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2018-04-13 / Front Page

How a Different Type of Company is Leading Innovation

BY RACHEL BISHOP
Assistant Editor


Currently, GSA is the sole Qualified Vendor of custom development and self-service applications for Wyndham Worldwide, one of two venders for Choice Hotels International Inc., and they hold additional contracts with numerous other hospitality groups. Currently, GSA is the sole Qualified Vendor of custom development and self-service applications for Wyndham Worldwide, one of two venders for Choice Hotels International Inc., and they hold additional contracts with numerous other hospitality groups. More and more strong women are earning their stripes as leaders of industry. But, in some sectors, women still find themselves stymied. While men have long dominated the software development industry, women-run Global Software Applications, LLC is challenging that standard.

Global Software Applications was founded in 1999 by CEO Kathryn Koning and is becoming a leader in customizable software development for the hospitality industry. This small company out of Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania, is making a big name for itself. Currently, GSA is the sole Qualified Vendor of custom development and self-service applications for Wyndham Worldwide, one of two venders for Choice Hotels International Inc., and they hold additional contracts with numerous other hospitality groups.


Koning Koning Through their diverse suite of customizable applications, including SerferQuest, Here2There Digital Wayfinding, business centers and customizable guest-interaction software, GSA embraces a new wave of digitally- minded professionals and offers hotels, resorts and casinos a secure and user- friendly platform to meet both their guests’ unique needs, and their own.

But the passion behind GSA goes far deeper than their impressive software.

GSA is the only women-owned business in the industry, and Koning faced challenges and opposition right from the start. “I actually started the company because I had trouble finding work,” she says. Rather than struggling to find a path in someone else’s vision, Koning struck out and forged her own. Thus, Global Software Applications was born in Altoona.


GSA’s applications are now being used in hotels and resorts across the nation, and it’s the first company clients like Wyndham Worldwide approach when looking for new software. GSA’s applications are now being used in hotels and resorts across the nation, and it’s the first company clients like Wyndham Worldwide approach when looking for new software. Koning quickly learned being a woman in the software development industry comes with unique challenges and her new path would not be easy.

“It has taken a while to be taken seriously,” she explains. “It’s taken a while for people to see how serious we really are.” In fact, in 2007, the competition tried to buy Koning out, perhaps thinking a women could never lead the company forward and it would be better off in their “capable” hands. When Koning refused to sell, they threatened to put GSA out of business within one year.

GSA’s location has also brought its own unique challenges. Koning moved the company from Altoona to Phillipsburg, and competing with higher-traffic cities, such as State College, hasn’t made attracting talent easy. “It’s been a little challenging, because people don’t want to commute this way; they’ll commute toward State College,” she explains.

But, for some special people, location isn’t everything; it’s all about a culture of family for Koning’s employees.

Koning often looks for people in a similar situation to what she found herself in before she founded GSA: young professionals just starting out who don’t have a clear, established path. Sometimes, this means finding talent through unusual means. “Most of the people here can tell you a really odd story about how they came to be here,” she says.

Regardless of the many different avenues her employees took to find their way to GSA, Koning says they all have one thing in common: “People tend to stay.” Most of her employees have been with her anywhere from eight to 14 years, and the “newest” addition to the team, Brandie Patterson, Koning’s administrative vice president for client engagement, was brought on four years ago.

It’s easy to understand why Koning’s employees stay. By her own admission, as a woman, she does things a little differently from the male industry leaders, and that’s a good thing. Koning guides her young employees and encourages them to strike their own path, just as she did. “I’ve found that in doing that, people become family,” she explains. “It’s nothing to see people in here on weekends or people answering their emails in the middle of the night.”

Perhaps the largest contributor to this family culture is Koning herself and her leadership. Koning leads by example, working alongside her employees. She says it isn’t out of the ordinary to see her go from developing software to vacuuming the floors. “They know I’m willing to get right in there beside them,” she says.

Koning credits much of GSA’s success to this family-centered attitude. Her employees are dedicated to the company, doing more than their job description technically entails. “Most people we work with do not realize that we are a small company. All my people learn to wear a lot of hats.”

With this culture of family in the workplace, the company has become stronger, unified and determined to dominate.

“Right now is probably the best position the company’s been in, in a very long time. We are continuing to push forward and really want to dominate the whole market,” Koning says. And they are already well on their way.

In 2017, GSA was officially certified as a Women-Owned Business. Koning is both proud of this distinction and thankful for the help it has afforded her company. “[The certification] has helped us quite a bit… It’s been very helpful for people to recognize, you know, that we’re for real.”

Remember the competition that didn’t take her seriously and tried to buy her out? Today, you could search their products on the internet along with the word “complaints” and get pages and pages of results.

Run the same search with GSA? You won’t find a single one.

“That’s a crown jewel I’m really proud of,” she says, “that people really like our software.” GSA’s applications are now being used in hotels and resorts across the nation, and it’s the first company clients like Wyndham Worldwide approach when looking for new software.

GSA has also teamed up with Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Recently, Ben Franklin was looking to divide a technology loan between small companies, but when they found GSA, Ben Franklin awarded them the entire loan instead.

Koning couldn’t be more grateful for the financial support and is putting the loan to good use working toward building up the company.

GSA is putting the funds toward expansion and presentations at two trade shows, one this month and one in May, and they are the precursors to some large leaps forward. “We are getting ready to do a very large expansion,” Koning explains, “because from what I’ve understood, the trade shows are buying shows, and I’ve got people in place that are ready to come in, but I’ve got a feeling I’m going to need a whole lot more.”

One aspect of this expansion is a new software currently in development that was created in response to the growing violence in school systems. Because the software is still in development, few details have been released, but Koning’s reason for creating the new software is clear. “It’s basically because of, being a mother of four … I’m very moved when it comes to kids, and I was sitting, thinking the other day, watching what had happened in Florida, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh; this is how we’re going to fix this.’”

This is hardly the first time Koning’s software has centered on victimized children. GSA offers a downloadable screensaver that advocates for missing children. The Missing Children Screensaver was developed in cooperation with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and each time the screensaver is activated on a computer, it updates the content to the latest information available on these children.

Being featured on the screensaver comes at absolutely no cost to the family, and GSA runs the screensaver completely pro bono. “We were deemed by CNN as the modern-day milk carton,” she says. “I like to think that somewhere along the way, it helped somebody [reunite] with their family.”

Global Software Applications is more than a software development company. It is more than an industry leader. It is more than its title as a Women Owned Business. It is a trailblazing force of innovation and service founded and run on the pillars of family and community.

Koning sums it all up perfectly: “We’re different.” .

For more information about Global Software Applications, please visit www.globalsoftwareapplication.com. You can download the Missing Children Screensaver at www.missingkidssaver.com.

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