Gary Burrell and Min Kao

It’s highly probable that you’ve used or had seen their products at one time or another. Yet, it’s unlikely that you even know what the brand stands for – yes, we’re talking about Garmin. Founded by Gary Burrell and Min Kao, the concept behind Garmin began during a brainstorming session. Since then, it has evolved into a global firm that provides communication and navigation devices that enrich consumer’s lives.

Garmin G1000

Garmin panel inside Diamond DA42 airplane (by Matthew Piatt)

Garmin products span a variety of industries ranging from aviation, automotive, marine, and outdoor recreation. The secret to their success is not really a secret. The company was well-positioned to take advantage of market opportunities once the Global Positioning System (GPS) technology became popular.

Garmin Strategy

A key factor that made Garmin a reality is the financing available in Taiwan. Min Kao, who grew up there, was assured by an old school friend, who happens to be a banker, that financing would be available in case he wanted to start a business. Within several months, Gary Burrell and Min Kao had raised $4 million, which was enough to rent an office space in Kansas and hire a pioneering team of engineers.

Another important strategy that contributed to Garmin’s overall success is vertical integration. Basically, the company aims to do as much as possible in-house. Everything from the design, development, and marketing is done by an inspired staff. The firm encourages everyone involved in product development – from designers, engineers, testers, sales people, and writers – to share their opinions and ideas. This openness allows Garmin to be on top of the game in the GPS sector.

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