RSIS makes a big impression
Rodney Hunt probably realized his small business had arrived on the government scene when he lost a 1994 bid on a Transportation Department contract to much bigger Allied Signal Inc., only to win a contract to oversee the quality of work that Allied did.
Hunt, president and chief executive officer of RS Information Systems Inc. (RSIS), had co-founded the company two years earlier with Scott Amey, now RSIS' executive vice president, with a goal of being "not the biggest, but one of the best."
Despite both founders' extensive experience in information systems engineering and management, and their "value proposition" based on high performance and cost-
effectiveness, RSIS early on had to fight against the idea that companies in the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program were basically staff augmentation firms not interested in advancing a customer's mission.
They had to convince customers that RSIS was not about "how many bodies do you want to sell us today?" Hunt said.
At first, the company could win "no- to low-risk" task orders, he said. "It was only after another dozen or so meetings with them that we began to get the more complex assignments."
Hunt and Amey had ambitious ideas of where to take RSIS. When they started the company, their goals projected anywhere from $25 million to $40 million in government business by the end of the first 10 years, which would not have been bad for a two-man outfit that was then scratching for $5,000 and $10,000 task orders.
The actual results were beyond both their dreams. In 2002, RSIS had revenues of $195 million and employed close to 1,400 people. Now the company holds major
contracts with agencies such as the Federal Aviation
Administration, the Social Security Administration,
DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency.
But it was the award of the Energy Department's
$409 million Information Technology Integrator Support Services contract, made through the Commerce Department's Commerce Information Technology Solutions governmentwide acquisition contract, that really put RSIS on the map. It's one of the largest federal IT services contracts awarded to a small business.
Hunt, who is the majority owner of RSIS, has
even bigger plans for the company. He thinks it can reel in $500 million a year in government services business within the next three years, and he sees the company also growing through one to two acquisitions a year
of niche companies in intelligence and other
"My goal is for us to be the first African American-owned company to do $1 billion a year in business with the federal government," he said.
Even at those levels, Hunt swears he won't forget his past. Knowing what it takes for small businesses to make it in the government market and the importance of helping hands along the way, his intention is for RSIS to eventually subcontract as much as 25 percent of its work to small businesses.
Hopefully, he said, RSIS can be a model for that kind of boost to small business.
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.