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Persevering, dedicated, caring, adaptable, good communicator, giving, problem solver, involved, honest, and motivated are all extremely desirable character traits. They exemplify many successful business owners—especially Susan Morton, President, CEO, and owner of Data Dash, Inc. Morton is beginning her twenty-first year in business, but she worked hard and sacrificed to get there and she is aggressively pursuing the future of her business.
A former triathlete and marathoner, Morton brings the same perseverance to her business that it took to train for races. She sacrificed to achieve her goals—to include selling her home to raise capital for her business when she couldn’t get a business loan. She still didn’t have enough capital, so she found three investors. (She bought them out in 2000 and is now the sole owner of Data Dash.)
Morton had other help along the way. Her late mother, Mary Ellen Maurer, a stay-at-home mom, was Morton’s unpaid assistant at the inception of Data Dash. Her mom greeted clients, ran deliveries, and anything else that Morton needed done. Morton had help from the SBA, too. She has attended SBA training seminars and workshops and is currently in the e200 Emerging Leaders course. She obtained an SBA Express Loan in 2010 to purchase equipment. Morton is also in SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program which helps socially and economically disadvantaged individuals develop and grow their businesses. The 8(a) program provides training, mentoring, and assistance in obtaining government contracts.
Data Dash currently has a contract with the Department of the Interior and just received a STARS II small-business contract by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). The STARS II (Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resources for Services) contract, worth up to $10 billion, allows federal agencies the ability to contract with pre-approved small business technology providers across the nation, shortening procurement time and saving tax dollars.
Data Dash provides data entry, document scanning, and payment processing to clients across the country. Morton looks at her business as a strategic partner and takes pride in the fact that they respond to the needs of clients and adapt to the clients’ processes. While they might suggest improvements in client processes to save money, they don’t have a “one size fits all” approach. Clients appreciate this personalized service as demonstrated by Data Dash’s success.
Data Dash doesn’t outsource to other countries. They currently have 45 employees located in St. Louis and Farmington, Missouri, but that number will increase as federal agencies acquire Data Dash’s services through the new GSA STARS II contract. Morton feels that her employees are the heart of her company and she backs her belief by providing benefits including health insurance and continuing education. She recently refused to pass on increased health insurance costs to her employees.
Government agencies aren’t Data Dash’s only clients. In fact, they don’t have a typical client, because of their unique approach. The information they work with includes market research, including the warranty cards from new products; sweepstakes data; second chance lotteries; driver trip logs for trucking companies; drinking water statistical data; and rebate data. They proudly work with donor databases for charities. They won a contract to work with the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, and it may be the client that is most near and dear to Data Dash and Susan Morton.
Morton was just announced as the new Chair of the St. Louis St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee. Data Dash works extensively with the parade and employees carry a helium balloon in the parade. Morton and her employees volunteer for many Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund activities and events—past events included a golf tournament, a concert that included Gary Sinise, and other activities during Marine Week. They are involved with an “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” fundraiser in Farmington for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Data Dash sponsors a team in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the American Heart Association Heart Walk.
When asked about the future of Data Dash, Morton responded that she would like to grow to several locations without compromising service. She would like to add more opportunities for her employees with career tracks that allow for advancement. But she is also cautious—she only wants growth that allows the same standards, quality control, and customer involvement Data Dash currently provides.
When you look back at that list of desirable character traits, it’s easy to see that Susan Morton does in fact possess those traits. It’s easy to see how she inspires her employees. It’s also easy to see how she is leading Data Dash into that $10 billion future. It’s an exciting, challenging, and eventful time to be with Data Dash and that doesn’t look like it will change any time soon and Susan Morton wouldn’t have it any other way.