Insignia's situational awareness feeds success
Mission focus helps it thrive in tough times
- By Richard W. Walker
- Jul 28, 2011
Fred O’Brien, CEO of Insignia Technology Services LLC, has an idea about
what companies have to do to drive business in a turbulent government
budget environment: “It’s important for organizations to constantly look at how to reinvent themselves and have situational awareness.”
Insignia, a 90-employee firm located in Newport News, Va., is a case
in point. Offering a range of IT services, from system and software
engineering to help desk and desktop support, Insignia has won two Army
contracts and other Defense Department contracts since 2006, the year it
was founded. But anticipating that DOD budgets were going to shrink in
the coming years, company executives started to focus on competing for
awards from other, non-DOD agencies. In particular, they targeted the
Veterans Affairs Department, O’Brien said.
“About a year ago, we sat down and said, ‘What’s our strategy for
continuing to diversify across different market segments? Let’s really
understand the mission of the VA, get some small jobs there, work with
the clients and build up a reputation,’ ” he said.
Last September, the strategy began to net results when Insignia won a
$5 million award from the VA to convert legacy applications and
databases into modern application structures. But the big reward came in
late June: Insignia was one of five awardees on a $480 million,
multiple-award task order contract to provide IT services to VA.
The five companies, including heavy hitters Hewlett-Packard
Enterprise Services and SRA International, will compete for task orders
under the Veterans Relationship Management IT Solutions and Support
“That’s pretty cool,” O’Brien said. “HP was a winner. SRA was a
winner. And a small, little business in Newport News was a winner.”
O’Brien also credits Insignia’s ability to make a decision and
quickly compete for the contract as a factor in capturing the VA award.
“One of the reasons we won this award is that we were able to get
together, make a decision and turn around a response in 13 days,” he
said. “Very few large businesses could respond that quickly. I think
it’s a benefit of being a small business, and it works well for us.”
For a five-year-old company, Insignia has made impressive strides in
the government market, its annual revenues rising sharply to $10.9
million last year from just $135,622 in 2006. Along with CEO O’Brien,
the firm is also led by David La Clair, its president. The company ranks
No. 4 on the 2011 Fast 50 with a compound annual growth rate of 199.76
In addition to astute marketing strategies and agility, Insignia
executives see their employees as a key asset. About a third of the
employees are military veterans, a third come from industry and another
third from academic backgrounds, O’Brien said.
“We invest heavily in our employees and our workforce,” he said. “We
allow those individuals a little latitude. We call it generating
opportunities. We provide a framework for them to be successful — the
right tools, the right environment, the ability to make decisions. We
try to foster a culture that makes everybody think about how they can
add value [to the business]. Obviously, we’ve been rewarded by following
Insignia prepares for growth by grooming senior leaders and program
managers who can manage and take ownership of critical company areas.
“We try to make sure we bring in the right leaders,” O’Brien said. “We
work with them for a while and make sure we put them in the right
position so he or she can be successful. That allows us to scale.”
A service-disabled veteran-owned small business under the Social
Security Administration, Insignia also is adamant about finding the
right fit with clients. “There are a lot of opportunities that we won’t
pursue because we don’t believe in the mission of the client, or it’s
not the right environment for our workforce,” O’Brien said. “We try to
find opportunities out there that align with our core competencies and
have missions that we really believe in, like the Army Department or the
Veterans Affairs Department.”
The company currently holds contracts with the Army Training and
Doctrine Command to help deliver Web-based training to soldiers around
the world and with the Army’s Non-Commissioned Officer Education System
for supporting a customized learning management application and
deploying it to end users via the Web.
Looking to the future, Insignia executives feel that diversification,
across both market segments and among areas of expertise, is the way to
continued success. “We just want to make sure that we’re well
diversified across markets where we believe we can add value,” O’Brien
said. One of the areas they’re taking a look at is the health care
market, he said.
As for future revenues, Insignia is “closing the books this year at
about $14 million,” O’Brien said. Officials expect significant growth in
revenue over the next couple of years, in the neighborhood of $40
million to $45 million, he added.
Richard W. Walker is a freelance writer based in Maryland.