What’s next for G&B Solutions, following its sale to VSE? Ask Linda Berdine

Linda Berdine, president and founder of G&B Solutions A pioneer in the IT field, Linda Berdine has spent the past three decades connecting the government to innovative information solutions. Her company, G&B Solutions Inc., a leading Virginia-based information technology and management-consulting firm, has consistently ranked as one the fastest growing companies in the Washington, D.C. region. Now, with the recent sale of G&B to VSE, Berdine reflects on what's on the horizon for the company she started in 2001.

What motivated you to found G&B Solutions in 2001?

The motivation was to establish a quality firm. There's hundred of companies around the beltway that I really saw as being on a similar level. I wanted to establish a company that peaked its head above this crowd.

And what's the point of differentiation?

We did not want to do just commodity kinds of work “” help desk and typical kinds of support contracts that most small businesses start out performing. What we did right out of the gate was focus on being a high-end management consulting firm. We then married up the management consulting with IT infrastructure services. This combination of expertise “” grasping and performing within the context of the big picture of our client environment “” has been our distinguishing factor. We talk about the fact that we understand not just the IT pieces, but also the management consulting issues. This gives us a different picture of the federal agencies.

What was your first contract?

A management consulting contract to do a security study.

Essentially you started your company from scratch “” had you ever jumped into a business endeavor like this?

I had experience with another small 8a company with revenue of $2 million when I joined it. I stayed with this business through the entire growth curve, up to where its revenues were in excess of $100 million. I got to ride that wave, if you will, and get the exposure to and experience with that organization as the person running all its information technology.

Fast-forward to today “” how big is your company?

We started out with two employees and have grown to 250-plus staff and $40 million in revenue. We have averaged more than 100 percent growth per year for the past seven years.

So, what accounts for that growth?

We're extremely focused. We do not take a shotgun approach at all. We keep a corporate-wide scorecard, measure ourselves on a quarterly basis, and bring the management team together frequently. This allows us to keep our focus with everyone moving toward the same goals.

Recently G&B was sold to VSE “” what can you tell us about the sale?

We're extremely optimistic about the sale of G&B to VSE for a couple of reasons. One is we are a wholly-owned subsidiary, so we certainly will be keeping our own identity. Secondly, there has been virtually no change within the corporation. Our staff and our clients have perceived that as very positive. This really positions us to have a great legacy.

And you will be with G&B for three more years?


What future goals would you like to see G&B reach?

I really want our company to continue to strengthen our project management role, our standing up of project management offices (PMOs), and our high-level strategic consulting.

I heard there's a plaque of Abraham Lincoln on your wall “” what's that all about?

A lot of people think I'm a Civil War buff, but they're mistaken. I'm an Abraham Lincoln buff. It purely revolves around his leadership, and how when all the chips were down, he prevailed. I love that part about him, his perseverance.

What's one of the biggest challenges you've faced?

The biggest challenge when you first start a company ““ particularly if it's small business ““ is the tendency to lean toward small business set-asides and to think you can rely on capturing small business work. I think the biggest challenge we faced was competing against billion dollar companies. We had a win rate of 70-plus percent over the last two years because we know how to compete. We did not run this company by relying on set-asides. That was the biggest challenge, the biggest hurdle to overcome was to not get lazy or count on small business set asides.

How do you keep from getting lazy?

I'm still extremely involved in the business development side of G&B. When you have staff that says, “Well, we can't bid that“ or, “We don't have the people to write the proposal,“ it's really up to the leaders to step up and say, “Well, why can't we do that?“ You just keep gently leading, and saying, “We can do that.“

You started your career as a data entry clerk “” did you always have the leadership spark in you?

I think I always had the leadership spark in me. I remember “” and I'm going back a few years, they don't do this anymore “” when a college counselor would come to your house, and try to solicit you to come to their school. I remember sitting in my parents' living room with the college counselor and them asking the $64,000 question, “What do you want to be?“ And I still have a very vivid memory of saying, “I don't know what industry I want to be in, but I do know that I want to be vice president of a company.“ I have to believe that spark has been with me since high school.

Why only vice president?

People have asked me that before. It's a good question, it's funny, isn't it? I never said, “I want to be president.“ I guess I thought that was where you had really arrived, to be the vice president of a company. That was a big stretch for me as a high school student. Now, as a CEO, I'm think, “Vice president, that's okay.“

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you on a personal level?

I have spent many, many years training horses. A lot of times people have been pretty amazed that I'm willing to get up on the back of a one-year-old or two-year-old horse and break in the babies. That's probably a tidbit that's not well-known.

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Interview with Linda Berdine conducted by Lisa Singh

Read more interviews here: https://blog.executivebiz.com/category/interviews/

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