When Moses Harvin retired from the U.S. Army at Patrick Air Force Base near Melbourne, Fla. in 1995, he joined the ranks of 1.6 million veterans who made Florida home. He found work with a local contractor who did the best thing for him.
With less than one year on the job, Harvin was fired.
“I always wanted to run a big corporation and I shared my thoughts and dreams with my boss. One Friday he called me into his office and told me I no longer had a job at the company. But he told me that I could call him anytime for advice and guidance. He was my boss but he became my mentor,” Harvin recalled.
Harvin started his own business, American Services Technology, Inc. (ASTI) in 1995. Today, with the help of his wife Emma, he continues to serve both his community and clients with the same success and dedication as he did in the Army. ASTI provides a wide spectrum of services to both government and commercial businesses. The laundry list of services include facility management, operations and maintenance, food services, and logistic and procurement support. Harvin is quick to point out the benchmarks of his company are integrity and trust.
“I lost contracts because I would not go into ‘gray’ areas or do things that I did not think were correct,” said Harvin. “I was building more than a company. I wanted to build a legacy for my children to carry on after me.”
During his military career, Harvin helped deploy the Army overseas to Desert Shield/Desert Storm. It should be no surprise that Harvin started ASTI by developing a business plan and sticking with what he knew about the most: logistics. He found office space at the Florida NASA Incubation Business Center that was formed to increase the number of technology-based small companies in Brevard County. Like many business incubators, Harvin found affordable space and shared office equipment and services. More importantly, it got his business out of his house where he admittedly had too many distractions.
In addition to having a business mentor, Harvin found help from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Florida Small Business Development Center to understand how to be successful in federal contracting.
“My mother was a hair dresser in South Carolina at the time when the business rules were changing. She found people to help her read and understand the new licensing requirements and she wasn’t afraid to ask for help,” Harvin said. “You can say I learned my entrepreneurial ways from her.”
ASTI grew from two employees to 55 employees in eight years. Today, ASTI has grown to 230 employees. Revenues have steadily grown over the past three years from $12 million to $16 million.
Harvin offers business advice to entrepreneurs, especially military veterans, who are considering contracting.
“It’s important that you take the time to certify your company as a veteran-owned, minority-owned and/or woman-owned business. Get your paperwork in check and get certified. I lost an early $3 million contract because I wasn’t certified,” Harvin said.
Harvin also cautions companies new to contracting to be careful when making a bid.
“If you don’t do your homework and understand what it costs you to provide a service, making a low bid will sink your company.”
Harvin’s commitment to his business extends to his community. He was the first African-American elected Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce; serves as a trustee to Claflin University, Orangeburg, S.C. and Eastern Florida State College ; and chairman of the board for the Summit of Seven Boys/Men Conference, a non-profit geared towards exposing young boys and men to opportunities that will make them successful in life.
For Moses Harvin, the secret of a successful life or business is simple.
“Be content in every situation you find yourself in.”