Over the last three years, Deepak Hathiramani, CEO of Vistronix, has been transforming his company to reach new heights. That move began as Vistronix graduated from the 8(a) program and began offering new services and solutions to current and new clients. Today Vistronix is a $30 million company, supporting government in the areas of information and records management, geospatial technology solutions and infrastructure support services geared toward the public sector.
Tell us about Vistronix, its mission and focus.
Deepak Hathiramani: We are primarily a federal systems integrator providing information management/records management, geospatial technology solutions and Infrastructure support services to the public sector. Over the last three years, we have successfully transformed the company to a new set of competencies. Our goal over the past few years ago was to change the nature of the company by providing higher valued services to our clients. I believe we made a number of key mistakes while graduating from the 8(a) program and we were faced with a number of tough decisions. We recognized that we had to leverage our client base to grow the business by offering new services and solutions to our current and new clients and were very fortunate that we had the financial bandwidth to sustain the transition. The last three years have primarily been focused on rebuilding and rebranding the company. Today we are about a $30 million company, supporting government in the areas I mentioned to you.
You left the 8(a) program when?
Deepak Hathiramani: In 2003.
What would you say is your biggest challenge in business toda?
Deepak Hathiramani: Finding the right people, undoubtedly finding the right people.
Does a new administration pose any challenges to your business model?
Deepak Hathiramani: Potentially, yes. Depending on whether it is a Democratic or Republican administration, certain agencies could see an increased funding level while others could have their budgets reduced. Although we are below the radar, there could be potential implications for us.
Tell us about your plans to grow the company.
Deepak Hathiramani: Our initial plan is to continue to build out our management team while investing to create differentiators for the company. Simultaneously, we also intend to focus on agencies where we have a strong value proposition.
What’s your view of the SBA recertification rules that came out last year?
Deepak Hathiramani: How long do we have? The long and short of it, I think it is an absolute disaster for small businesses and for the industry as a whole and is having some far reaching implications. Basically, it depresses valuations of small businesses that have small business set-aside contracts. It is amazing how, based on a biased view of a few, Congress enacts a law without understanding the full implications of their actions. We tend to swing the pendulum from one extreme to the other.
Why do you think there is not more of an uproar in the small business community?
Deepak Hathiramani: There is a significant underlying current of disappointment with the regulation and I expect you will begin to see small business owners collaborate to educate Congress and work to get the law modified or repealed. The bigger underlying issue in my opinion is that NAICS code system or business size classifications system is flawed and is in need of a major overhaul. It is unrealistic to expect small businesses that graduate from a NAICS code, specifically the $23 million codes, to compete in the Full & Open arena with billion dollar companies.
What advice would you give to 8(a) companies that are in the program now on how to transition out to a successful business model post-graduation?
Deepak Hathiramani: I would say the most important focus should be on having the right people in place much prior to graduation. The second one is to reduce their reliance on the 8(a) program much prior to graduation, and the third is to have a very strong pipeline and backlog before you graduate.
What’s the best part of your job?
Deepak Hathiramani: The best part of my job right now is having fun! I am fortunate that we have a very good team in place and we are witnessing the efforts of our transformation.
How would you describe the culture of the company?
Deepak Hathiramani: We have a very strong entrepreneurial culture. Our average voluntary retention rates exceed 96 percent. And we have been fortunate enough that the people we have in place have been able to grow and step to the next level.
Do you have any plans to sell the company in the short term?
Deepak Hathiramani: No.
What is something most people don’t know about you personally?
Deepak Hathiramani: Most people probably don’t know that I almost did not make it to the United States since I had my student visa rejected three times — I guess everything happens for a reason!