How SAVA grabbed the top spot on the 2011 Fast 50

After David Poirier became general manager of SAVA Workforce Solutions in 2008, annual revenues and employee numbers began to increase almost immediately. Today it ranks at the top of the 2011 Fast 50.

SAVA Workforce Solutions’ revenues showed virtually no growth In 2006 and 2007, increasing a paltry $6,886 from $170,266 to $177,152.

A management change at the end of SAVA’s fiscal year in September 2008, brought in David Poirier as general manager. Annual revenues and employees began to increase almost immediately.

The company went from its initial four employees to 400 today, many of them with high-level security clearances. At the same time revenues jumped from $1.76 million in 2008 to $31.4 million in 2009, putting SAVA in the No. 2 spot on the 2010 Fast 50.

Last year, the company nearly doubled that figure, reporting $56.1 million, putting SAVA in the No. 1 position on the 2011 Fast 50 with a five-year, compound annual growth rate of 326.05 percent.

“We just got a lot more focused about our business development,” Poirier replied when asked to explain the soaring numbers.

“We worked really, really hard and we tried to find out exactly what our customers’ issues were and how we might be able to help them,” he said.

Poirier also attributes the extraordinary growth to SAVA’s focused concentration on its three customer communities – defense, intelligence, and law enforcement and security.

SAVA calls its triad business strategy “Connecting Common Missions.”

He cited as an example the company’s expertise in terrorist watch list technology and database management that has led to classified work across the intelligence community.

“Business process management has been big for us; we’re pretty strong in that and we’ve helped some government clients become much more efficient because we understood their world,” he said. “We had an idea how we might automate some things for them that used to be somewhat manual or completely manual.”

SAVA also has made a concerted effort to hire only exceptionally talented people and to pay them accordingly by keeping company overhead as low as possible – no corporate jets or excessive parties and functions, and “not over the top” office space, Poirier said.

“The more revenue we can put into hiring quality people, the better the payoff there’s going to be for us,” he added. “And that has paid off.”

The company also takes a conservative approach to acquisitions – it has made none – and to its contract bids.

“We bid not to make a lot of profit but to have growth on volume instead of trying to achieve a certain amount of margin on each deal,” he explained.

Poirier credited recognition of the company’s recent past performance for SAVA having been selected last October as one of the prime vendors on the FBI’s eight-year, $30 billion Information Technology Supplies and Support Services contract vehicle.

So far, SAVA has not won any of the few low-priced task orders that have been issued.

“But two years before [our] bid went in, there wasn’t much to SAVA. It’s difficult to compete on something like that when you don’t have many, many years of past performance,” he said.

“I think what helps you compete and win in situations like that is the past performance that you have is exceptional and ours is on every contract that we’ve performed on. And our pricing is really, really good,” he added.

Poirier said he is now looking into enterprise IT solutions “that are a little bit more creative than we see today” as perhaps SAVA’s next area of opportunity in the government market.

“There are lots of things that are changing in that area,” he said, adding that SAVA is looking at some innovative information security ideas such as a low cost way to protect data as it flows across the enterprise.

Poirier acknowledged that he remains optimistic about the future of federal contracting even as the government is leaning toward more insourcing.

He said the key to winning contracts in this fiscally tight era is to bid with the best people you can, and that goes back to his decision to balance top talent and cost-cutting.

“If your overhead rates are low,” he explained, “you’ll stand a better chance of winning."

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