OBXtek leads 2014 Fast 50 for second year

OBXtek's growth has led it to the top of the 2014 Washington Technology Fast 50 for the second year in a row. CEO Bruce "Ed" Jesson shares how the company's strategy has remained steady.

For the second year in a row, OBXtek has captured the No. 1 spot on Washington Technology’s Fast 50 list as the company continues to grow from where it was last year.

With $37.9 million in revenue in 2013 and a compound annual growth rate of 281.38 percent over the past five years, OBXtek had a commanding lead over the other companies on the list.

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For the most part, things are business as usual without many changes from last year, said CEO Bruce “Ed” Jesson.  But the company has come a long way from its beginnings, when it started out as a sole proprietorship and was solely a consulting firm.

It was nothing but up once OBXtek decided to become incorporated, and switched its focus to IT engineering support, program management, software development, testing and information security.

Though Jesson couldn’t discuss many of the contracts the company holds, he mentioned a contract that the company recently won with the State Department, which was only just the beginning. “We won several other contracts after that,” Jesson said, mainly with civilian agencies.

Since last year, OBXtek has grown in size with an additional 188 employees, bringing the total to 362 employees. The company was fortunate enough to not lose any during the shutdown, as well. “Most of our contracts were funded for a full year, so we only had one contract that was temporarily shut down. We covered the salaries of our people during that period and did not have to lay them off. We were quite fortunate,” Jesson said.

To accommodate the bigger workforce, the company recently opened up an office space in Dunn Loring, Va., very close to its Tysons Corner, Va. headquarters.

And it pays to be an OBXtek employee. As residents of the D.C. metropolitan area might suspect, the “OBX” in OBXtek stands for Outer Banks, a popular vacationing spot in North Carolina. Jesson owns a house in the Outer Banks which he lends out to his employees who have gone above the call of duty, Jesson said.

“I’ve got people down there this week, and the rest of the summer is pretty much full with OBX employees,” he added.

Jesson prides his company in having a very short chain of command between project managers and the CEO in order to give his employees a sense of independence and develop them individually. And as the company’s employees grow, so the company has been growing, as well; in fact, OBXtek is almost completely out of the small business category.

Last year, Jesson said that within the next three years, OBXtek was looking to transition out of the small business category and onto bigger things. But this is trickier than one might suspect.

“[The transition] depends a little bit on NAICS codes: the government has codes for the goods and services that it buys, and based on that code, they determine what a small business is in terms of either revenue or number of employees,” said COO Dale Spencer.

“We’ve grown out of some of them already, we will grow out of another set of them at the end of this year, and then we will still be considered small business in a third set for the foreseeable future,” he added.

As the company grows, it is not looking to take on new areas of business, Jesson said. Instead, OBXtek will be looking to expand in the areas in which it is already working. The company has its eye in particular on the information assurance work that it is doing, Spencer said.

Jesson is optimistic about the future and sees OBXtek continuing to grow. Things are better than they were last year; “We’re glad to see that there’s a budget this year and that we’re able to move forward without that hanging over our head again,” he said.

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