Alumni Spotlight: Apprio Inc.
Overcoming the Odds: Winning Federal Contracts
It’s estimated that $400 billion in products and services are purchased every year by the federal government. Gaining access to this huge market has enormous potential for small businesses, but that takes capacity-building. When it comes to going after a federal contract, Darryl Britt, CEO of Apprio Inc., notes that “most of us small business owners aren’t salesmen, and there’s a little bit of call reluctance.”
His business, Apprio Inc., provides technology solutions, program management and program support for a growing base of federal clients in the healthcare and emergency response sectors. Today, Apprio boasts substantial contracts with federal agencies such as FEMA, USAID and the Department of Health and Human Services, but when Darryl founded the business back in 1998, he worked with smaller commercial clients only. After 10 years without substantial business growth, Apprio was a $2 million business with only one federal contract and two other employees.
That year, 2008, Darryl made the decision to fully commit his energies to Apprio. Previously, he had worked a second job and felt unable to dedicate himself more fully to his business. The first thing he did that year was look at his pre-existing clients. Fortunately for him, what he found looked good: his clients liked working with him. Darryl attributes this to his stress on good quality and the saying, “kill yourself for your client.” This commitment is at the heart of who Darryl is and certainly played a part in Apprio’s immense growth.
Over the last eight years, Darryl describes two important ways Apprio sets itself apart: partnering with other small businesses and leveraging pre-existing client networks. In 2014, Darryl took part in the Emerging Leaders initiative, put on by the Small Business Administration (SBA). It is through opportunities such as the initiative that Darryl was able to work with others to achieve goals. He explained, “I gave [a fellow participant] a contract in return for them putting me on a contract so I could up our security clearance.” Darryl realizes that this isn’t easy for small business owners to do:
"It may be fear of opening up your company to a teaming partner but honestly, when you’re small, I don’t think there’s any other way. I think that idea of teaming--collectively using your strengths to get in front of that huge client--is key."
Apprio has also learned to use its pre-existing client networks. As Darryl describes it, “Having the client introduce you to another client [has] worked extremely well for us--[it’s] probably the number one way of getting a new client. [They refer you] because they’re proud of the work you’ve done for them.” In fact, a client connection was how Darryl first started working with the federal government in DC.
Darryl Britt is presented with a Small and Emerging Contractors Advisory Forum finalist award in honor of Apprio’s outstanding work in the government contracting community.
One more factor to this success, Darryl willingly admits, is location. Apprio is located in Washington, DC, the heart of the federal government, so location “has played a big role in our expansion into the federal sector.”“I put my office smack in between their headquarters--two blocks from the headquarters of FEMA and two blocks from the Department of Health and Human Services. I’m… very close to our two [large] clients. I try to make it easy for them.”
In the last few years, Darryl has also seen his specific positioning within the capital as a significant one for his clients. Some of Apprio’s recent clients are in Atlanta and California but they remain “markets served by the federal government. Those opportunities came because we had expanded so much here in Washington, DC.”
Today, Apprio has 15 major contracts and makes more than $30M in revenue per year. Darryl’s business, which eight years ago had only two other employees, now supports between 250 and 275 professionals. This is an impressive achievement in a small period of time, but this growth could not have been possible without the partnerships he has made over the years and his constant emphasis on quality. “In the end, it’s the clients and the value you provide to them that’s the ultimate thing--they need to think you are there for them above everything else. A lot of the time that means putting your clients’ desires above your own personal desires.”