Adversity sparks CollabraLink's push into federal market

CollabraLink grabs the No. 43 spot on this year's Fast 50 by building on the idea of helping customers achieve quicker and more efficient results. Leading executives share their recipe for success.

Grabbing the No. 43 spot on this year’s Fast 50 list is CollabraLink Technologies, a company built on the idea of helping customers achieve quicker and more efficient results.

With 2012 revenue of $6.9 million, the company secured its spot with a compound annual growth rate of 55.6 percent over the past five years.

CollabraLink was founded in 2003 by CEO Yash Pandhi. The company worked in the commercial sector until 2008, when the economy took a turn for the worse. At that point, CollabraLink President (and Yash’s son) Rahul Pandhi helped push the company toward the federal market.

When the company started chasing federal contracts, it only had the father-and-son duo. Now, the company has nearly 70 employees and is about to add 30 more due to a $50 million single-award contract from the Education Department.

“We’re looking at touching the 100-employee mark right around the November/December time frame,” Rahul Pandhi said.

The Pandhis based their decision to pursue federal contracts on the wealth of IT experience that both men had.

“I was at Accenture, and my father had gained an expertise in a niche area called BPM, or business process management,” Rahul Pandhi said.

The two decided they would provide consulting services to anyone with bottlenecked processes and use technology to help them automate those processes. It was about using “technology to bring efficiency through process automation,” Pandhi said.

As for the name CollabraLink, “we were using technology and software to link people and allow them to collaborate on work,” he said.

So far, things have been working out well for the company. “We knew that all of our expertise in automating processes would really be well served in the government environment where you’ve got these massive, massive processes,” Pandhi said.

To help the company reach the federal market, he applied to participate in the General Services Administration’s Schedule 70 and the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program for small, disadvantaged businesses.

“Once those things came through, I started marketing because I knew going out there and talking to customers and not having a way for them to get to me would be a big waste of time,” Pandhi said.

Most companies try their hand at subcontracting first and then figure out how to become a prime contractor. “We took the opposite approach,” Pandhi said. “We just went out and started priming work right away, and I think that really served us well.”

The first contract CollabraLink won was a full and open bid under Schedule 70 for software development and process automation services for the Army’s Warrior Transition Command, which helps wounded soldiers transition back to active duty or to veteran status.

“I didn’t know any better,” Pandhi said. “I didn’t know I was bidding against Lockheed and Northrop. But we bid on the work, and we were lower priced than all of our competitors and we won.”

“We still hold that contract today, it’s a cornerstone of our company,” he added.

The software CollabraLink built under that contract is used to create transition plans for wounded soldiers, Pandhi said. “We’re really proud of that work,” he added.

Despite the company’s success, Pandhi does see some challenges ahead. “The biggest challenge that I foresee for our firm is really managing to grow in a kind of smart fashion,” he said.

A related issue is bringing new employees on board rapidly. “It’s trying to grow in a fashion where growth doesn’t become your downfall,” he added.

The best way that CollabraLink has found to manage its growth so far is by building a strong and talented leadership team, including the recent hire of Luana Lewis, former senior executive of Accenture and senior VP at Acentia, to be its chief operating officer, Pandhi said.

“We have really aggressive goals and a really aggressive mindset about the future,” he said. “It’s a good challenge to have.”

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