Print Page   |   Sign In   |   Register
News & Press: FOCUS

TechSmith: Built for the Long Haul

Tuesday, January 1, 2019  
Share |


Throughout its history, TechSmith has placed a high value on being a company for which people want to work. TechSmith has managed to attract and retain great talent by becoming an employer of choice.

The life span of new technologies and technology companies can be quite perilous. The increasingly rapid acceleration of innovation leading to the emergence of new products can make today’s hot technology obsolete seemingly overnight. Tech startups can be the darling of Wall Street one day and on the sidelines the next.

Okemos-based TechSmith is a local company that has become a global success story and managed to maintain long-term market success, a level of which is not often seen in the software industry. Founded in 1987, TechSmith pioneered the revolutionary idea of capturing screen content for better communication. Today, TechSmith is the world’s number one source for visual communication software and is a global leader in screen recording and screen capture software.

The products that put TechSmith on the map are Snagit, a screen capture software and Camtasia, a screen recording and video software editor. has been on the market for 27 years and continues to grow, recording its best quarter in history in the past year. TechSmith has managed to stay on top of changing market trends and shifts in market demands and continually update their bedrock products to keep them at the forefront of the industry.

“Today our growth is based on the increased use of digital media,” said Wendy Hamilton, chief executive officer of TechSmith. “What our engineers have been extraordinary about is understanding customer problems and having an incredible passion to invent and innovate technology to solve those problems.”

Snagit and Camtasia are the industry standards in screen recording, screen capture and video editing software. Those two products are used by every company in the Fortune 500, by 97 of the top 100 higher education institutions in the United States and are in use in 193 countries around the globe. It is estimated that using those two products, people around the world have produced nearly one billion YouTube videos.

TechSmith’s research highlights how companies in the U.S. could unlock nearly $100 billion in productivity by increasing their use of visual and video content in workplace communications. Hamilton points to shifting demographics, particularly the millennial generation, which grew up on video and gets a lot of their education and entertainment from videos.

“So, when they enter the workplace, they expect that same kind of access to digital media that they have in the personal lives,” said Hamilton. “They expect to be able to create a quick video and be able to communicate just like they would if they were using Snap Chat or Instagram as opposed to writing some long, boring text in an email. They also expect their senior leaders to use video as well.”

Snagit is something that any employee can use for quick visual communication. Many of TechSmith’s clients literally buy the product for every single employee as they try to modernize the way in which coworkers communicate with each other.

TECHSMITH’S LEADERSHIP TRANSITION

TechSmith was co-founded by Bill Hamilton, Wendy’s father in 1987. Like most tech startups, TechSmith survived the first few years and paid the bills through consulting contracts. The launch of Snagit in 1991 changed everything for the firm and helped turned a small, unknown company into a firm recognized by users around the world.

Wendy Hamilton became CEO at TechSmith in 2014, a move that she readily admits was a surprise.

“I never planned to be here,” said Hamilton. “I always thought my dad would sell this company. It wasn’t part of any planned career path, but it worked out.”

Though the path to TechSmith may not have been part of a master plan, Hamilton’s impressive career certainly equipped her for her role as CEO. Out of college, she joined Anderson Consulting, later known as Accenture, where she managed large scale system implementation projects. She left the large corporate setting to join an Adobe venture tech startup, Liquent. That company focused on creating publications for pharmaceutical companies. After that firm was sold, she landed at Thomsen Reuters, a $15 billion public publishing company where she eventually became general manager of their life sciences business.

Taking the reins from her father brought its own challenges. Hamilton admits that she was a bit slower to push for some changes, out of respect for the way Bill Hamilton always did things.

“One of the things my father did that I didn’t realize was really important at the time was that he stepped out of the business right away,” said Hamilton. “We had a couple of months where we both had to decide if this was going to work before I moved my family from Philadelphia to Michigan, and then once we made the decision jointly, he got out of the day-to-day execution literally overnight.”

The transition also brought starkly contrasting leadership styles. Bill has a military background and employed a more traditional command and control style of leadership. Wendy relies on broad collaboration and seeking diverse opinions throughout the organization. One of Hamilton’s biggest fears in taking over the company was that employees wouldn’t tell her when they thought she was wrong.

“My style is to encourage contrarian thinking and inclusive decision making,” said Hamilton. “We want to debate. We want to respectfully disagree with one another, so we are making decisions with the best information and insight.”

TechSmith involves people in decision making in many ways. The company utilizes Yammer, a corporate online social media platform, which allows team members to ask questions and bring up different points of view. TechSmith also employs focus groups and has added an employee liaison to help communicate questions about strategy and innovation.

TALENT ATTRACTION AND RETENTION: AN EMPLOYER OF CHOICE

Tech companies in general, particularly those located in the Midwest, struggle to fill critical jobs. It is estimated there are 50,000 unfilled tech jobs in the U.S. Only one in five tech jobs are being filled by U.S. graduates. For TechSmith, now with 285 employees, a partnership with Michigan State University has been a cornerstone in the company’s efforts to identify and attract talent to the company.

“TechSmith would not exist in Lansing if it were not for MSU,” said Hamilton. “If we didn’t have this large engineering school producing great talent, we would not have the talent pipeline to grow our company.”

TechSmith works with approximately 30 interns a year, a large majority of which come from MSU and are an important part of the company’s talent pipeline.

The small number of women in technology continues to be a disturbing trend. About one in five college graduates in computer science are women, a number that is actually decreasing. Many young women drop out of computer science tracks as early as sixth grade. Locally, TechSmith is active in supporting STEM programs in education and also supports STEM work at Impression 5 Science Center.

Throughout its history, TechSmith has placed a high value on being a company for which people want to work. TechSmith has managed to attract and retain great talent by becoming an employer of choice. Hamilton credit her father’s role in establishing that culture.

“His life philosophy was ‘you spend too much time at work to not like your job,’” said Hamilton. “Culture and how we treat our employees have always been a huge part of this company.”

TechSmith is very transparent with its financial statements, providing employees with as much information as they want to know. The company has what Hamilton calls an open-book management policy, encouraging employees to feel good about the company and to see where they can help improve operations. The company shies away from terms like “executive” opting instead to refer to top leaders as “senior leaders.” Hamilton says there is a culture of equality at TechSmith.

“Anybody is allowed to talk to anybody and anybody is allowed to challenge anybody,” said Hamilton. “As long as it is respectful and the challenge is about the idea and not the person.”

Hamilton installed a position known as the employee and community ambassador, a younger employee who can support TechSmith’s heavily millennial employee population. That individual is responsible for understanding what benefits employees are interested in having and prioritizing and executing those benefits. The company also has installed an employee help and service line for legal services and emotional support services. Additionally, the company has a very generous healthcare package.

“We try to keep things fun and social, while encouraging employees to meet other employees from different departments,” said Hamilton. “We have free Friday lunches and monthly happy hours on site, hosted by different departments.”

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

As the company looks ahead, long range trends indicate that employees throughout the world are going to continue to push their organizations to become more aggressive in the use of videos.

“For employers to invest in that, it will have to become cheaper and easier,” said Hamilton. “It also needs to become more collaborative because that is how you save time.”

Hamilton expects TechSmith’s portfolio to be diversified and include collaboration-based cloud tools that make desktop tools more efficient. The company has also released a new product to help customers make professional looking videos faster. Hamilton forecasts more interactivity, especially in educational videos.

In the immediate future, TechSmith will be launching its software in China for the first time in 2019, continuing the company’s impressive global growth trend.

TechSmith’s formula of combing visionary leadership, effective innovation strategies and the ability to attract and retain outstanding talent leave Hamilton confident that the long-term growth outlook is good.

“I think the future looks pretty bright for us,” said Hamilton.

Click here to download the January edition of FOCUS.


This Month's E-Chamber Connect Sponsors

Association Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal