As I write this we are on our seventh week “being Abaco.” If you haven’t heard of Abaco Systems, we’re a brand new company formed when GE spun out its rugged embedded computing business. In the mil/aero market, we were known as GE Intelligent Platforms for the past decade. Our roots go back thirty years, to companies like Radstone Technology, VMIC, SBS Technologies, and Condor Engineering. We’re also a company in transformation - a company that is channelling the energy that comes from acquiring a new identity and new ownership to raise the bar for ourselves, with a laser focus on serving customers.
What’s in a name?
One thing was clear from the get go. On day one, we needed a name.
We could have done a ton of market research and spent forever debating the subject of names. We didn’t. ‘Abaco’ came up pretty early in our discussion. It was simple – and we want Abaco to be an easy company to do business with. It was different – and we wanted our company to have the courage to adapt as needs continue to evolve. It had an interesting linguistic connection to 3,000-year-old computing devices (talk about long life!). And we liked the sound of it enough to endorse it. Deciding on a name quickly provided us a ton of extra time to develop and communicate the Abaco brand.
In a way, our naming process is a reflection of how we want to run the company – making quick decisions on a course of action and following through with intense, focused execution.
Back to branding. We live in a world of brands, and getting branding right was important – so we hired an external agency to work with us on everything the brand would include, from typefaces to logo through to our mission statement. We felt it was vital that we got an unbiased, external viewpoint. It turned out to be a pretty bumpy ride – but I’m convinced that the creative tension that developed between the agency and our internal marketing communications team left us with a much better result.
I particularly like being able to communicate with customers what the brand stands for by flipping our business card over and starting a conversation around what “We innovate, We deliver, You succeed” means to us. Our customers aren’t shy, and that has led to very open dialogue about where they think we excel and what they want us to improve.
Keeping customers in the loop
Keeping current customers informed was an important priority during the transition. We relied on a combination of electronic communications (e-mail blasts) and in-person communication driven by our customer-facing teams to deliver key messages. Closing the transaction took longer than originally anticipated and, as a consequence, we had to communicate more often than we originally planned. It wasn’t perfect, but in hindsight we would do it the same way again. In our experience, “no news” is invariably interpreted as “bad news” – which wasn’t the conclusion we wanted customers to reach.
A very positive side effect of our broad-based communications was that I received direct (very direct!) feedback from customers when they felt we were missing the mark. That feedback is helping prioritize where we go next.
With the basic building blocks of the brand in place, we decided to emphasize the modernization of our web site. We wanted the site to communicate very clearly who we are, what we do, and what we stand for. It was a massive effort, and I’m thrilled with how fast we were able to pull it together – and by how well it represents us. Like with choosing our company name, the speed between idea and “done” is what’s really exciting me about what we can achieve. The web site is still a work in progress – if you dig deep enough, you’ll probably find things we haven’t got to yet – but we’re most of the way to where we want to be at this stage.
Our web site, by the way, is at least as important for communicating with our own people as it is about communicating with our customers. We used the web site to clearly articulate for our team what the Abaco culture will be about. It is also playing an important role helping attract the more than 70 people we are adding to the team – helping explain to potential candidates why Abaco would be a great company to work for.
There’s a large extent to which communicating with our existing customers is relatively straightforward. They know us. They know our products. They know what we’ve brought to them over the past 30+ years. The much bigger challenge is to communicate with companies who don’t know us, and with individuals at our current customers that we don’t work with. Communicating with potential customers via our web site is just the start. We know we need to get out there and be proactive – and that’s going to be the focus of our efforts over the coming months.
So far, so good. All of the feedback we’ve received has been very positive. I’m under no illusions, though: what we’ve achieved so far in terms of getting the Abaco Systems name and what we stand for out there is tiny in relation to what we know we still have to do – and, in the end, our success will be determined by our actions and the quality of our deliverables, not the stories we tell. That said, there can be few things in business more exciting than creating a new company – and that story will continue to unfold. I’ll plan to keep you updated here in Military Embedded Systems – In the meantime, we’d be delighted to get your feedback. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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