of Entrepreneur magazine. In that article, Kirsten Ott Palladino describes the five standard story lines that brands use to distinguish themselves from the competition. She writes that one standard story line focuses on the company that shakes up the market with a radically different business model. Uber is trotted out as the “revolutionary” that turned the taxi industry on its head. Another brand’s story knows a customer’s unique problem and offers exactly the right solution. Of the five typical brand strategies Palladino describes, CivilGEO identifies with the story that says, in Palladino’s words, “Nothing else like this existed, so we made it.”

We were convinced a 3D geographic mapping component was needed to enhance the usability and user-experience of engineering software, but no engineering software on the market was offering this geospatial element to date. CivilGEO stepped in to fill that void. So, yes, this is the story we tell the world and our customers. But, if you care to dig deep, there is more to a company’s story line than that. CivilGEO’s narrative could have been much different without the role played by Goliath some years ago. And, Goliath’s executive team played a key role as it shaped and implemented a new market focus.

Would Apple have developed into the powerhouse it is today if Steve Jobs had never rejoined Apple in 1996 and John Sculley was still CEO? Today’s companies are often complex entities with histories as rich as any individual human being. See how they live, change, survive and evolve. CivilGEO’s engineering and software development team consists of an interesting blend of personalities that drive the design and architecture of this new engineering software.

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