OBXtek takes top spot on 2013 Fast 50
Company uses incentives, independence to fuel growth
- By Mark Hoover
- Aug 26, 2013
There’s nothing like a good incentive to get your employees to work hard, and that’s definitely part of the equation at OBXtek, which landed the top spot on Washington Technology’s 2013 Fast 50 list.
With $29.6 million in revenue in 2012 and a compound annual growth rate of 302.9 percent over the past five years, OBXtek was almost 100 percentage points ahead of the next company on the list.
The company started out with just one employee: CEO Bruce “Ed” Jesson. Not only that, but it started as a sole proprietorship and was strictly a consulting firm. Then, on April 15, 2009, the company became incorporated and launched as an IT services firm.
Company leaders decided incorporation was the right thing to do because they wanted to go full blast into the government market, Jesson said. OBXtek specializes in IT engineering support, program management, software development, testing and information security.
A subcontract with the Social Security Administration helped the company get on its feet, and it now has contracts with a variety of agencies. For example, it manages and maintains the IT infrastructure at the Veterans Affairs Department, the Labor Department and the General Services Administration.
Jesson is especially proud of the company’s contract with the State Department, which he could not discuss in detail other than to say that OBXtek is providing the department with various levels of subject-matter expertise.
And now the million-dollar question: What’s with the name OBXtek? If you’re from the Washington, D.C., area, chances are that you recognize OBX; it stands for Outer Banks of North Carolina, a popular vacation spot for people in the D.C. area.
“It dawned on me that up in the Northern Virginia/Maryland area, you’ve got 10,000 people with these bumper stickers that say OBX,” Jesson said. He decided that naming the company OBXtek was a good way to get noticed.
The “tek” in OBXtek has a double meaning. Not only does it evoke “technology,” it also serves as an acronym for “Technology Enhancing Knowledge,” which is what the company does.
“We get all of this information from whatever source, and you’ve got to have some way of using technology to put it in a manner that people can understand, [so they] can actually use it for knowledge to make the decisions that they have to make,” Jesson said.
The Outer Banks plays into the incentive for hard work because Jesson owns a beach house there, which he occasionally offers to his employees and their families.
“We provide our employees, especially some of the ones who go way beyond the call of duty, a week down at the beach house for themselves and their families,” Jesson said.
Luckily, OBXtek’s employees are allowed to shine. The company’s culture emphasizes independence and strives to build a cohesive group of independent and individual thinkers.
What helps the company achieve that vision is a short chain of command between project managers and the CEO, Jesson said.
“Those PMs become the eyes, the ears and the key managers in our chain,” Jesson said. “We don’t have four or five VPs above them who are processing paperwork, which allows us to keep our costs down.”
Right now, the company has 174 employees, and counting.
As for what the future holds for OBXtek, company leaders plan to make big changes soon, namely by shedding the small-business designation.
“I think the first issue we’re looking at is the eventuality of not being a small business, and we’re looking at ways to prepare ourselves for that transition,” Jesson said.
He suspects the change will happen in the next three years. In the meantime, he added, the company is doing what it needs to do now so that it can be ready for growth in the future.
Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.