Geo Week News

August 28, 2013

I wish I had a mulligan

I’m one of those people that watch historical presentations thinking, “If only he/she had known this or that at the time…” It’s always fun to imagine a world changed by the knowledge of hindsight with a drastically different outcome.

After years of watching movies or reading books that do just that, I have gotten pretty good at finding those crucial moments in a narrative where a story could have taken a radically different path. While mowing the grass this week, I found myself wondering what I would do differently if I knew in 2000 what I know today about the 3D imaging industry. What I discovered surprised me a bit.

While there were some investments I would have liked to have made, the knowledge of which startups were going to be swallowed by larger conglomerates would not have given me the money to invest, so I guess that would not have been much help. When it comes to equipment investment, I think I did pretty well.

My primary concern early on was to invest with a company that would still be in the market when I was ready to buy my second and third generation of hardware. I went with Leica and that certainly worked out well. However, the deck was stacked in my favor as most of the hardware manufacturers (I’m talking about mid-range static scanning systems here) that were in the market 5-10 years ago are still with us today.

Software is a similar story. I went with Cyclone due to its “general use” nature and I’ve been very happy with that decision. The only thing I would have done differently is spent more time looking into open source software like Cloud Compare. I might have considered becoming more involved with some manufacturers as well. I’ve only been in the reseller chain for a couple of years, but I have been surprised at how open the younger companies have been to customer input. They typically have more ideas than they do time or money to develop them all and helping prioritize those ideas in ways that help us all make more money are quite welcome. Although, I must insist that telling a manufacturer everything that is wrong with their system every time you see them is a great way to be tuned out.

I started off in a family-owned firm and while I do not consider our acquisition by SmartGeoMetrics to be anything other than a success, I would be lying if I did not admit that I was sad to see that our family firm would not be the world’s premier 3D imaging provider. This is where the surprise discovery occurred.

Even with 20/20 hindsight in my favor, I do not know what I could have done differently! While there have been several firms that made successful runs in the 3D imaging world, quite a few of them peaked and then receded. In the end, there is a vibrant marketplace and no clear leader. We still have service providers while architectural and engineering firms have both gotten into and out of the collection side of things. In short, the story may not be close enough to a conclusion for me to know what I should have done. Or, I’m too close to the subject matter to form a truly objective opinion. Perhaps I don’t see a “right” decision because there was not one to be made. I’m not sure if I should be relieved or depressed …

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