The Integra Group
We got our start in 1999 working on custom software services for a variety of industries. During these early days, The Integra Group, Inc (parent company to BOSS) saw many similarities in their dealings with clients. These businesses were running into the same problems without a “boxed” software alternative. As more companies continued to ask for similar custom software solutions, The Integra Group saw the opportunity to develop a software that would serve the needs of not just one company, but many. Thus, BOSS had its start.
1999 – The Launch
Our first act as a new company was Eric and I driving to the Sprint store to buy some high tech new mobile phones! Well, they were high tech then. Who would have guessed that Integra would out last Sprint! Now we just have to outgrow them.
We planned our company for about a year. Who knows if we ever would have launched unless we were nearly forced to do it. The small consulting company I was with had financial troubles and handed out a retroactive 20% pay cut right before Thanksgiving vacation. It was the 2nd one in two years, and that was enough to confirm for me that it was time to leave.
I guess we could have just gotten jobs somewhere else, but we were critical on the nearly completed mission-critical software project for MEMCO Barge Line and they really wanted us to stay and help finish it. I expected that to be the last software project Integra would ever do in the barge industry. Little did I know how much impact we would have on that industry for years to come.
Accepted into the St. Louis County Business Incubator
Our first office location was in the St. Louis County Enterprise Center designed for start up companies. We had to present our business plan to the board and prove to them that Integra would create jobs in St. Louis County in order to be accepted into the program.
This facility offered a great space for new companies with very nice shared conference rooms, premium A/V capabilities for presentations, and flexibility to expand as we grew.
2000 – The Silicon Valley Experience
In our 2nd year, we landed some great work at great rates. The only challenge was the travel. Most of the work was in Silicon Valley (San Jose, San Francisco) requiring 4+ hour flights, and typically Monday – Thursday out of town. The work was great, and we would work late into the night to avoid the traffic jams. This was not exactly the family man’s ideal set up, but it certainly paid well. We made the best of it with visits to see Stanford’s campus and a weekend vacation on the beach in Monterey.
One of my most memorable experiences of this year was traveling through airports on crutches after blowing out my Achilles tendon. I used a makeshift backpack before the backpack was considered a cool professional look. A co-worker from another company suggested telling my company I could not travel because of the injury. It really must have seemed ridiculous. I explained it was my livelihood, and I was happy to have the work. I just regretted my Achilles would no longer hold up to the riggers of football.
2001 – Commerce Bank & “Competing” with my own brother!
In early 2001 we found ourselves as one of the final three companies competing for a very large and complex custom Student Loan development project. One of the competitors was a large well known 250+ consultant company in St. Louis. The other was my brother’s company! What are the chances? His company was a much more established 75+ person company in Kansas City that did some work for Commerce. Integra had a grand total of about 7 or 8 employees at the time and zero experience in the student loan industry.
At that point, Commerce did something very unusual. They eliminated my brother’s company from consideration. So, it was between us, and the well known 250+ person company. I then got a call from Senior Vice President at Commerce, and he asked me what kind of relationship I had with my brother. I said, “Well, he was the best man in my wedding, but why do you ask?” He asked, “If you got in trouble on this project, would he help you out?” To that, I said, “I will have to call him and find out.” My brother confirmed he would indeed help us if we ran into trouble, and we won what ended up being over a $1Mil project!
This project is where we created our first software tool (the web-based grid control) that helped us develop much faster. This idea eventually grew into the BOSS® framework.
2002 – The Daniels Fund
In 2002, we once again found ourselves in a competition in which we really had no business being considered. This time it was for a complete custom build for a brand new $1Billion Scholarship Foundation called The Daniels Fund in Denver, Colorado. We were going up against nationally known competition. The only thing that gave us a chance was their process of using a blind reading of the RFP responses using a panel of advisors. We literally submitted two copies of our proposal. One that had our logo and company information, and one that did not. After their review, they called me, and told me, “We have good news, and bad news. The good news is that Integra is one of the final two out of all submissions. The bad news is you are in second place by a slim margin.” Their next step was to call our references. Our references pulled us from second place into winning this $1Mil+ project! Daniels Fund said that our references were like paid advertisements!
Winning this project and the Commerce project allowed The Integra Group to grow through the DOT BOMB financial crisis and add several fantastic software engineers that are still with us today!
2003 – BOSS® is Born
The Daniels Fund was so new, their main requirement was flexibility because they knew they were going to change tremendously in the coming years. The flexible building block design, including flexible user security, we created for this eventually became what we know today as the BOSS® framework.
In 2003, we were introduced to another barge company, Crounse Corporation. We were able to use our extensive experience, and some new software utility tools to create a full solution for Crounse. We had a tradition of naming every system we built. We named this project the “Barge Operations Services System”, and the BOSS® acronym was born! Soon after, we decided to change the meaning of BOSS® to “Business Operations Services System”, and we used it in dozens of custom solutions across many industries.
A Healthy Custom Client List
Integra’s list of custom clients was a mixture of well-known Fortune 500 companies, such as, Federal Express, CitiMortgage, A.G. Edwards (now Wells Fargo Advisors), and many lesser-known unique middle-market businesses. We were doing great work and enjoying all we were learning about business and the systems that drove it.
The Strategic Change in Business Plan
At this point, we recognized two key challenges for our business. First, our projects were large, and just as we were completing the most difficult part of the job (converting our client over to their new system) we had to have another project lined up. It felt like a roller coaster. Secondly, custom software is the last place businesses look to solve their need because of the expense and the length of time required. Who wants to build their business on the last place people look for a solution? So, we decided to make a change in our business plan and seek to create unique software products offered to targeted industries.
BOSS® Helps Us Weather the Great Recession of 2008
In 2008 and 2009, we had several long-time custom clients let us know the recession had hit them hard, and they had to stop their software investments. This is when our change in strategic direction really showed up for us. As our custom clients reduced their investments to save money, our BOSS® products were providing value to clients far beyond their cost and the number of product clients continued to grow at a rapid pace, making the impact of the recession on Integra much smaller and shorter-lived than on many businesses, and we grew our way through it.
Our transition from a custom software development firm only, to a software product company was complete.
A Recognized Leader in the Barge Transportation Industry
By 2011, over 60% of the barge industry focused on dry bulk commodities used some form of software from The Integra Group.
A Recognized Leader in the Landscape Industry
By 2012, our BOSS® LM product was the recognized leader in the industry. According to Mike Rorie, all the industry consultants he asked pointed him to BOSS® as the best operational software in the industry. So, he approached us with an interest to buy. This gave rise to the most challenging event in our company history.
At this point, we had invested about $1Mil and 10+ years creating BOSS® LM, and it was just taking off. We were all about to begin winning together, and our partner informs us he wants his own business, and he wants it to be based on BOSS® LM. After about two years of struggling to make two opposing directions work for everyone, we eventually bought our ex-partner out for his asking price for his shares in the whole business and all corporate assets.
In just a few months after his departure, our ex-partner had a competing system. Thus, began, the Aspire Software company.
As we expected, our BOSS® LM business unit has grown every year since. We are thankful to continue serving clients throughout the country, and around the world with BOSS® LM.
The Integra Charitable Foundation Established
At the end of 2014, Integra made a bold move to start a charitable giving foundation and provide to the less fortunate. This had been a dream since the founding of Integra, however, in the world of business (as in life) it can seem like there are always other things that need the investment (because there are). So, we established a financial model that put giving first, so we would do it. It has been enthusiastically supported by our team.
We do have challenges. We think our involvement in charitable efforts help us keep our challenges in perspective.
In January of 2019, Integra celebrated our 20-year anniversary. We were particularly proud of this mark of longevity. Here’s to another 20 on the way!
2020 – The 3rd economic disaster in our company history weathered, and in the rear-view mirror! Welcome 2021!
See how we give back!
Check Out what BOSS Partners Have to Say:
More than a Product, a Partner.
In the past, all this got lumped together in this one big pile. I knew I was missing something [regarding the estimating of the job] – I didn’t know if it was the mulch, or if I was missing the mowing, or if I was missing the pruning. Now I know what I’m missing and what I’m doing well on, so we tweak it. And I’m not doing this to make more money, I’m doing this to get my price more accurate, because if I can get my price more accurate, and my confidence in it is higher that my price… Read more
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