GAITS tries to emulate Signal

In an effort to grow quickly, a small information technology firm is hiring two former Signal Corp. executive vice presidents.

Global Analytic Information Technology Services (GAITS) Inc., based in Springfield, Va., has hired Cass Panciocco and Robert Smith. The new GAITS officials spent years at Signal as it grew from 50 to 1,800 employees, and from $40 million to $300 million in revenues. Veridian Corp. bought Signal last year for $227 million, and then was itself acquired this year by General Dynamics Corp. for $1.5 billion.

"They know how to get to $300 million, and that's our goal," said Thomas Asefi, GAITS' co-founder and president. The company, founded in 1997, currently makes about $24 million in annual revenues, and has about 140 employees.

Panciocco will become GAITS' chief operating officer, and starts work Sept. 15. Smith will be the chief administrative officer beginning Oct. 1.

"We're going to basically recreate Signal," Asefi said. "They were a smaller version of [Science Applications International Corp.], an employee-owned company where the employees get certain benefits. Ultimately the employees have something to work for and it's not just a salary."

GAITS is an 8(a) company, set to graduate from the small-business assistance program in 2008. That makes it seem like home to Smith, who worked for two 8(a) companies after leaving the Air Force, he said.

After the Air Force, Smith said, he went to work for AT&T Federal Systems. "When I left AT&T Federal Systems, I went to work for a company called I-Net," he said. "It was the poster child of a typical 8(a). It was about $100 million when I joined them. We grew them to $300 million in two years and then sold them to Wang" Global.

After I-Net, Smith went to Signal, where he stayed through rapid growth and two acquisitions.

Asefi and his brother Tony, the other co-founder and chief executive officer, have built a strong small business, with a solid management team and proven performance, Smith said.

"What I see in GAITS is the entrepreneurial spirit," he said. "Tom and Tony are in their 30s. They're young, aggressive and very involved in the business. If you put that together and add in the element of Mr. Panciocco joining, what I believe is that there's a space right now to become another poster child 8(a) — that's a company that happens to be 8(a), but has the strength to compete against the bigger companies." While Smith concentrates on improving GAITS' inner workings, Panciocco said he will be scouting for the best opportunities for the company to bid on.

"My first priority is to diversify into the defense business," he said. "They have work on the civil side," with strengths in IT services and biometrics. "Some of that we believe we can transition to the defense side."

Identifying the best opportunities will also speed GAITS' growth, he said. It will help them avoid bidding on long shots and concentrate their attention on surer chances

"As a smaller company, sometimes you struggle with where to put your resources," he said.

Asefi said GAITS will slowly move to the employee-owned model that was successful for Signal and SAIC.

"Out of nowhere those guys just blew up," he said of Signal. "What we're trying to do at GAITS is the same thing. We're a young company. We're hungry. We're aggressive."

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