World Wide Technology Inc.

David Steward, president St. Louis, Mo.
Contracts: $88.191 million

Maybe the Midwest doesn't have policy and politics in the air like Washington, but maybe Midwesterners don't care either.

Distance from the nation's capital and the heart of government contracting didn't deter David Steward from pushing his St. Louis-based company, World Wide Technology Inc., into the federal market in 1992.

"I saw that the government was spending something like $25 billion a year on information technology," Steward said.

St. Louis also is a regional hub of federal opportunities with several Defense Department and civilian agencies in the area. They include Scott Air Force Base and General Services Administration facilities.

The federal government "is a hidden market here in the Midwest," he said.

In 1992, the company gained 8(a) status and started pursuing projects in the federal market such as imaging and work flow management, networking and telecommunications.

But Steward knew that it was a different market from the commercial work his company had been pursuing since he founded it in 1990.

"We knew we had to learn a new way of doing business," he said. "We spent a lot of time and effort with contracting officers and project managers learning the whole process."

The local office of the Small Business Administration, which oversees the 8(a) program, was "extremely helpful," Steward said.

The result is that after four years, World Wide Technology ranked second among 8(a) IT companies that did business with the federal government last year. About half of World Wide's $82 million in revenues in 1996 came from the government; the rest was from commercial customers, Steward said.

The research firm Input, Vienna, Va., said the company had about $88 million in obligations from the federal government. Obligations are the amount the government has agreed to pay for goods and services from a company.

One of the keys to the company's success, Steward said, is that he has always believed in reinvesting in his company and building its capabilities.

For example, the company has an extensive intranet that delivers human resources, he said. Customers also have access so they can check on order status and pricing. After building an intranet for themselves, World Wide Technology now builds similar systems for their customers, Steward said.

"We are always trying to differentiate ourselves," he said.

Customer service also is a key. Every paycheck that goes out to World Wide Technology's 140 employees bears the slogan, "A satisfied customer made this check possible."

"Our best salesmen have been our customers," Steward said.

One of those happy customers is Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts. World Wide Technology has been providing off-the-shelf hardware and software for the Air Force's global command and control system project for two years, said Lt. Col. Phillip Roberts, deputy program manager.

"We are fielding the system at all Air Force locations worldwide including National Guard and Reserve facilities," he said. The system is being built by the Defense Information Systems Agency and will provide links from national command centers all the way to the foxhole, Roberts said.

World Wide Technology's success with the Air Force is evident in that there is no contract between them. All the purchases have been off of the GSA schedule, Roberts said.

If the Air Force was not happy with World Wide Technology, the service could simply go to someone else. "There are lots of options available to us," he said.

Steward said he sees the government remaining an important part of his business but faster growth is coming from the commercial side of the house. He expects 1997 revenues to reach $140 million to $150 million.

"We've been blessed," he said.

- Nick Wakeman

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