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Success with Integrity: World Wide Technology Founder Dave Steward Grew a $3.4 Billion Company While Emphasizing Values

If you think there is no possibility of success in these economic times, spend a few minutes talking to Dave Steward, co-owner of World Wide Technology, Inc. Steward is the Chairman of the Board and co-owner Jim Kavanaugh is the CEO. Dave founded the company in August 1990 and reached out for help from the SBA on February 2, 1992. He remembers the date quite clearly because, “You remember the dates that changed your life.” He attributes a great deal of his success to Maureen Brinkley, Patti Guttmann, and the late Dave Fox of the SBA’s St. Louis District Office. Steward says he walked into Maureen Brinkley’s office when he applied for SBA’s 8(a) program and told her he would have $15 million in sales in the first year. She challenged him to reach those goals and he has long since surpassed them.

The SBA 8(a) program taught Steward how the government did business, the unique government culture, and assisted him with getting into subcontracting with the Department of Defense, which he further leveraged into partnerships with giants such as SUN, CISCO, Dell, HP, and EMC. The people in the SBA taught him skills, and gave him encouragement, hope, and support. They assisted him in obtaining the government contracts his company needed in order to grow.

Steward also attributes a great deal of his success to his faith and his ability to look beyond current circumstances. His business philosophy is to build relationships and partnerships with a level of trust, integrity, and comfort. His personal mission is to adhere to his principles and share his faith, and he puts his money where his mouth is. When I interviewed him, he was en route to a United Way function, and he had several other charity events lined up for the day. He and his company support the United Way, Variety Club, Boy Scouts of America, St. Patrick Center, Ronald McDonald House, Girls Inc., St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis Sports Commission, and the YMCA, and Steward supports his church, too. Steward has been president of the St. Louis chapters of several of the above organizations.

World Wide Technology, Inc., was the bold name that Dave Steward gave his start-up company of five people located in 4000 square feet of space. His company is a “revolutionary information technology and supply chain solution provider” and has lived up to its name. WWT now employs 1,381 people in 48 states and six countries—South Korea, Singapore, China, Germany, Brazil, and Mexico. Sales now exceed three billion dollars. WWT owns six buildings locally and leases 30 more all over the world. He attributes WWT’s growth to getting help in the right place at the right time and company strengths. The company is described by Steward as “flexible, innovative, with an entrepreneurial spirit, and the ability to raise the bar in bringing technical solutions and value that go above and beyond.”

When asked about obstacles, Steward listed challenges such as learning how the government did business. He found a huge hurdle in pulling the (DC) Beltway into the Midwest—before WWT all the big 8(a) firms and most of the contractors were in Washington, DC. “People have trouble believing this can happen in St. Louis,” according to Steward. His vision was “big and bold” and he wasn’t going to let pre-conceived ideas stop him. Steward says St. Louis is a world class city whose light has been hidden under a “bushel basket” with great things to offer and a giving spirit.

Being a person of color offers challenges and opportunities according to Steward. When his father was unable to find jobs in certain fields as a person of color, he went out and created jobs hauling trash, mowing lawns, hauling coal, and running a janitorial service. Steward’s father was his first example of an entrepreneur. He says his parents felt you could overcome anything and that you should do so with forgiveness—he was told “Get over it and get over it quick.” Although some doors were closed to him, a lot of doors have been opened to him by the SBA 8(a) program that he might never have been able to walk through otherwise.

Dave Steward has a Bachelor of Science in Business Management with an emphasis in Industrial Organization from the University of Central Missouri and honorary doctorates from both Lindenwood University and Harris Stowe University. His professional experience before founding WWT was in sales and marketing—treating customers “with credibility and trust.” He carried that philosophy into WWT and feels it sets his company apart. He builds relationships and partnerships wherever he goes and that has enabled World Wide Technology to be the company it is today.

If he doesn’t sound busy enough, Steward is also co-author of Doing Business by the Good Book: 52 Lessons on Success Straight from the Bible. He feels it’s necessary to take leaps of faith and take risks in order to achieve.

In a few more short years, World Wide Technology may roll off our tongues the way IBM, Dell, Cisco, and Sun do today. In the meantime, he and Jim Kavanaugh will provide clients with their unique services and make the world a better place along the way. And Steward’s mentors at the SBA will continue to offer support, encouragement, mentoring, advice, and other services to help other companies grow to the stature of WWT.
 

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