Focus feeds ORI success story
- By Mark Hoover
- Sep 29, 2014
Last week, ORI won three task orders totaling $22 million under a $150 million Labor Department blanket purchase agreement that the company won in July 2013, marking yet another success for company’s strategy.
The task orders call for data collection services, something that the company has done since 1988, when founders Kathleen Benson and Susan Lynd did data collection in Benson’s basement. “And we have grown over the years to be a full-service research firm, due to the questions and requirements of our customers,” said Benson, now ORI president.
The Herndon, Va., company started doing commercial work but made a concerted effort seven years ago to focus on the federal market, Benson said. The company now straddles both spaces, with customers like the Labor Department, the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Personnel Management, along with many commercial clients.
As for the work under the new task orders, it is very high-pressure and time-critical, she said.
“We are to provide the Bureau of Labor Statistics with timely and accurate data so they can put that information into the big overall report that they provide the first Friday of every month,” Benson said. “With those tight deadlines, we’re managing a lot of people – we have over 400 people that are working on this contract at six different sites, so it really is challenging.”
But for ORI, people are its biggest asset, with the company spending a lot on employee engagement. “We’re constantly looking at production and deliverables so that we keep people focused, keep them striving to hit and exceed their numbers,” Benson said.
As for the types of employees the company looks for, ORI seeks entrepreneurs to keep the small business approach the company has always had, Benson said. Being entrepreneurs themselves, Benson and Lynn can relate well with their employees. “We’re really involved with the company on a daily basis, and anything we do here, Sue and I know how to do it, too.”
That’s also what helps differentiate ORI from competitors, Benson said. “We have showcased to the government that we’re a part of the whole contract,” she said, as opposed to detached overseers.
The company owes its work with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to its leadership's focus and to its past performance, Benson said. ORI won a piece of this work in 2007, allowing them to show the agency that they were qualified.
Going forward, the company is going to have to learn how to do more with less, like most companies have to do, she said.
“One of the areas that we’re really focused on is our technology, and we’re trying to utilize technology as best we can, but we’re also looking at ways that we can develop our own intellectual property because that would be a differentiator for us – not only in how we manage, but also in bringing the technology into that mix,” Benson said.
To that end, ORI is working on a couple of initiatives related to high-value research and will be developing prototypes that the company intends to release in four to six months’ time, Benson said. She declined to go into detail on what areas the initiatives are focused on.
Other than that, ORI will “continue to mentor and hire the right employees with the right traits we want to see as we go forward,” Benson said.
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.