Strategy 1: Move to Washington

WAM!NET Government Services' Michael Barbee: "Nothing can make up for the geographic proximity to the customer."

One of the first things Michael Barbee did after joining WAM!NET Government Services in 2001 was move the unit of Eagan, Minn.-based WAM!NET Inc. to Herndon, Va.

"Nothing can make up for geographic proximity to the customer," Barbee said. "That has made a huge difference. We can call a customer and say 'Can we come chat this afternoon?' "

What he did next proved serendipitous, Barbee said. When he moved the government unit to Herndon, Barbee offered relocation packages to 15 staff members, but only one accepted.

"I was disappointed and concerned about the transition," Barbee said, "but as it turned out, we were able to replace them with people who had much more experience in the government market space," in areas such as law and contracts.

Barbee also brought in a seasoned business development staff, led by Jay McCargo, who had more than 15 years experience at NCI Information Systems Inc., Unisys Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc.

Such experience, and McCargo's contacts, were essential for the success of WAM!NET Government Services, Barbee said. The unit, which designs, deploys and manages secure enterprisewide network solutions, has 450 employees and $25 million in annual revenue.

"It's easy to alienate customers if you ask things such as 'What is an RFI?' " or try to talk to a procurement officer after the request for quote has been issued, Barbee said. "You could get your company in trouble."

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