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The Silicon Review | 50 Most Admired Companies of the Year 2020

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The Silicon Review | 50 Most Admired Companies of the Year 2020

  1. 1. 50 Most Companies of the Year SR2020 ADMIRED Filipp Chebotarev | Co-founder | COO Cambridge Companies SPG Top Investor Backs Clean Label Future CEOs Technology Business Features CIOs Leadership www.thesiliconreview.com U.S. Special
  2. 2. T he Engineer-Procure- Construct (EPC) model is becoming a popular project delivery method in the high voltage electrical construction market. Known in other industries as design- build, utilities, and renewable energy developers are increasingly moving to the EPC model for their larger, more complex projects. The reason for the increase in EPC projects is based on many factors such as an aging workforce in the utility and engineering industries, fast-tracked delivery dates for key infrastructure projects, the increase in capital spending by the utilities to address aging infrastructure, integration of renewable energy, and implementing new technology to the grid such as smart grid equipment and battery storage projects. In light of the foregoing, we’re thrilled to present Great Southwestern Construction, Inc. (GSWC) — a company that provides electrical construction services. It specializes in transmission lines, distribution systems, substations, and switchyard construction. The company was incorporated in 1977 and is headquartered in Castle Rock, CO. Brandon Lark, Great Southwestern Construction President, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt. Explain your services in brief. GSWC delivers a complete range of services for transmission, distribution, substation construction, and live line services across the United States. As a contractor, we are well-positioned as a contractor of choice for performing transmission, distribution, and substation construction, and maintenance services. Our offices, as well as management, manpower, equipment, and fleet resources, are conveniently located throughout the United States, providing accessibility throughout the country. Our years of experience has provided us with an arsenal of knowledge regarding issues when it comes to topography, weather conditions, permitting/ROW/ landowner relations, familiarity with local and regional subcontractors, and established relationships with engineering firms to utilize as a subcontractor for all engineering activities. As an operating subsidiary of MYR Group Inc. (MYR Group), GSWC offers customers the benefit of extensive, nationwide resources in equipment and manpower, industry- leading safety statistics and programs, management expertise, and financial backing. Along with national presence and continued growth, we adamantly strive to maintain strong local presence and support by offering such advantages as a single point- of-contact for clients, an emphasis on personal responsibility on all projects, and flexibility and adaptability to conform to client methods and standards. How do you source quality individuals to maintain the quality of your services? Over the last 40 years, GSWC has established itself as one of the top contractors in the United States. During that time, we have been able to obtain and retain the top craft labor and employees in the Brandon Lark, Great Southwestern Construction, Inc. President: ‘We’ve Distinguished Ourselves in the Electrical Construction Industry by Providing Services Based on its Values of Safety, Respect, Integrity, Responsiveness, Creativity, Initiative, and Teamwork’ “Our offices, as well as management, manpower, equipment, and fleet resources are conveniently located throughout the United States, providing accessibility throughout the country.” Along with national presence and continued growth, we adamantly strive to maintain strong local presence and support by offering such advantages as a single point-of-contact for clients, an emphasis on personal responsibility on all projects, and flexibility and adaptability to conform to client methods and standards. “ “
  3. 3. industry. We believe in hiring the best employees possible; we invest in every employee we hire and want everyone to feel like family. The best employees are happy and healthy, and we do all that we can to help them stay that way. At GSWC employees are provided a benefits package that offers everything you would expect in addition to the other perks. Whether saving for retirement or trying to provide the best life for their family, GSWC’s benefits have been designed to help them achieve an optimal work-life balance. Over the years, we have been able to recruit many high-quality craft labor and employees to join our team. To become fully integrated into the company’s safety culture, every employee undergoes an onboarding process to ensure they fully understand the safety and work culture of the company. This process includes an introduction to the company’s mission, vision and values, knowledge, and skills test for craft labor, review of our safety handbook, and an overview of our entire safety program. Tell us in brief about your capabilities in the EPC segment. GSWC’s first foray into the EPC market began in 2003, when we were awarded one of the largest EPC projects at that time, a 76- mile segment of transmission in Colorado called the Cedar Creek Wind Project. From there, GSWC steadily built a solid reputation of a contractor who had the sophistication and operational execution to be able to tackle the more complex EPC projects in the T&D industry for both utility clients and renewable energy clients. Currently, with over 600 craft labor employees, a Department of Labor certified apprenticeship program, and a well-seasoned EPC management staff, GSWC can deliver a very unique approach to EPC and design build projects. What are your trajectories for the next five years? GSWC hopes to grow rapidly and develop into the largest high voltage electrical contractor in the United States. While achieving this rapid growth, we want to maintain the same constants that have made us the company we are today. We’re providing our clients with the same services we have always provided in a safe and effective work environment putting people first and ensuring a quality product every time we step onto a job site. Brandon Lark: A Trusted Leader Brandon Lark was appointed President of Great Southwestern Construction, Inc. in May 2014 and is responsible for devising and leading the overall growth and operational strategies of the company. Brandon joined the company in 2000 as a Substation Superintendent, assuming increasing responsibility throughout his tenure including Project Manager, Project Developer, Senior Project Manager, and Vice President. Mr. Lark also serves on the Executive Management Committee for MYR Group, developing and executing corporate strategy while managing enterprise risk. He blends his hands-on combination of field and project management expertise when working alongside project and operations managers repeatedly delivering successful on-time, under-budget project execution. Mr. Lark has extensive experience in transmission, substation, and wind farm electrical construction on projects throughout the west and southwest. Mr. Lark embraces the mission, vision, and values of the organization and united with his values and leadership philosophy forms his foundation for success. At the core of his philosophy is steadfast focus on employee development, which allows for continuous performance improvement and also generates innovative enhanced service offerings. Mr. Lark has both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Project Management. He also has an Associate of Science Degree in Civil Engineering Technology and is a certified Project Management Specialist. He has continued his education through the MIT Sloan Executive Education, The Center for Creative Leadership, and Academy Leadership programs as well as many in house training programs with both technical and leadership curriculums. In his time away from the office, Mr. Lark enjoys spending time with his wife and three children. The entire family is involved in sports. Most weekends are spent cheering at a youth soccer game or enjoying other outdoor activities such as hiking or skiing. Brandon Lark President SR
  4. 4. A s global complexity deepens so too do the demands on governments to meet the funding and service delivery requirements of an ever more sophisticated citizenry. Good governance, transparency and accountability are critical today and yet even governments of the world’s most advanced economies battle with digital transformation and public financial management. As a solutions provider focused on government FreeBalance understands better than most just how complex this new world is for Ministries of Finance. The company’s Public Financial Management (PFM) solutions, advisory services, and training deliver realistic and impactful public sector reforms that enhance transparency, improve effectiveness, restore trust, and create innovation breakthrough opportunities. FreeBalance believes strongly in fiscal transparency and accountability and its products help bring the power of open government to citizens and decision-makers around the world. With a 35-year track record of success and operations in 25+ countries, FreeBalance has unparalleled experience in public finance reform and is a specialized Business-to-Government (B2G) firm. The company was incorporated in 1984 and is headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. Manuel Schiappa Pietra, FreeBalance President and CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt. How did FreeBalance come into existence? Back in the 90s, the Government of Canada engaged Ottawa-based Linktek to create a set of software products designed to improve fiscal controls and eliminate overspending. The government was able to see the amount available for spending, using commitment accounting functions, in real-time. The calculation of budget less commitments and actuals is known as the “free balance”. Linktek became so well known for “free balance” in real time that it rebranded as “FreeBalance”. Today FreeBalance is a global company working to bring about positive change in the world. Our story is one of diversity, inclusiveness, kindness, and respect. For more than 30 years we’ve worked to build a company to be proud of and a team that is committed to making a difference in the world. How do you make FreeBalance stand out from the competition? FreeBalance is unique in many ways, but perhaps the most important differentiators are: Customer Centricity Customer centricity is not just a buzz word for us. Our customers truly are at the core of everything we do. From our very first engagement our focus is on developing the solutions that are most relevant and that would be most effective for that specific country’s context. Best practices are not one size fits all solutions and, in our experience, don’t work. So, we take the time to thoroughly understand the issues and solve the problems. This ethos continues through both the implementation and support phases of all projects and even directs our business model which is built around driving down total cost of ownership. We believe that GRP systems should enable current and future PFM and transparency reform without being cost prohibitive. Government Specialization The FreeBalance team built the only smart management solution powered by, and built exclusively for, government. We co-create our systems together with our clients. We believe that our customers are the best people to decide what our product development roadmap An Interview with Manuel Schiappa Pietra, FreeBalance President and CEO: ‘Our mission is to help governments across the world leverage robust financial management technology to drive sustainable growth’ “FreeBalance is a purpose-led organization dedicated to improving citizen wellbeing around the world.”
  5. 5. should look like and so many years ago we set up the FreeBalance International Steering Committee (FISC) which brings together customers to focus on relevant new technology and ideas for improving the management of public finances. Global Reach We are citizens of the world. With operations in 25+ countries and over 30 different nationalities in the team we work with the full range of governments from some of the world’s most fragile states to emerging economies to the G7. We pride ourselves on our diversity and are deeply committed to building local talent in the countries in which we operate. High Configurability There no code customization required for the FreeBalance Accountability Suite compared to traditional commercial off the shelf applications. Our government focus has enabled the creation of software that is massively configured. Business rules, processes, workflow, additional fields, help, and terminology are all adaptable without any coding. This means no scripting, call outs or code customization to support these features. Fair and Financially Sustainable Pricing Our pricing for turnkey Government Resource Planning (GRP) implementations tend to be lower than alternatives because of our customer-centric business model that limits long-term costs, post-modern software that adapts easier and faster to change, and because we use agile methods designed to acceleration implementations. Manuel Schiappa Pietra: A Trusted Leader Manuel Schiappa Pietra is a global executive and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of successful management experience in companies based in the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa and Latin America. He has a proven track record in building and running companies, from start- ups to well-established private and public organizations. He has consistently demonstrated an ability to build and lead successful teams and businesses in the international arena. As President and CEO of FreeBalance, Manuel leads global growth strategies focused on advancing the company’s objectives and promoting revenue, profitability, and growth. Manuel provides direct oversight to the FreeBalance corporate and regional operations teams to ensure customer-centricity, quality, service, and optimal use of resources. Manuel is responsible for ensuring that FreeBalance fulfils its mission to help governments across the world leverage robust government financial management technology to accelerate country growth. Manuel is a recipient of the ‘Next Generation Executive of the Year Award’ sponsored by the ‘Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation’ (OCRI) and in 2009 he led the company to win the prestigious ‘Canada Export Achievement Award’. FreeBalance was also recently named as one of the ten most renowned brands to watch in 2020 by Leaders Globe. Manuel is also the Chairman of the WOHASU Foundation as well as Chairman of the H-20 Government Summit, the invitation-only ‘Government Meeting of the World Happiness Summit® ’. Manuel spearheads the efforts to explore public policy innovation and wellbeing economics through a new perspective. Manuel has held executive positions on the boards of several international companies and actively participated in the venture capital space. He has participated in several successful IPO’s in North America, Europe and South Africa. “FreeBalance believes strongly in fiscal transparency and accountability. Our products help bring the power of open government to citizens and decision-makers around the world.” Manuel Schiappa Pietra President & CEO SR
  6. 6. E stablished in 2002 by Patricia Mathis and Vladimir Smelyansky, XCastLabs’ engineering team was an innovator in unified communications long before. The LA-company’s visionary team was directly responsible for the world’s first digital personal assistant and its founding engineers were amongst the very first to showcase the power of speech recognition technology to the world in the 1990s. In 2020, XCast is a pioneer and a master innovator in VoIP technologies. We recently interviewed Patricia Mathis, Executive Chairman and Founder of XCast Labs. She gave us a unique insight into the innovations underway at XCast. Tell us about the successful journey of your company. The XCast Labs engineering team has a long history of developing disruptive technology. In the mid- 1990s, I created a Chicago-based company to develop the first Voice- driven Personal Assistant. One of the teams in that company was also exploring analog replacement and actually installed the first softswitch in a major carrier around 2000. A dozen talented engineers from that project reconvened in 2002 to focus solely on developing the pioneering technology we now call Voice-Over- the-Internet. That is the foundation of XCastLabs. In eighteen months, the platform was ready to begin offering services in the Midwest. The intellectual and creative force behind this development was co-Founder Vladimir Smelyanky and the talented engineering team he has led ever since. XCastLabs offers the full suite of Hosted PBX and SIP trunking services to small and midsized business. We also offer a highly intelligent wholesale platform that supports dozens of American carriers as well as call centers serving numerous vertical markets, predominantly in the United States. Our technology also supports our clients and customers with a proprietary integrated back office system. How robust and flexible are your telecommunications services? The lack of third-party licensing fees not only allows XCast to have an unconventionally low cost of operations but also an uncommon flexibility in introducing new features or services dictated by business needs. The XCast platform is designed to scale from a single server handling thousands of users to multi-server clusters serving millions. The XCast engineers–all pioneers in the VoIP space– wrote the code and all core components of the technology from the ground up. So, we really have no “learning curve” when we need to build a new product. We just need either a customer request or an innovation that we might consider disruptive. Powerful and scalable telecommunication services come with an expensive price tag. How do you manage to maintain your service affordability and profitability? XCast Labs has designed and developed every aspect of its technology solution in-house. We can quickly address customers’ needs and requirements without any dependence on outside vendors— which means no licensing fees. This means that we can develop products on our own platform without incurring a lot of additional overhead cost. Importantly, our business base is very stable. It is a rarity when a customer leaves our platform. When they do, it is usually when someone has acquired their company who has their own favorite provider. It is not unusual for that company to return to our platform the first chance they get. Also, we do not spend millions of dollars on marketing. We have operated on the philosophy that XCast Labs, Inc: America’s First in VoIP Communications “We carefully scrutinize what new technologies would be most beneficial to the largest number of businesses we serve.”
  7. 7. by doing good work and serving our customers’ needs, our reputation would propel our growth. Although VoIP technology has been touted as a communications cure-all by many small-to-midsized businesses, integrative complexity and security vulnerabilities will remain a challenge. How do you manage to deal with these challenges? This is a very important issue. Integration of nascent technologies is no small undertaking for engineering teams. At XCastLabs, we carefully scrutinize what new technologies would be most beneficial to the largest number of businesses we serve. Our direct dialogue with our customers is constant. We do not believe that every shiny new penny will have ultimate value. We have all lived long enough in the digital world to know that what is here today can be gone tomorrow. It is like the old PacMan machine: one cannibal constantly eating the other; in this case, one technology gobbling up or vaporizing another. So, we try not to be lured by the latest shiny object which might not be demonstrably valuable to small and midsized businesses. We try to curate expectations in a realistic way. Our engineering team has placed a high emphasis on developing security features. Our team prides itself on detecting potential fraud within the US carrier market sooner than most of our carrier partners. Scammers and other hoodlums harass and mislead unsuspecting victims with unwanted calls and we are actively involved in projects to curtail that kind of fraud. As part of our basic service model, XCastLabs does provide 24x7 service. We have a long-standing partnership with a major national provider and their US-based call center takes our after-hour, week- end and holiday calls. All our customers have access to our integrated back office systems and access to our trouble ticket platforms. This means that any customer can report any problem directly to us no matter the time of the day or circumstance. Our NOC team is very vigilant and responsive. Our executive management team culture is “always on” and our resellers can speak directly to a senior executive of this company—simply by texting or calling them in an emergency. What is the XCast team currently working on? What can we look forward to? At the moment, we are integrating access to Microsoft Teams into our standard hosted service offerings. That would be a good example of an integration that is sensible for small and midsized businesses while not necessarily the most popular “hot button” in the down market consumer space. There are many features that are now integrated into Microsoft Teams that are popular in the mass market— like the SMS features and video chat available from multiple vendors. But the heaviest initial users of hosted services integration with Teams will be for business applications. Patricia Mathis, Executive Chairman & Founder The Leader Upfront, Patricia Mathis, Executive Chairman and Founder A visionary leader and an entrepreneur, Patricia Mathis has been in the communications and unified communications space for over two decades. She has been on the board of several communication companies. SR
  8. 8. By devising winning strategies, DefinedLogic helps clients transform their business in the digital landscape Meet the leader behind the success of DefinedLogic Mike Simon is the CEO of DefinedLogic. He has owned and operated multiple software and consulting businesses over his 35 year career. Mike purchased DefinedLogic in 2020 to help his talented team pivot the company solidly in the direction of a Digital Product Agency. F or a company to be successful, it must be agile in the market, along with that online presence also plays an important role in development. The physical presence of a business cannot be everywhere, and all the time, so the digital presence helps them reach potential customers. Having a digital presence will help you establish an authority in your industry. We live in a world that is encompassed with technology, and everything is digital. If you still haven’t joined the digital bandwagon yet, you might be missing out on the major perks of going digital. You must change your business strategy and get your product up and running in the digital foray. Deliver the brand message you want to reel in the kind of customers you want to. A solid digital presence helps you with all of this, and a firm called Defined Logic is helping businesses establish a stronghold in the market. DefinedLogic is a digital product agency that provides services that cover the gamut of client needs, including digital strategy, branding and identity definition, creative and experience design, website and application development, and analytics and marketing performance management. Since its inception in 2002, DefinedLogic has helped brands embrace new technology to give them competitive advantage by combining strategy, design, and technology, creating useful, enjoyable, and valuable digital products. It specializes in helping clients overcome barriers to innovation. Defined Logic was founded in 2002 and it is based in Red Bank, New Jersey. In conversation with Mike Simon, CEO of DefinedLogic Do you think the responsibility of innovation is of one functional group, like R&D or product development? No, we challenge every competency and practice in our company to innovate. For us, that means being students of our trades, being vocal members of competency organizations. Every group at Mike Simon, CEO
  9. 9. DefinedLogic is developing frameworks that sales can explain and demonstrate and that delivery organizations can scale from. This orientation spreads the culture of innovation across the entire organization and ensures that innovative ideas are truly implementable. For a company to bring innovation to its culture, its employees must think like innovators, employees need to feel they have a decent outlet for sharing their observations and ideas. Does DefinedLogic reflect this view? I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of employees as innovators. Putting this into practice is what makes the culture real. We think about culture as “predictable behavioral responses,” meaning, does every aspect of our company naturally live the innovation culture without “management” having to force and reinforce it? Our approach is working well. Many organizations risk complacency once their current product offerings have reached success. They deny investing further. Do you think such a move can hinder the pace of innovation? Absolutely! If you’re not continually innovating, you’re falling behind others who are. We do “retros” on every project. We study best practices and tools by competency. We improve and innovate with each and every project we do. To enable continuous innovation, operations of a business should be flawless and streamlined. Do you help companies patch their internal inefficiencies? We do. We have a Product Innovation Framework that is informed by Scaled Agile but with pragmatic tools to ease implementation. We help customers implement processes, forums, and tools for ideation, intake management, elaboration, story development, stage- gate management, deliverable templates, and organization through roles and responsibilities. The goal is to recognize that many parts of an organization represent digital ecosystems, and good processes, tools, and forums can help them work seamlessly. How do you help your clients serve the ever- changing needs of digital transformation? We focus first and foremost on “purpose.” We determine what customers are looking to achieve and how can we help them mold their digital strategies to achieve those purposes. That sounds obvious, but it is surprising how many customers don’t have strategies that trace back to an underlying purpose. As such, they end up spending lots of money on campaigns and digital assets, but without the confidence that there is a positive ROI around those investments. As such, “transformation” is not an event; it’s an ongoing effort of alignment to the strategic purpose. How do you measure whether an organization is tapping the right opportunity? How do you make sure that your clients are increasing their success rate? By being laser-focused on “purpose” and measurable objectives, we help customers drive discipline around continual alignment. This includes measuring everything and being able to pivot as needed to respond to marketing opportunities and challenges. What are your future plans for the growth of your company? We are a 50 person company today and have plans to double our size over the next 12 months. That growth will provide the density we need to diversify our competency leadership and to provide growth opportunities for the next “generation” of “DLers.” We will facilitate our growth through platform partnerships, including Salesforce, SiteCore, and Adobe. “From concept to architecture to launch, we have the expertise and dedicated teams to deliver projects smarter, better & faster.” SR

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