How to keep your GovCon business heading on that 45-degree growth trajectory

When you launch a business, your growth trajectory rarely looks like a hockey stick — always up and to the right.

But moving generally in that direction is the goal, said Ryan Hebert, CEO of Intrepid Solutions, an IT company providing services to the federal government at the highest clearance level.

“Growth isn’t always a 45-degree line that goes upward. There’s peaks, there’s valleys,” Hebert said about leading the business launched by his father and brother-in-law in 2008.

That said, with an adaptable plan and good financial partner, it’s possible to achieve sustained steady growth, he said during WTOP’s Small Business September. Since its start, Intrepid has turned to EagleBank for financial advice.

“I can recall a period in 2016. We had an 80% win rate on our contracts. I had to call EagleBank and say, ‘Hey, we’re basically tripling the number of employees in our company. We’re going to need some support.’ And it wasn’t even an afterthought. It was, ‘We’re there for you. We’re going to support you.’ ”

A regular cadence of communications and learning from one another makes the relationship work, said Jeff Rubery, market executive for Virginia at EagleBank. “We’re able to see the manifestation of the success that they create, through some of the efforts that we assist with,” he said. “That’s valuable, and it’s impactful. It feels good.”

WTOP asked Hebert to share his approach to how to strategically grow a business in the federal contracting industry. He defined an ever-repeating, four-phase approach that Intrepid uses: plan, measure, communicate, pivot — repeat.

Phase 1: Develop a plan

Annually, Intrepid reviews and makes adjustments to a three- to five-year financial plan for the business that it shares with EagleBank for feedback and advice, Hebert said.

As part of that planning, a business will want to make sure it’s identifying all the things that it needs and wants to build toward. The plan should attempt to forecast all of the business’s likely growth and investment requirements, he said.

Bonus insight: Your business plan helps you gauge potential financial vendors, Hebert said. “You’re really going to understand: Do they know your business, or do they not know your business?” Work with the one that knows your business, he said, noting that it’s one of the reasons Intrepid has worked with EagleBank since its founding. “We have folks that have deep connections within the market,” Rubery added.

Phase 2: Track your progress against milestones

To be valuable, the plan must have measurable goals, Hebert said.

“I would always challenge any entrepreneur that is in the government space to plan, think of growth, continue to keep your entrepreneurial spirit invigorated and set big goals,” Hebert said.

Metrics help an organization understand how it’s tracking against milestones and goals. It’s also how the business can determine if it needs to make strategic changes.

Phase 3: Communicate regularly with your financial partner

“Like any good partnership, communication should come from both sides,” Hebert said, adding that “the conversation should be candid and honest, bringing forward the strategies that were discussed in the past and reaffirming that they still are in place going into the future.”

Rubery added that it’s worthwhile to develop that relationship before you need it. That way, the lender understands the business’s aspirations. “We want to be able to begin putting a plan together,” he said.

Phase 4: Pivot as necessary

Based on measuring and then regularly checking in with EagleBank, Intrepid adjusts its financial plan and business strategy as need be, Hebert said. “You get halfway through the year, you check in on your plan,” he said.

The reality is that a business always has to be prepared to pivot, Hebert said. The economy changes or the business does, or something else changes the landscape. He pointed to the pandemic, as an example of something unforeseen. “We pivoted very quickly during COVID.”

And then the planning and conversations with Rubery and the EagleBank team start all over again, Hebert said. “Every year starts with the plan, a basic financial projection — what we expect to accomplish in the year.”

To discover more insights for entrepreneurs, startups and SMBs shared during WTOP’s Small Business September, click here.

EagleBank is an Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC.

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