Entrepreneur Spotlight

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ENTREPRENEUR SPOTLIGHT

Jeannette Lee approaches management of her company, Sytel Inc., much the same as a general might prepare for battle - every possibility is considered while a vigilant eye is kept on what is actually about to transpire.

"Managing a hyper-growth company (a company experiencing over 100 percent growth per year) is very challenging," said Lee. "Balancing a sound management approach with an ability to see ahead in the industry can be hard."

Sytel is an 8(a) firm that provides solutions to civilian and defense government clients and commercial organizations nationwide. Lee has packaged the company into four divisions that specialize in different areas: systems integration, network engineering, information technology and outsourcing services.

Current contracts include agreements with the General Services Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Commerce and Department of Health and Human Services. Sytel also partners on government contracts with a number of larger companies including Electronic Data Systems Corp., Systems Applications International Corp., Unisys Corp. and Computer Sciences Corp. Its systems integration division has business with Dell Computer Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Bay Networks Inc. and IBM Corp.

Founded by Lee in 1987, the company has grown from initial revenues of $4,000 to $16 million in 1995. Company revenues are projected to reach $34 million in 1996.

Lee, however, does not attribute Sytel's growing success entirely to its larger partners.

"No one company really catapulted us," said Lee. "It had to be a win-win situation for both companies. I think we have always done a good job of showing what we can do," Lee said.

The fate of Sytel, as for all 8(a) companies, will lie in the company's ability to survive after it graduates in 1998 from the Small Business Administration's program.

By signing contracts that reach beyond that period, Lee is hopeful that Sytel can navigate a buffer period and shift its predominant government focus toward a mix where 40 percent are commercial accounts.

Lee is a firm believer that the 8(a) program gives minority business owners a foot in the door but does not guarantee a company's success. She hopes that the approach she and others at Sytel have developed to attract a steady stream of business will bode well for the company after it moves on from the 8 (a) program.

"We always acted like we were not a sheltered business," said Lee. "But if we want to maintain a level of success we will have to remain alert."

- Matt Hines


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