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.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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