Strategic Business Solutions of Pinellas County
In 2009, Strategic Business Solutions (SBS) was just a small startup consisting of four partners and no revenue. It has now turned into a multi-million dollar technology services company that specializes in systems integration, training, network engineering and provides network support for mostly Department of Defense (DOD) contracts across the United States.
The four spent the beginning years developing a plan for the company and contemplating if they would focus on the private or government sector. After seeking the help of the Florida SBDC at USF, Matt Cetta, a founding partner of SBS, said they chose government.
“We were a very young company. We had no clue on what to do or how to get started,” Cetta said. “We had a couple of meetings with Charlene that kind of set us on the right path.”
Charlene Bostic is a FSBDC at USF consultant that specializes in government contracting. She has more than 20 years of contracting experience with the DOD. Cetta went to the FSBDC at USF looking for information on working with the government and getting HUBZone and Service-Disabled Veteran certification, as two of the partners are service-disabled Veterans.
“We needed some insight on where to go, what to do,” Cetta said. “In this day and age of internet and mobile technology, even if you do your due diligence and find a lot of information, it could be wrong information. It was much easier to have somebody who can instruct you and say, ‘Hey, this is what we recommend.”
Cetta said that during his search, he found a lot of companies that charge thousands of dollars for the same certifications that he eventually received on his own by working with the FSBDC at USF. The certifications have made a significant difference for the company, as they have become a big part of their business model and have allowed the company to compete for multi-million dollar bids with the government.
“It allows us as a small business to be part of that because we have those certifications,” he said. “They’re instrumental for small businesses to work with the government. Just about every small business that does business with the DOD, has to have it.”
SBS officially launched in 2011 and generated revenue of $1.8 million. The company has continuously grown every year since. Cetta said that he projects revenue of more than $5 million in 2014, in part due to government contracts. Not only has revenue drastically increased, but so has the size of the business.
SBS started with four employees in 2009, and now has a staff consisting of 50 full time employees working at government sites in 14 states. Because of the current cyber threat that companies like Target and TJ Maxx have faced, the company is currently looking to diversify and branch out into cyber security training.
The central location is in a HUBZone in Clearwater, and they mostly communicate with their employees through conference calls and webcams. Though distance is a main factor in the relationship, Cetta said it is important to meet the employees, a practice not common in the technology industry. He said they have traveled across the country to Georgia, Virginia, Arizona and even to Hawaii to meet employees.
“What is interesting about this business is most of these employees have done this for years and have never met their employers or rarely even talked to their employers,” he said. “It is a very interesting dynamic. We try to differentiate ourselves by keeping a very open line of communication and also schedule visits to try to meet everybody.”
Because the FSBDC was such a helpful tool to SBS, Cetta said he would recommend the services to any small business looking to get started because there are experts that have been down the path and have helped many small businesses getting in the same field before.
“If I were a small business starting out, I would actually leverage it more,” Cetta said. “I recommend the FSBDC to any small business looking to do government work for insight.”
He said there many variables and intangible things that come up that someone new to the business may not catch and working with someone who is experienced going in just makes it easier.
“Doing business with the government is completely different than doing business in the public sector,” he said. “Finding resources such as the SBDC definitely gives you a leg up. If you have two businesses and one has this resource and one doesn’t, the one that does will grow leaps and bounds. Those who don’t will have to learn the hard way. You either find out because someone told you, or you find out the hard way.”