Dressed for success

DN Staff

July 6, 1998

6 Min Read
Dressed for success

Shoes are optional.

If ViaGrafix Corp. (Pryor, OK), maker of technology-based training products and CAD software, had a slogan for its employees, that would probably be it.

"We have a very informal atmosphere here," says Bob Webster, vice president and co-founder of ViaGrafix. "Someone came in the other day and remarked about how people here didn't have to wear ties, and just then someone walked by with no shoes on. We demand performance, but don't care how people dress as long as the work gets done."

Agrees brother, president, and co-founder Mike Webster, "Whether people wear shoes or not is up to them."

Bobbie Back, catalog sales manager for ViaGrafix who has been with the company for eight years, says the company's casual atmosphere helps productivity.

"When you're dressed more comfortably, you don't have to worry as much about what you're wearing," she adds.

This casual atmosphere, however, does not extend to the company's work ethic. Everywhere you look in the company's building, people are busy writing and testing code, answering phones, and planning new products. The whirlwind of activity has resulted in rapid growth.

Incorporated in 1990 to create CAD products for the PC user, ViaGrafix has shown an annual growth of 38% for five years, says Mike Webster, and has grown with internal funding.

Bob Webster attributes the company's growth to "good products that came out at a good time. We also work very hard."

Mike Webster says the company has targeted market needs and designed products, such as DesignCAD software, user guides, tutorials, and seminars, to fill those needs. "People are getting more for their money, and we're teaching people how to use the programs," he says.

In the beginning. Mike Webster was theCEO of ViaGrafix, founded in 1990, and his brother Bob Webster was president of American Small Business Computers, a graphics program company founded in 1985. In 1995, the com-panies merged to improve the distribution channel for products and combine programming expertise. The brothers own 48% of the publicly held company.

ViaGrafix started with two employees and has since grown to 161 employees, all of whom are housed in the company's 75,000-sq ft headquarters, where the first employee is still with the company. Most employees have been with the company from four to seven years. ViaGrafix continually adds new people, Mike Webster adds.

"We like to have fun and make a profit," Bob Webster says, adding that ViaGrafix's headquarters feature an indoor tennis court, a day care for employees' children, and a basketball court. The company occasionally organizes basketball and tennis tournaments for employees.

Bob Webster adds that the company looks for employees with a "good, positive attitude. We want them to work hard and get the job done. It's a fast pace, and things change fast."

Mike Webster says the company's employees can work flexible hours. "We don't care what hours they work, as long as they get the job done. We want people with drive, determination, and motivation, and of course, it's always good to have bright people."

The software and how to use it. Among ViaGrafix's main products is DesignCAD, a general-purpose CAD program. DesignCAD is an Internet-ready CAD product with direct e-mail and VRML support that features full 2D and 3D functionality. Architects and engineers use the software, the latter in applications ranging from drafting to solid modeling. Users can save DesignCAD files in DWG, DXF, IGES, JPG, VRML, HPGL, Windows Metafile, and BMP file formats. The company introduces a new version of the software every year and a half.

At a street price of $300, DesignCAD is a fraction of the price of other CAD programs, Mike Webster says. However, low price does not equal low quality, he cautions. The software has won numerous awards from computer magazines, including PC and BYTE.

Adds Bob Webster, "It's easy to use, and has a lot of functionality. You get a lot more capability with many additional features."

Leon Risenberg, chair of the engineering department at Los Angeles Mission College and consulting structural engineer, has been a customer of ViaGrafix since the late 1980s, when he saw DesignCAD demonstrated at COMDEX in Las Vegas. He says the program is the "best in the field, and a lot better than programs that cost 10 times more."

"It's the best CAD program," Risenberg adds. "It has more features than other programs, and it's easy to use.It has a tremendous 2D drafting capability, and solid modeling is out of this world."

DesignCAD 2D and 3D evolved from ProDesign II, a 2D CAD system introduced in 1985. In 1987, DesignCAD was released. The software is available for Windows 3.1, 95, NT; DOS; and Macintosh platforms.

Most of the company's revenue comes from PC-based training videos and interactive CD-ROMs ViaGrafix produces that show users how to use software through interaction. The company develops and markets more than 650 computer-based training courses, which may make it one of the leaders in that industry.At last year's COMDEX trade show, ViaGrafix had four booths showing off their training programs, including those that show how to use Windows NT.

Vision of the future. Bob Webster says the company's future goals include keeping up with their rate of growth and always having new products in the works. In the third quarter of 1998, ViaGrafix unveils a drawing package called ViaDraw. Also on tap is ViaPage, a web page editor priced under $50 that "anyone can use," Mike Webster says. "It's for the general public. It features what-you-see-is-what-you-get graphics." ViaPage will allow the user to see web pages as they will appear on the web. Also due out in the fall is Via3D, a spline-based CAD program that will have full NURBS support.

Mike Webster says what differentiates ViaGrafix from other CAD companies is its "commitment to evolving. We're responsive to customer's requests, and we really listen to our customers."

Risenberg says it has been "a joy" to work with ViaGrafix over the years.

"The people are tremendous," he says. "They have a different approach to business. They really make you feel welcome, like they really care."

A look at the line

Here's a look at some of the engineering software from ViaGrafix Corp.:

DesignCAD is for use by architects, engineers, inventors, and designers, and offers solid modeling, dimensioning, animation and Internet capability, OLE, and file compatibility with all major file types.

ScanPro is a raster-to-vector conversion package that converts scanned images into CAD drawings that can be used with most CAD systems.

ModelCAD is a low-end CAD system for builders of model airplanes and railroads and will run on DOS, Windows, and Windows 95.

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