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1st American Systems and Services was ranked as 155th fastest growing company in the nation by Inc. CEO and President Alpa Shah credits the firm’s fast rise to its participation in U.S. Small Business Administration programs.
“The SBA’s 7j program is one of the best initiatives SBA has undertaken,” says Shah.
The firm is part of SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program , which helps small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace. Section 7(j) refers to the language in the Small Business Act that authorizes SBA to enter into grants, cooperative agreements or contracts, with public or private organizations that can deliver management or technical assistance to eligible individuals and enterprises.
Alpa Shah, CEO and President
From its humble beginnings in 2009 with no government past performance, 1st American today has about 50 employees and successful past performance on more than 25 government contracts. 1st American’s clients include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Interior, National Guard, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and The Pentagon.
Part of 1st American’s success is due to its ability to be a trusted partner to each of its federal government clients. For example, 1st American has been continuously supporting the National Guard since its first small contract in 2009, and has grown to be one its preferred small business partners that they call upon to support multiple aspects of their mission. 1st American was also the only company that received seven of the eight contracts awarded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to help with national standards relating to healthcare Information Exchange, Interoperability, e-Prescribing, Clinical Results Reporting, Quality Reporting, Data Architecture, and Bio-Surveillance. Since 2012, 1st American has supported the FAA Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) initiatives that will transform America’s air traffic control system, reduce traffic delays, increase capacity, and permit controllers to monitor and manage aircraft with greater safety margins. 1st American’s innovative solutions helped train over 15,000 FAA Air Traffic Controllers
The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce awarded 1st American its 2012 Most Innovative Company prize.
Shah credits her SBA Business Opportunity Specialist Lorraine Scott with helping 1st American grow more successful. “Scott sends ‘Tips of Day’ emails to all the business in her portfolio, which provide short but timely and useful information to the business owners,” says Shah. “The topics are varied and range from templates for Mentor-Protégé submissions, the importance of taking the time to write a good marketing plan and follow it, to sending a holiday card that is designed for ‘Your Business’ instead of store bought.” Shah says she reads all of Scott’s emails and benefits from the content, but the best part of the tips in the email format is that they can be read at any time when she is free, usually at 1 a.m. in the morning, after her proposals are sent, employees paid, or the latest fire addressed.
Overall, Shah contributes the success of the firm to being in the 8(a) program, but advises new firms to have realistic expectations before going through the certification process. “Getting an 8(a) certificate does not automatically convert into revenue generation. Hard work, innovation and performance, and always delivering what you promise to the client is the key to ultimate success in Government contracting. SBA and the 8(a) certificate is a valuable resource organizations can leverage to accelerate growth, only if every other ingredient is also present.”
BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Seth Goodall, Small Business Administration New England Administrator, addresses Matchmaker attendees March 6 at the Sheraton Hotel in Burlington, Vt. Matchmaker events provide small businesses the opportunity to meet with state and federal procurement representatives in a series of 10-minute one-on-one appointments to see if they can fulfill certain contracting needs. (Photo by Danny Monahan)
After serving our country in Vietnam, Dennis Pedersen returned home to Kansas and started working for Gilmore and Tatge Manufacturing, Inc. (predecessor to GT Mfg. Inc.) as a press brake machine operator in 1971.
Now, 42 years later, he is the President and CEO of GT Mfg., Inc., a Kansas company with global reach. “We are known as the worldwide leader in manufacturing batch grain dryers”, said Pedersen.
The accumulated knowledge that Pedersen gained while working in the fabrication, assembly, inventory control, shipping, purchasing and sales departments, helped him excel in both sales and management while steering the company through change of ownership and reorganization.
In the first four years of Dennis Pedersen’s leadership as President, GT Mfg., Inc. grew its sales by 86% and expanded its exports to from 43 to 73 countries. From Afghanistan to Vietnam, the company has expanded its reach to 6 continents.
When the company needed more production space, it worked with the local government in 2011 to approve the demolition of an antiquated five-story brick building on its property that was used by the company decades earlier. In 2012, a new production facility was built to maximize the usable space on the property.
Before the new facility was built, Pedersen reached out to the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) to help him plan for the increased production capacity, and finding new markets overseas for GT Mfg products. He worked with Linda Sutton and Ross Jordan at the KSBDC to connect him with the resources needed to expand their exports.
Pedersen’s sales philosophy is “to prepare for what our customers are capable of doing, and not what we think they will do.” The KSBDC helped him refine his business plan to maximize his outreach efforts overseas, and develop a marketing strategy.
Dennis credits the success of the company on the character and hard work of its employees. “Our employees are the reason why the company has continued to grow. They are the most important asset this company has”, said Pedersen. The company had 17 employees in 2005 when Pedersen took over managing the company. Thanks to growing demand, and greater production capacity, the company now employs 42 workers.
When asked to give advice to other business executives, Pedersen mentioned two things: the importance of reaching-out to resources like the KSBDC when planning for the future, and investing in a good team of employees.