Sabina Gault – Founder & CEO, Konnect

Sabina Gault is the CEO of Konnect, an award-winning communications and marketing agency with offices in Los Angeles, New York and Austin, TX.

A seasoned and passionate PR and marketing practitioner, Sabina’s approach to client service, strategic communications, and measurable results are apparent in Konnect’s rapid rise from a startup to a mid-size agency with an average annual growth rate of 60 percent. With more than 50 employees across its 3 offices, Sabina leads a team of dedicated staffers who provide a boutique-level personalized service combined with an adept ability to effectively build brands that has resulted in a long list of legacy clients.

As a working mother and the entrepreneur behind a WBENC-certified, women-owned business, Sabina has a passion for the challenges and rewards that stem from successfully balancing family and career. This passion is evident in Konnect’s relationships with brands that serve families and children, as well as its work with clients in the franchise space and the artisanal “better-for-you” food and beverage industry.

Since founding the agency in 2009, Konnect has been named the #1 PR Agency on the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing U.S. Companies” list, three years in a row, and was included on the Los Angeles Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” listing among many other accolades.

Running a company in an ever-changing environment (where magazines close their doors weekly, social media channels come and go faster than anyone can keep up with, and marketing strategies are constantly evolving) brings on some serious challenges.

However, Sabina applies her scrappy attitude to running the company on a tight budget, always looking at the bottom line and keeping track of the numbers. She started the company with the philosophy that she needs to surround herself with intelligent people that have experience in running successful companies. She built a culture where people love coming to work and enjoy putting their best foot forward on a daily basis, rather than clocking in and out. But most of all, she worked the hardest. She set the tone for a culture of leading by example, and that example was that hard work pays off!

Sabina is a graduate of Berkeley and currently resides in Long Beach, California with her amazing husband and two children who keep her grounded and contribute to the motivation that drives her success.

Tell me about your early career.
I started my career in PR in Romania (where I am originally from) and moved with a job (also in PR) to the United States about 15 years ago. I’ve never done anything else other than PR, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience a wide range of industries, from TV and film to entertainment and consumer. All these have helped me understand the field better, allowed me the opportunity to cross between the various channels of communications seamlessly, and ultimately to become a better communicator myself. For the last ten years, I have been working with entrepreneurs in the consumer-packaged goods arena. I’ve seen the rise and fall of businesses and have had an intimate knowledge of what makes a brand succeed. That’s been extremely exciting and interesting, and it’s helped me have a better understanding of what to do in my own business.

How did the concept for Konnect come about?
Where I come from, the concept of entrepreneurship was not something you learned about in school or saw people in your circle do. So unlike many, I did not necessarily start out by having a dream of building a successful company or growing a thriving business. I started out with a job, but found myself enjoying the business part of things. I also realized I wasn’t the best employee – I was opinionated and strong-willed and relentless when it came to what I believed in. So, rather than planning to start a company, I quit my job and was followed by two clients who had no interest in working with anyone else. And thus, Konnect was born.

How was the first year in business?
Compared to now, easy! I had one or two employees, several clients, and a good amount of time! Growing the business was fun and I was able to have personal relationships with everyone (from the team or client side). I was lucky to have close friends (and clients) who had been in business for a long time act as advisors on my own business growth. That made all the difference and thanks to them, I made less costly mistakes and learned to run a business efficiently.

What was your marketing strategy?
Same as today. Put people first. Strong, truthful relationships with clients and business partners make all the difference. Clients don’t leave the company – they leave the people in it! So, beyond ensuring that we provide the best service, we always build a long-lasting relationship with the people based on trust, understanding, respect, and results.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We have doubled in size, year-over-year. Last year, we did about 40% and this year we are probably going to do 20% or so in growth. It’s obviously harder the larger the company gets. Next year will mark 10 years since I hired my first employee (who is still working alongside me today).

How do you define success?
In any business, there are so many facets that one can define success by. For me, it’s the client and staff tenure on one end, tight financials on another, as well as overall personal happiness. Obviously, the first two are much easier to measure – how long do people stay, and how good are our numbers. The third one is tricky. But I’d say that feeling good about what I do and who I do it with on a daily basis, is a good measure of happiness.

What is the key to success?
Well, it all depends on how one measures success. For me, the key is hard work and putting people first – that’s what accomplishes my first two measures of success. The key to happiness lies somewhere within and quite frankly depends heavily on the people I surround myself with, and the filter I choose when I look at the world. For me, success is much more than money, notoriety, and running a good business. It’s about the memories you create for yourself, your family, and the people around you while you are in that business.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I have to think about this one. I have learned so many. But one of the greatest is that no matter what, truth should always come first. In my industry, we are used to changing perspective, to make people think the way we (or our clients) want. We are always filtering information and choosing what people should and shouldn’t see. And while truth should prevail in all business, it is that much more prevalent in PR.

What are some quotes that you live by?
There are many, but “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” is one of my favorites.

What are some of your favorite books?
I’m a huge fan of Simon Sinek and Jim Collins, among others. Just finished reading Simon’s Leaders Eat Last and loved it. I’m actually making the entire company read it because I think it speaks so truly to the climate we live in. Jim’s books Good to Great and Great by Choice continue to inspire me and are shining beacons of how businesses around the world should run.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
It was about two years ago. We had opened two offices, one in Texas and one in New York, and my entire executive team was focused on them. We wanted to make sure they will succeed (oh, and this “open two offices in one year” should probably go up there with lessons learned – don’t do it!). So, that year our lives were spent on the road. What we didn’t realize then was that we took our eye off of our home office, and things started to crumble. What had been a strong, collaborative environment, without leadership in place, became a mad house. We lost 60% or more of our LA team in a matter of two months. We couldn’t hire fast enough and we couldn’t seem to keep people long enough. The culture was suffering and the business started to suffer. As things got frantic, and the battle between keeping people on board and clients calm, and me finding piece of mind and continuing to grow, the business came to a head. I realized that nothing more than the people mattered. That day when the storm finally stopped and quietness rolled in was the hardest. Looking at the aftermath and deciding how to start putting the pieces back together (as well as realizing the time it was going to take to do so) was incredibly hard!

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I personally have a strong desire to not let anything stand in my way. It’s part of who I am and how I was raised, but also where I come from. But I also think about the people in my life and how me not moving forward will affect them (and their families). When you own a business, it’s no longer about you (contrary to popular belief). It’s about the people you lead and how you are impacting their lives on a daily basis. So, wanting to do well by others is an equally strong force.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Buckle up! It’s a wild ride. From the day you make your first dollar to your hundredth million (or more), you are challenged to an extreme, pushed into situations you would never get yourself into (in your right mind), and asked to constantly weigh the good and the bad against the status quo. The choices you make impact you (as well as others) in ways that you cannot always control, but it is the most fulfilling thing you will ever do.

Zachary Harrison – Co-Founder & President, Platinum Drive Realty

Zachary Harrison is the president of Platinum Drive Realty, a full-service real estate firm assisting clients with properties located in Westchester, Manhattan, and Connecticut.

Zach founded Platinum Drive with his wife, Heather, and her grandmother, Sunny, who has been in the real estate business for over 40 years. The firm was created out of a belief that real estate should be a rewarding, professional and first-rate experience, with highly personalized, outstanding client service. The market has responded to the firm’s energetic and innovative approach. In 2015, Platinum Drive was honored in Inc. Magazine as one of the 1000 fastest-growing private companies in America and the fastest-growing real estate firm in the tri-state area.

Zach grew up in Westchester and attended Scarsdale High School, where he met his future wife, Heather. He went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania with a Master’s in Government Administration, and Fordham Law School, where he graduated in the top 20% of his class and was recognized as a four-time member of the dean’s list.

Prior to founding Platinum Drive, Zach worked in the investment banking division of one of the world’s largest banks, and as an attorney for an international law firm, where he handled substantial transactional matters, including the sale and financing of real estate and other assets. Zach also successfully litigated various complex commercial disputes on behalf of major clients in state and federal courts in New York and other jurisdictions throughout the United States, and served as an in-house counsel for an industry trade association. He has successfully closed over 500 transactional matters during the course of his career, and ensures that Platinum Drive agents handle all matters promptly and professionally, with the utmost care and discretion.

Zach has a strong belief in giving back to the community, and is involved in various philanthropic causes including the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports the fight against pediatric cancer, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

In 2015, Zach along with two colleagues were recognized in the REAL Trends/Wall Street Journal “Top Thousand” as one of the top real estate teams in the United States and the #1 real estate team by sales volume in Westchester County.

A broker committed to achieving the absolute best results for Platinum Drive clients, Zach is a member of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, the Connecticut MLS, Greenwich MLS, and the National Association of Realtors. Zach resides in the suburbs of New York City with his wife, Heather, and their children, Hayley and Jack.

Tell me about your early career.
I worked for an international law firm performing transactional work, litigation, as well as intellectual property law. I like to work in different areas and job functions, which really helps as an executive and business owner. I’ve always been interested in owning a business as well as public service. When I was growing up, it seemed that my friend’s parents, who had the most freedom, were successful business owners and that really made an impact on me. Also, my grandfather was friendly with President Kennedy in Boston and I heard a lot of stories about him growing up.

How did the concept for Platinum Drive Realty come about?
My wife and I purchased a home in the suburbs of New York City and we really shocked by how behind the times the real estate industry seemed to be. It was almost as if we were in a time machine back to a different era. We saw a real opportunity in the market for an exciting, cutting-edge real estate firm.

How was the first year in business?
It was really exciting and the support of friends and family was really special. I think a mistake some entrepreneurs make is thinking you can hide in a room somewhere and create a great business. You can’t do it alone. You need to be out there talking about your business, especially in the early days when you don’t have a large marketing budget.

What was your marketing strategy?
Our marketing strategy was to do everything possible to deliver outstanding results to our clients and simply outwork any others competing for the business. One happy client would tell two friends, and they would tell four friends who would become clients, and so on. Word of mouth is how to build a business with staying power.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We started carefully because the general market started to turn a few years after we started. We reinvested in our business and really stepped on the gas after the market began to rebound. We have been named in Inc. Magazine’s list of America’s fastest-growing companies for many years since.

How do you define success?
My definition of success is such that very few ever achieve it – companies and leaders that have changed people’s lives for the better on a massive scale and transformed the world in ways that no one thought possible. That’s the kind of success I’m referring to.

What is the key to success?
To achieve success on any level, you have to work extremely hard and be extremely persistent. I have seen some people just give up so they can do other things, which is fine, but to succeed in business, you have to focus like a laser on growing your business and making clients happy.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The United States, for all our challenges, is still the greatest country on the face of the earth. Take advantage of the opportunities and don’t be afraid to fail. If you have a great idea you think can make a positive impact, go for it!

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Just Do It” – Nike
“We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or to make it the last.” – John F. Kennedy

What are some of your favorite books?
One of my favorite business books is Start Small, Finish Big by Fred DeLuca.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
At the bottom of the real estate market in 2009, deals were challenging because it was difficult to get financing. On one day in 2009, we had a very large deal fall through because the buyers were unable to get financing, even through they had good jobs. That was a tough day. Some firms were not able to make it through those times, but we were very blessed to be able to make it through and thrive in the years that followed.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Some people look at successful people and think it was a smooth road that happened overnight. There are going to be challenges as you go. I know we had something when the high-end firms approached us hoping to acquire us, and the low-end firms starting getting upset and tried to play games to slow our success. It only made us work a thousand times harder and grow our business even more. You have to take it as a compliment. If you weren’t accomplishing anything, no one would care. The key is to recognize it for what it is and fight very hard.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Have a bias towards action. Don’t only think about it, but take a step forward every day on the path to the objective you are seeking to reach. Keep costs in check in the early days, especially if you don’t have capital. When making big company decisions, use conservative projections. If it still looks good with careful projections, then you’ll know the answer.

Brandon Fishman – Co-Founder & CEO, Internet Marketing Inc.

Brandon Fishman has over ten years of experience in the online marketing and advertising industries. He has co-founded five Internet companies and currently serves as the CEO of Internet Marketing Inc. His primary role is to oversee all U.S. and international sales and business development opportunities.

Brandon received his Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Emory University, his Master’s degree in Real Estate from the University of San Diego, and he also spent some time studying at The London School of Economics. Brandon is heavily involved in his community and works closely to help several charities and the San Diego Food Bank.

Brandon Fishman leads the sales team in their efforts to continually design the perfect strategy for each client. He coaches the IMI team in client selection and strategic planning in order to create a winning ROI for the client from the beginning of the campaign. Brandon works closely with the executive team to ensure that sales and operations are aligned and producing positive results for all clients.

Tell me about your early career.
I started at Deloitte Consulting in 2003. In 2004, I got my Master’s at the University of San Diego. I started an online advertising website for new high-rise condo buildings called NewCondosOnline. I grew it to $5 million a year within two years. The real estate crash hit and I knew I had to start something new so I used the Internet marketing skills I had learned to start IMI.

How was the first year in business?
2007 was a tough year. I was flying around the country meeting with anyone I could to stir up new clients. I had to do all the pitching and all the work myself most of the time until we hired people. I never slept but I kept on grinding and it paid off.

What was your marketing strategy?
We did SEO for ourselves. We got to #1 on Google for “Internet marketing company” and “Internet marketing agency”. A lot of business came to us and I used my network to get more, new clients.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We grew from $0 in 2007 to over $10 million by 2011.

How do you define success?
I really enjoy employing people. I feel successful that I get to employ over 100 people and that keeps me going every day. It is also nice to make a profit too 🙂

What is the key to success?
Passion and hard work. Entrepreneurship can be like a roller coaster and you have to stay strong during the swings.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I tend to rush to make decisions and I have learned I need to think first. I have made a few mistakes by rushing into businesses.

What are some of your favorite books?
Running Scared: The Life and Treacherous Times of Las Vegas Casino King Steve Wynn by John L. Smith.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
In 2010, I had to fire one of my very best friends. I don’t recommend hiring friends. While it can be fun on a daily basis, it is devastating if you have to part ways.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My 7-year-old son Dylan. I want to build my company and sell it in a few years so I can spend more time with my family.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Expect to work 100-hour weeks. Expect to fail a lot. Always keep going.

Shannon Duffy – Co-Founder & CEO, Tender Belly

Shannon Duffy was born and raised in Fairfax, IA, a small community just outside Cedar Rapids. Growing up, Shannon spent all of his time outdoors, whether that be at his grandpa’s farm (where he raised hogs), camping, playing tennis and racing BMX competitively, or just your regular shenanigans with his younger brother, Erik.

Shannon then went on to attend the University of Iowa to study economics. In 2002, it was time to leave Iowa City and he found himself in Chicago, where he quickly found work in IT enterprise sales and account management. Then, after 6 1/2 years, he and his future wife decided it was time for a change, so off to Denver, CO it was.

In Denver, Shannon worked in software sales for a healthcare company, but was eventually fired because he was “too aggressive,” they said. Odd jobs and doing construction kept the bills paid in 2008. He then found a sales job with a building supply company managing the whole western part of the country. Fast forward to 2010, and not only did Shannon get engaged and buy a home with his fiance, but he was also promptly fired again for being too aggressive.

One call to his brother, who was also out of work with a family to support, and a discussion about a bacon recipe that Erik had been toying with during his culinary days, and Tender Belly was born out of pure necessity and the desire to write their own story and not answer to anyone but themselves. Seven years later, and Shannon along with the whole team at Tender Belly, have completely broken the mold on premium pork purveyors. He continues to look for new and innovative products to develop while always staying true to what the business was founded on. Tender Belly is a lifestyle, not just a pork company, and that is what drives this business owner.

In the rare free time Shannon has, he loves to travel with his wife and son, hang at their home in Denver, snowboard, ride his One Wheel, chill with friends and family, and perfect his golf game.

Tell me about your early career.
After attending the University of Iowa and studying economics, I moved to Chicago where I worked for a IT hardware and software reseller managing national and global accounts. Life took me to Denver where I worked in sales of DuPont building supplies throughout the Southwest Region of the country.

How did the concept for Tender Belly come about?
Out of sheer need, due to both myself and my brother not being employed, coupled with the fact that I had just gotten engaged and bought a home. We weren’t interested in looking for jobs in the traditional sense. Erik had a bacon recipe and we thought, “Let’s make a business out of this.” Plus, it will be fun to work together and for ourselves.

How was the first year in business?
The first year was fast and furious and the learning curve through growth required me to learn on the fly and adapt. One good thing was that there wasn’t one big monumental mistake that shut us down.

What was your marketing strategy?
Sampling our product for free to as many high-end restaurants and chefs as we could. They loved the product and were hooked. Having fun with the brand name and being a bit in your face with things such as giving out branded hats to the chefs and back house staff. We showed the love and they showed the love back. No one had really ever done that before.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
In the first three years, we more than doubled our business every year.

How do you define success?
Satisfied and loyal customers. Low attrition rates. Employees that rock and are steadfast and grow with us. Continuous growth that came from not having a massive marketing budget.

What is the key to success?
You must learn from all your mistakes and never stop working 100% toward your goal. Set the goal and do what is needed to achieve it, even the not so fun stuff.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Sticking with your first instinct/decision. It is not always going to be the right one, but I have learned more often than not that it is.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“We will either find a way, or make one.” – Hannibal Barca
“Cheap stuff is expensive.”

What are some of your favorite books?
Undaunted Courage – Stephen E. Ambrose
Tools of Titans – Tim Ferris
Open – Andre Agassi

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
In the beginning, we had a distributor that we were working with and they weren’t performing to the level I expected them to. I yelled at them and then they refused to pay their outstanding bills. We were backed into a corner at a very crucial time, as we were the little guy and they were the big distributor.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Knowing that we have employees with families and my own family counting on Tender Belly. They all need to be cared for.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Never give up. Don’t even entertain the notion. Create a plan and work your tail off for it, but know that the plan is not set in stone, and can be a living, breathing thing that can be molded.

Staci Redmon – President & CEO, SAMS

Staci L. Redmon is the president and CEO of Strategy and Management Services, Inc. (SAMS), an award-winning SBA 8(a) program participant, verified SDVOSB, EDWOSB, SBA-certified SDB small business, WBENC and Commonwealth of Virginia SWaM-certified company. SAMS provides back office support and building services for federal agencies, state and local governments, and commercial buyers who want high-quality services with the high-touch of a client-focused small business.

As a United States Army veteran and a successful leader with over thirty years of demonstrated success, Staci has been delivering innovative services and solutions to government and commercial agencies since 2008. Today, SAMS ranks among the top small businesses in the D.C. metro region. SAMS has grown to over 125 employees in 26 locations throughout the United States and internationally.

SAMS has been listed on Washington Technology’s Fast 50 list for three sequential years for the company’s exponential growth, in addition to being recognized by Inc. Magazine’s 500/5000 list as one of the fastest-growing companies in America for two years in a row. SAMS was recently awarded a Meritorious Veteran Owned Business Award by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Staci is also a winner of the 2016 Enterprising Women of the Year Award, ranked as #14 on the Women Presidents Organization’s (WPO) 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies worldwide, and was selected as the 2016 U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Small Business Person of the Year representing Northern Virginia. Most recently, she was selected as the Woman Vetrepreneur of the Year by the National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) and as a Minority Business Leader award winner by the Washington Business Journal.

In addition to her professional achievements, Staci is committed to actively furthering SAMS’ mission to make a difference within the local community. In 2014, she founded SAMS Cares, the charitable division of SAMS, in order to encourage employees across the country to regularly volunteer, by focusing on community service and social awareness. SAMS Cares gives back through various projects, including a job fair for veterans, participating in Wreaths Across America, annual school supply and clothing drives, volunteering with Easter Seals’ Respite Program, and participating in the AFCEA 5K run/walk where proceeds were donated to the veteran’s education fund.

Staci holds a BS in Computer Information Systems, an MBA with a concentration in acquisition, and a graduate certificate in procurement and federal contracts management. In addition, Staci is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.

Tell me about your early career.
I’ve always been very non-traditional in every way. I did very well in high school, an honor student, but my senior year I got pregnant. As a single mom, I needed healthcare for my daughter and stability. Growing up in a military family, I knew that following in their footsteps would be my best career choice.

At seventeen, I joined the Army. When you join the Army, you take a critical skills test, and based upon your math scores and analytical skills, they make a recommendation for you. They came back with an administrative clerk, obviously because I was a woman. I told them if I was going to go away and make this sacrifice, then I needed to do something that I would not do under normal circumstances. So, they came back with tactical satellite microwave system operator. I said, “Hey, now that sounds great.” So, that’s what I picked.

I spent six years in the Army until an injury abruptly ended my service. I then worked for the U.S. government as a civil servant in several capacities. However, my husband was in the Army as well and the constant moves made it challenging to keep a steady career. I knew I needed stability so, despite having three small children, I went back to school full-time studying computer electronics and later a bachelor’s in computer science, which led to a career with aerospace company, TRW.

How did the concept for SAMS come about?
After over 30 years of federal service in the United States Army, as a civil servant and an industry contractor, I sat in a meeting in which I watched critical warfighter systems that our troops desperately needed be denied funding. As a veteran, I knew the drastic consequences that would result. I couldn’t simply stand by and do nothing to help, so I focused on designing a company that measures its impact not on the bottom line alone, but on how it makes a difference to its people, its clients, and the community.

How was the first year in business?
When I first founded SAMS, I funded it with my 401(k). When you’re at the beginning stages of your business, you’re learning how to be an entrepreneur. How do we get to the first $10,000? How do we find the first five clients that are going to keep the business going? How do we identify those first employees? Those are classical challenges for small-business owners.

Even before I started hiring a team that I was responsible for, I wanted to make sure I got my business established and running smoothly by focusing on building strong connections with others in the industry. In order to do this, I spent over a year meeting with entrepreneurs, contracting officers, and anyone with experience who could share wisdom and advice with me. As soon as I felt I knew everything I needed to know and was prepared for every challenge, I dived in and founded SAMS.

By taking the time to lay the infrastructure and get the house in order, I was able to quickly position SAMS towards success, particularly in going after the 8(a) program. The SBA will tell you that a business can’t apply for the 8(a) program until you’ve been in business for 24 months, but we got our 8(a) status long before the 24-month point because we were able to demonstrate our strong business case and capabilities.

I built a relationship with a contracting officer who wrote the SBA and told them if SAMS had its 8(a), she would contract with us that day. The day I went to the 8(a) program orientation, I was immediately contacted by a contracting officer interested in working with SAMS. So, SAMS instantly started with work and flourished in the 8(a) program. Once we landed on our feet and continued to tell our story and build relationships, the work just kept coming in.

What was your marketing strategy?
Originally, our marketing strategy was all about getting SAMS’ name visible and easily recognizable through participation in numerous networking events and by getting involved with local chambers of commerce and organizations that aid small start-up businesses. I personally attended as many events as my busy schedule could handle, and I encouraged my team members to get involved as well.

My strategy today has evolved dramatically. As an established company, SAMS’ name and brand are easily identified throughout the community. Our focus now is on lead generation and establishing our company as a subject matter expert through social media and other digital media platforms, as well as through sponsorships at large industry events.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Once SAMS was off the ground, the company grew at a rapid pace. Starting with only one employee in 2008, SAMS grew to 32 employees in 2011 and then to 95 in 2013. After just three short years in business, SAMS was earning almost $2 million in revenue. SAMS continued to thrive and successfully achieved a compound annual growth rate of 199% in 2014. Additionally, SAMS has ranked on Washington Technology’s Fast 50 list, for exponential revenue growth every year since 2014.

How do you define success?
Our success is defined by how we’ve made a difference at the end of the day for our clients and employees.

What is the key to success?
SAMS’ success was really all about setting up the company infrastructure before hiring employees and taking on work. There were setbacks along the way, but through the connections I had made and the knowledge I’d acquired, we were able to overcome every challenge we faced and come out even stronger than before.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I realized very quickly in the beginning that I could not do everything on my own. I also learned how vital it is to hire the right people. Once you hire that first employee, it’s time to start hiring other talent employees to help you build the company infrastructure. I am extremely selective about who joins the SAMS team so that I can carefully ensure that each employee fits within our company and client culture. I’ve found that employees who are hired on with a first-hand, depth of experience, such as veterans and their families, are critical to bringing the best-in-service and expertise to clients, particularly in the government sector.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Everything you can imagine is real.”- Pablo Picasso
“People do business with people they know, like and trust.”
I’m a firm believer in relationships because I’ve seen their power. And I was always appreciative that anyone would give their time because it’s a precious resource.

What are some of your favorite books?
My recent favorite book is Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
My toughest day was in August 2014. The government unexpectedly cancelled an awarded contract which reduced my employee population from 90 to 30 employees, overnight. Additionally, the “sequestration” and “government shutdown” in 2014 impacted SAMS’ revenue stream significantly, resulting in large-scale challenges company-wide for my team.

When faced with these massive challenges, I stayed true to my mission and quickly guided SAMS to recovery. In just four short months, SAMS won new contracts, grew revenue, and increased overall employee count, positioning us for robust future growth.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Every setback is a learning opportunity. When we run into a problem at SAMS, we evaluate the entire process that may have caused the problem and identify what it was that went wrong. We then work together to create a remedy that prevents the problem from ever recurring. At SAMS, problems won’t knock us down, they make us stronger. As soon as we’ve created the solution, we get right back out, better and more successfully.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Take everything that you know and apply it to the decisions you make every day. You may make the wrong choice sometimes, but that’s how you learn. Ask yourself what you learned from your mistakes. The more you learn, the more informed you’ll be to make better decisions the next time.

Find someone to talk to and who has been there before. There will be times when you’ll doubt yourself and you’ll have days when you just want to quit, but don’t quit. It does get better.