Focus lays groundwork for success

S4 Inc. specializes in information
domain-based solutions and services
for Defense Department clients.
The Burlington, Mass.-based company
reported $16.8 million in government contracting
revenue last year, up from $9.12
million in 2006. Overall, S4 has registered a
74.54 percent growth rate in the past five
years to rank No. 37 on the 2008 Fast 50 list.

S4 provides services to DOD in two
major domains, said Chandu Shah, president
and chief executive officer. Enterprise
information technology support services
include help desk, networking and
engineering.

The other domain is information effects
support, "which is all the strategic communications,
planning, policy and information
operations,"
he said.

Although
Burlington is
home to S4's support
staff, more
than half of the
company's employees
are located at Wright-Patterson Air
Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and in
Arlington, Va. The rest are at Air Force
bases in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts,
Nebraska, Texas and Utah.

Shah formed S4 in 1999 when he purchased
a five-person contractor that had
been partnering with Northrop Grumman
Corp. and was looking for a buyer.
As a result of the successful partnering
with Northrop Grumman and other contract
work, S4 won its first prime contract, a
$7 million award from the Customs and
Border Protection agency, at the end of
2001. Work began the next year, and "by
then, we had a couple of Air Force contracts
that we won as a prime contractor," he said.

Small companies typically grow through
subcontracts, but S4 began bidding early
for prime contracts. "If you're a prime,
you're in control of how the contracts are
performed, how the contracts are shared
with the team," he said.

In addition to Northrop Grumman, S4
now has ties with General Dynamics Corp.
and Lockheed Martin Corp., in addition to
several smaller companies.

The company graduated from its 8(a)
small-business status in May. Shah said
many 8(a) companies struggle and fail after
graduation because they depend too much
on the program and its sole-source contracts.

"I knew those danger areas early on,
and so we were building a solid foundation
halfway into the program," Shah said.

His best advice to new small companies
hoping to win federal contracts is to stay
focused and network. "Work very hard
and attend a lot of conferences," he said.
"That's where you meet the decision-makers."

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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