Midsize contractor of the Year: Mary Frances leMat

Mary Frances leMat

Zaid Hamid

Mary Frances leMat won't take credit for making Social & Scientific Systems Inc. a successful business focused on improving global public health. But the Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards has done it for her, naming leMat as its 2005 Midsize Company Executive of the Year.

"I do not view this as an award for me. I view it as a recognition of our company and its successes, and the successes of all the people who have been here working with me and doing the real work," said leMat, chief executive officer of the company.

The "real work" for Social & Scientific Systems of Silver Spring, Md., is waging the global battle against HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

The company does biomedical research support, coordinates domestic and international clinical research networks and offers research, survey, evaluation and other services for disease research and public health outreach programs.

Social & Scientific Systems also offers health research software development; does statistical analysis, database management and system design for public health researchers; and develops strategies for international HIV/AIDS and other health and development programs.

Founded in 1978 by leMat, Herbert Miller and Denis Ables, the company has grown significantly since 1997, when leMat was named president following Miller's death. Then, Social & Scientific Systems had 224 employees and annual revenue of $37 million. Today, the company boasts a staff of 500 and projects annual revenue this year at more than $115 million.

The growth, according to leMat, is a result of two acquisitions and the company's work with the National Institutes of Health.

This year, Social and Scientific Systems bought Coda Research Inc., a Silver Spring, Md., research and project management company. In 2002, the purchase of TvT Associates Inc. of Washington brought in expertise in design, monitoring and evaluation of international health programs.

"Both of those acquisitions significantly increased our revenue, but the growth of our cooperative agreement work with NIH also contributed to our growth in revenue," leMat said.

It is leMat who guided the company into its employee-owned status. Employees own 82 percent of the company's stock, and within the next two years, they'll own 100 percent, she said. The shift is important, leMat said, "to get the returns of the successes of the company into hands of those who made it possible: the employees."

Winning a Government Contractor Award, however, depends on more than contributions to a company's internal success. Executives also were judged on personal contributions to leadership in the community, to the government contracting industry and leadership of the company.

leMat's greatest contributions may be to her community. She serves on boards for the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the Career Transition Center and the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce. The Women Business Owners of Montgomery County, Md., the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and the Technology Council of Maryland also have honored her, and the Small Business Council of America named her 2005 Humanitarian of the Year.

The company always had done holiday season community service projects, but leMat felt it could do more. With the enthusiastic support of her employees, she helped create the Community Service Committee, which coordinates company charitable events.

"I do it because I feel like it's the right thing to do," she said. "I feel that many of our employees enjoy doing it within the company, and I'm sure many more employees do it during their personal lives. It's important to me that that be part of the equation."

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