Nearly two years ago, CertTech, Wineman Technology, and Butterfield Engineering came together to form Genuen, a single company that provides test solutions across the entire product lifecycle.
Since then, Genuen acquired Versatech, an engineering firm that designs and integrates specialized robotic and production automation equipment, expanding the company’s capabilities to include production line automation.
They’ve also created new internal rituals, implemented new business processes, involved the organization in the local community.
Today, we sit down with Jeff Gray, CEO of Genuen, and talk through the last two years and what’s ahead for the Kansas City-based organization.
What were your initial goals for the new Genuen brand?
Jeff Gray: To be completely transparent, our very initial goal [as CertTech] was to acquire companies and pull them into our existing brand. Our intent was to create a multifaceted team built on the core strengths of the various organizations. We quickly realized the CertTech brand was just too narrow to fully convey the capabilities of the larger team. So, as a leadership team, we pivoted. We made a new plan and created a new entity altogether.
Our name [Genuen], branding, core values, and capabilities were all new, and we were able to define all of those together, based on where we wanted to go.
How is your progress in creating a new identity?
JG: We’ve made tremendous progress. The new brand created identity internally more quickly than we expected. We’ve made some changes in reporting to create cross-functional teams and that has forged both new relationships internally and new solutions for our customers.
It can be difficult for external audiences to accept change. How have your customers reacted to the new brand?
JG: Our customers and partners have been quite receptive. Genuen, the name itself, is easy to say, explain, and remember. It’s a name that represents our values but doesn’t limit us to one application area or industry. We want to be a company that’s authentic and trustworthy and this comes through even in our brand details – down to the understated, lowercase logo represent us well. Many of our past customers engaged with both CertTech and WTI or WTI and Butterfield, so their operations are more streamlined now, which everyone seems to appreciate.
How has the pandemic affected your overall brand and operation?
JG: We launched the new brand a year into the pandemic, and that timing actually worked well. People were looking for something to unite around and move forward with.
It wasn’t without challenges though – we were a company of people who ate lunch together, who showed up Monday morning and asked our co-workers about their kids’ sports games that past weekend. These relational elements were made difficult when we couldn’t spend time with people. Zoom is better than email or a phone call, but doesn’t touch having lunch together and the natural conversations about family and life.
Moving forward, we’ve got some people who can work effectively from home and maintain that setup, but a large portion of us are in the office.
This year, we instigated Third Thursdays, where we bring in lunch at every office location and invite everyone to come to their home office. This has been a great way for people to connect and a great way for us as a company to appreciate our staff.
Externally, we’re of course not immune to supply chain issues, which we began to feel at the start of 2022. Lead times can be up to 10x what they were 18 months ago. We’ve redesigned around limitations where we can, and come up with creatively engineered solutions.
Organizing in-person events gives the team a chance to connect.
What about Versatech? You acquired that company and they’ve kept their original brand. Tell me about what they bring to Genuen clients.
JG: Versatech is truly tangential to Genuen – their automation capabilities extend what we do. Automation is imperative to companies moving forward in aerospace and automotive. With Versatech, we have a bridge between industrial automation and traditional test and measurement.
What trends are driving a need for automation?
JG: We’ve seen many. First – the great resignation has created need. Companies need automation because they can’t staff their operations with people. Other reasons include the rapid advancement of automation and robotics technologies, execution of complex tasks in highly efficient workflows, and proliferation of collaborative robot systems, referred to as cobots, where humans work alongside robots increasing the capability and efficiency of both.
What strengths does Genuen carry into the next decade?
JG: Our skills are in designing and building test systems, qualifying test systems, rigorous documentation, and now automation – all to make sure critical products work through test. Our strengths are particularly inclined to help clients solve complex test challenges that come with shifts in technology.
For example, the automotive industry is beginning to embrace functional safety standards and Genuen is well-positioned for this because we don’t just design test systems, but we understand how automotive companies need to certify them under these standards. This is an area where we can have a global impact through partnerships with other companies.
Next, eVTOL applications are creating a new industry of general aviation. These applications leverage our pedigree of certification but also our expertise in building systems and qualifying tools needed to work in a regulated environment. The nuances we’ve learned from decades in traditional aerospace and automation are almost identical to what we see in eVTOL.
Regardless of industry, the recipe for making safe and reliable systems is the same – and it’s a recipe we’ve used and honed for 30 years. Our customers spend half their money building their product and the other half proving it works – test is absolutely critical, especially in the latter half.
And now, the capabilities we’ve added by joining organizations help us digitally thread data throughout the product lifecycle. The ability to correlate relevant data about a product from early design and development to later in the lifecycle where it’s taken out of service 20 or 30 years later is key for us and our clients.
What business or internal practices have helped you along the way?
JG: Internally in 2020, we embraced EOS [The Entrepreneurial Operating System, or EOS®, is a set of concepts and tools for business management that empowers business leaders to reach business goals and improve the lives of every individual the business affects.]. We invested in a coach and took the time to build a foundation and focus on culture. Prior to EOS, we wouldn’t show numbers, but now we talk very transparently with our teams about the business. This transparency drives internal trust and communication, and overall connects our teams to the business.
We also set core values for the company. We repeat these at every company meeting as a reminder of what we expect from each other, and what customers should expect from us. We’re not always perfect but when we stumble, we get back up and head in the direction of respect, integrity and trust, teamwork and collaboration, transparent communication, unflappable determination, and innovative thinking.
Have you had any involvement in the local community?
JG: We’ve also taken on DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] initiatives that we’re proud of. Through the Kansas City Tech Council, we partnered with the Apprenti program, where we sponsor historically underserved demographics with a one-year apprenticeship when we then have the opportunity to hire these individuals. We started with three individuals and hired every one of them at the end of the year. This was another experience that underscored how we want to have the right people in place – we can teach the skills, but the values, attitudes, and work ethics are ingrained in each of us.
We have also partnered with our local YMCA and provided a series of DEI training sessions to all our Genuen staff. We are continuing to work with the YMCA team to identify and engage in community programs to help our neighbors and promote tech opportunities across our metro areas.
What have you learned over the last few years that you hope others know?
JG: Well – I’m still learning. Truly, good things take time, but bad things happen fast so you must focus on long-term goals in addition to any challenges in front of you at the moment.
As a leader in any capacity, you must keep your head up, with the right people in the right seats, all moving in the right direction. Full steam ahead!