I wanted to take a break from my typical technology-focused articles to address the customer and partner community about the state of SSP within the industry – essentially to provide my editorial perspective on where we’re at and where we’re headed. We’ve grown a lot over the years and I think it’s a good time to share why I believe we’ve been so successful. To do that, let’s start with some history…
The utility & telecom GIS market has been an exciting and dynamic place to be for the last 20 years. We’ve seen Smallworld peak and recede while Esri has consistently grown and expanded year after year. Many of us who have been in the vendor industry for some time have worked for more than one company – in my case, I was seeking out the perfect combination of technical leadership and a strong employee-focused culture.
Those who know my history are aware that I worked for several GIS vendors before taking SSP Innovations full time in 2007. These other companies, along with their leaders, formed many of my strong opinions on how to best run an organization that attracts top talent while leading the charge in customer innovation, delivery, and satisfaction.
Early on in my career, I learned to value the culture of a small(er) business primarily because of the personal relationships I enjoyed. My first foray into GIS was at Convergent Group where I worked on Smallworld and eventually Esri products. This company was full of brilliant minds and had a fantastic culture where I was mentored and given many opportunities by my boss, Russ Birdsey, to try new technologies and various roles. When we were sold to Schlumberger, which eventually dismantled our group, we were roughly 300 folks. Not long after, I joined Miner & Miner where I actually took a pay cut to go work for the Jeff Meyers family. I was roughly employee #98 and even though that was on the larger side for M&M, the family atmosphere was still alive and well. After the sale to Telvent, I returned to my roots and joined a company of about 40 folks named Enspiria which, under the leadership of Chip Scott, had evolved out of the remnants of Convergent Group.
Chip Scott eventually inspired and supported my formation of SSP Innovations but that’s a story for another time. The point is that through my experiences at these other companies I had ample opportunity to learn where I thrived, where I was happy, and where I could improve things. This is what led to the formation of SSP’s core values – the principles which are absolutely foundational to who we are, what we do, and why our customers and partners want to work with us:
- Honesty & Integrity – Say what you’ll do and do what you say. This industry is all about long-term relationships and those relationships are based on integrity that is established over time. We aim to be as transparent as possible through our sales, our delivery, and our support. We may not always see eye to eye but know that my team will tell you the truth and will aim to provide accurate estimations and assessments, whatever the context might be. This applies both to our customers and internally at SSP. I guarantee you’d be surprised by the amount of information we share internally at SSP in the name of putting it all on the table.
- Highest Value for Our Clients – Our goal in pricing our services is to bring our customers the absolute best experience they can get in the marketplace for an exceptional value. This doesn’t imply that we are cheap; instead our desire is for each client to leave the engagement feeling like they received tremendous value for every dollar spent. We work hard to keep our rates competitive within the industry and have generally been on the affordable side of any competitive bid. Factor in the industry-leading expertise of our team and the value speaks for itself.
- Recognized as a Trusted Advisor through Building Long Term Relationships – The trusted advisor term gets tossed around quite a bit these days so let me be very clear about what this means to me. Becoming a trusted advisor doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just say you are a trusted advisor and get a seat at the table. Instead, I define it as being based on a relationship that is formed over time. And this relationship should initially be based on delivery success. If SSP delivers successfully for you, it establishes trust. Trust leads to additional work and when delivered successfully it, in turn, breeds more trust. Over time SSP will earn our seat at the trusted advisor table and you’ll have a valued ally at your side for everything from an educated opinion to your largest projects.
- Technically Proficient – You might think this is obvious but let me expand on it. SSP is what you’d refer to as a bootstrapped company meaning that we are fully self-funded without any outside investors. What does this have to do with being technically proficient? Quite a bit! We’ve had no outside pressure to grow or expand too quickly and this has allowed for what I call smart growth. We seek to only hire the sharpest, most talented folks in the industry alongside our very selective college hire program. Therefore, by design, you haven’t seen explosive growth at SSP over the last eight years. As a result, you can be assured that when you work with SSP, you get the A-team every time.
- Clients Like Doing Business with Us – I am very proud to say that many of our clients have become my close friends. We stay at each other’s homes when we travel, we take every opportunity to grab a drink or dinner, and we’ve established trust that goes way beyond the professional landscape. If we hit the other four core values, the fifth will naturally occur and at the end of the day, this is what it’s all about. It means we’re having fun, getting stuff accomplished, and enjoying each other’s company all the while.
If you picked up on the trust & relationship theme within our core values, it’s not by accident. I believe this theme resonates strongly with our customers – and the numbers support this assessment.
In our first full-time year of operations in 2007 we had two customers. Eight years later, I am extremely proud to say that we have now serviced 59 Esri & Schneider Electric customers within the industry! And the best part of that number is almost every customer has come back to SSP repeatedly for multiple projects. In fact, in 2014 alone, SSP worked projects with 36 distinct clients including 16 new customers, which we think is a very healthy and diversified portfolio. Our delivery organization has grown to over 20 consultants and we expect to continue that steady expansion of top-notch folks through 2015.
While I’m on the topic of customers, I want to take a moment to extend a personal thank you to all of the customers that have taken the leap and invested in our success. Especially to those customers who believed in us early on. Your trust is not taken lightly, and it is my goal to have our team continue to earn that trust each and every day through successful delivery, leadership, communication, and a strong relationship. If you ever feel this commitment is wavering, I invite you to reach out directly to me.
I am also very humbled and proud to announce that my alma mater, the fantastic University of Florida, has honored SSP Innovations as a member of the inaugural Gator 100 which honors the 100 fastest growing gator-owned or gator-led businesses in the world. UF is a huge school (400K alumni, 55K enrolled students) generating a lot of business owners and I am so proud of the SSP team for achieving this recognition. It’s a significant endorsement of the thriving business we have built and sets high expectations for our future!
Finally, with all of the technology change going on in our industry right now, I often get asked about where I see the industry going and about SSP’s self-perceived mission within the marketplace. So let me address that question briefly. For many years now, Schneider Electric has provided the most effective and indispensable utility and telecom GIS products available, and we don’t see that changing. Accordingly, one of our unwavering business goals is for SSP to be the strongest service provider in the industry around the Schneider Electric products – and based on our customer reviews, surveys and number of repeat clients, we believe we have achieved that mark.
When Esri released ArcGIS Online and began their shift to the platform just over two years ago, SSP invested heavily in the new technology. As an early adopter, SSP’s goal was to educate and demonstrate how the technology could be applied to traditional Esri and Schneider Electric utilities and telecoms. We continue to embrace that goal today and SSP Innovations is currently the only utility/telecom-specific ArcGIS Online Specialty Partner in the market having implemented ArcGIS Online at utilities across the country. Our overarching mission is to be strongly aligned with Esri’s latest and greatest platform technologies which will allow us to provide expert guidance to both existing and new GIS customers.
So whether you want to work with the best of the best on any of the traditional Esri and Schneider Electric products or you’re ready to leverage your existing investment to begin embracing the new Esri platform, SSP is the right choice for your end-to-end GIS and work management requirements. Together with our clients and trusted partners, we’ve achieved a lot over the last eight years. And we believe there are even better days ahead!
As we grow the business, we’ll continue to focus on our core values to ensure that we maintain our market-leading reputation. We’ll continue to provide guidance and expertise to the industry around best-of-breed solutions. And we’ll continue to bring our small company, big impact approach to customers everywhere. We wouldn’t be here without our valued customers and partners so I will conclude, once again, with a word of sincere thanks.