Small Contractor of the Year: McDonald Bradley Inc.

"We focused on two to three key technology areas ... we drove to those focus areas, and we drove to the strategic plan, and it made all the difference in the world."

Kenneth Bartee, McDonald Bradley

Zaid Hamid

McDonald Bradley Inc. celebrated its 20th anniversary in style by winning the 2005 Greater Washington Government Award for Small Contractor of the Year.

But planning for that celebration began in 1995, a year after President and Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Bartee joined the privately held Herndon, Va., company, then as chief financial officer. In the early 1990s, the company lacked focus and, with annual revenue hovering around $3 million, it was losing money. Then it got serious about its future, Bartee said, and in 1995 it held the first of its strategic planning sessions.

Those planning sessions helped put McDonald Bradley back on track, and the strategy has continued to help McDonald Bradley achieve an average annual growth rate of 32 percent since 1994.

"We focused on two to three key technology areas, and those have changed over time," Bartee said, "but we drove to those focus areas, and we drove to the strategic plan, and it made all the difference in the world."

The Small Contractor of the Year honor is for companies with less than $75 million in annual revenue. Companies are judged on quality of work life, community service, revenue, significant accomplishments and government customer testimonials.

One of the key components of McDonald Bradley's success is its Strategic Technology Advisory Council, Bartee said. The group of in-house technology experts studies trends, looks for industry opportunities and imparts its knowledge to key company executives in annual strategy sessions. The group's contributions have been essential to the company's success, Bartee said.
"It did two things. One: It gave us a different look at what was going on. And two: It gave our employees the belief that we're listening to them, and that they have the ability to shape where the company is going," Bartee said. "I believe that is very important to most people, and in a small organization, it's extremely important to believe that you can help drive the company where it's trying to get to."

McDonald Bradley also created an employee group to oversee charitable contributions. If employees have a charity they want to give to, or if they want funding for a charity event, they can go to the employee board and ask for money, Bartee said.

"It's amazing how proud somebody is when they do a bike race, and we do a $250 sponsorship for them," he said.

McDonald Bradley has about 285 employees and $56.9 million in 2004 sales. The company's business plan extends to 2010 and, according to Bartee, focuses on IT solutions and data sharing issues. It's a winning strategy, he said, predicting continued growth for the company with revenue rising to $170 million annually by 2010.

Attentively tracking the changing IT business environment is another element of McDonald Bradley's successful strategy, he said. That vigilance has prompted a latest prediction: Another shift may be on the way. Budgets will move to fund more civil-service oriented IT projects, Bartee said, and McDonald Bradley will be ready and waiting to lead the way.

"The funding in intelligence and the Defense Department has been extremely high since 9/11 and, in my experience, these things run in cycles," he said. "A lot of the technologies we're in now ? service-oriented architectures ? we're going to start seeing that finally start to get some roots in the civil sector."

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