What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath

What lies beneath the surface of a successful African American firm? Hard work? Definitely. Perseverance? Of course. But for this year’s Freshman Class, the new entrants to the BE 100S INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE list, what also lies beneath their success is vision, planning, and calculated strategies meant to grow their businesses well beyond a one-man shop.

Entrepreneurs such as Benjamin B. Hankins Jr., president and CEO of Axiom Resource Management Inc.; Sid E. Taylor, chairman and CEO of SET Enterprises; and Joseph E. Fergus, president and CEO of COMTek are making smart, strategic moves to grow their businesses and, well, make money.

Want the world to beat a path to your door? Don’t build a mousetrap, just stick to your knitting. This strategy has helped Axiom Resource Management (No. 76 on the BE 100S INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE LISt with $42 million in revenues) grow from a one-man operation to a multimillion dollar firm with more than 500 employees nationwide. Based in Falls Church, Virginia, the company provides consulting services, primarily to the federal government, in a variety of areas, including program management, IT solutions, and operational support. Axiom also provides Web marketing and distance-learning services to government agencies.

“One of the things I’ve always focused on is sticking to our core work,” says Hankins, Axiom’s CEO. Hankins, 38, who began the firm in 1996 with what he calls “youthful naiveté” says, “People have come in and said, ‘Let’s build a software package and sell it to the world.’ But we don’t do that; that’s not our area of expertise.” Axiom has instead focused on strategies designed to strengthen its business relationships and reinforce its position in the marketplace. Hankins uses two basic approaches to his business: a “client-first” philosophy and the acquisition of key companies within Axiom’s line of business.

In the last four years, Hankins has brought several companies into the fold as divisions within the firm. In 2000, the company acquired Conwal, a professional consulting firm that had a strong relationship with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2001, Axiom acquired Didactics, a performance technology company that offers distance learning as one of its key services; and Keymind, a large IT firm that provides database management and Internet development services. In 2002, Hankins brought professional consulting company Gober Keener Associates on board, along with the formidable talents of Hershel Gober and Mary Lou Keener. Gober is a former acting secretary and a former deputy secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Keener is a former general counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs and former assistant secretary of the Air Force. In 2004, Axiom purchased CESSI, a company that provides accessibility services to federal and state government and the private sector. Axiom and CESSI had begun a business relationship some three years prior.

Axiom now has teams in eight states, including Alaska, Georgia, and New York. It also has a team in the District of Columbia. Its acquisitions helped it win valuable government work in