The story of how Lurita Doan got her start in business has achieved almost mythical status. Her trip to Kinko's with $25 in her pocket to print business cards and the subsequent escalation of her business to a multimillion-dollar endeavor has been repeated in publications ranging from Washingtonian to Black Enterprise. And when asked, Doan is happy to repeat the story.
"I ran off business cards. I didn't even have enough money for stationery," recalls Doan, now administrator of the General Services Administration. "I said, 'Aah, I'm in business.' " When she sold the company 15 years later, it was raking in $200 million worth of federal contracts a year.
Success doesn't usually come so quickly. As one acquisition professional puts it, "That's not normal."
According to interviews with people familiar with Doan and her old company, New Technology Management Inc. in Reston, Va., Doan succeeded by aggressively pursuing potential customers, working remarkably hard and making use of preference programs run by the Small Business Administration. She also had the good luck to have specialized in security-related sectors that began booming after Sept. 11. "I've been very fortunate to have good timing," Doan says.
A Government Executive analysis of NTMI's prime contracts based on data provided by research firm Eagle Eye Publishers Inc., from which this magazine purchases data for its annual survey of top federal contractors, shows that in 1995, five years after she started her company, all of its $2.8 million in prime contracts were awarded noncompetitively. The number of competitive awards gradually grew and by 2001, when the company was awarded $14.3 million in prime contracts, 98 percent were awarded competitively.
In the early 1990s, when NTMI was starting out, Doan applied for 8(a) certification based on the company's minority- and woman-owned status (Doan is black) and location in a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (at the time NTMI was based in Winchester, Va.). Both SBA programs allow agencies to make noncompetitive awards. Doan says the company didn't rely on the programs. "We never really used them very much, because we didn't need to," she says.
In another oft-repeated tale dating back to 1992, when Doan was nine months pregnant with her second daughter, she says she worked for 70 hours straight on a naval information technology project for a company run by Carleton Jones, now chief executive at Multimax, an IT company in Herndon, Va. Doan says she went into labor on the job but continued working anyway; she gave birth in a nearby emergency room 14 minutes after finishing the project. Jones was impressed. He awarded her a subcontract shortly thereafter, which enabled Doan to get her start in federal contracting. "She made her own breaks, frankly. . . . She didn't need a lot of counseling," Jones says. Her motto, he recalls, was, "We sweat the details." And, he says, she did.
According to Eagle Eye, the majority of NTMI prime contracts was awarded through GSA schedules. In 2003, $13.2 million of $15.1 million in NTMI prime contracts went through the agency. That likely helped Doan's company, since agencies buying through the schedules don't face as stringent requirements to compete contracts among vendors.
Doan also appears to have made use of networking opportunities. She participated in many business groups, including the Young Presidents' Organization and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. A February 2005 article in The Washington Post reported that Thomas Donohue, Chamber of Commerce president, offered to arrange a meeting between Doan, a chamber member, and the commissioner for Customs and Border Protection. "I'll get you in there," the Post reported Donohue telling Doan. (Doan says she never met with the commissioner.)
Doan sold her business to pursue a political appointment with the Bush administration, her former executive assistant told Government Executive in 2006. (Doan says she had planned to retire.) She certainly was well-positioned to pursue a political position. President Bush had singled her out during remarks on women business owners in January 2004. She spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention on behalf of women business owners.
Doan and her husband have contributed $213,815 to Republican campaigns since 2000, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Their contributions focused heavily on Republican candidates for Senate and Congress, including Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and former Sen. George Allen, R-Va., as well as national Republican political action committees, such as the Every Republican Is Crucial PAC. Lurita Doan also contributed $1,600 to the Women's Campaign Forum in 2002 and 2003 and $1,000 to the Elizabeth Dole for President Exploratory Committee in 1999.
Doan took care to sever any ties to NTMI that could appear to be conflicts of interest in her new role as GSA administrator. NTMI's new president, Jack Larmer, says he is legally prevented from talking about the company under Doan's tenure. Doan keeps any mention of NTMI out of her official bio on GSA's Web site. When asked about the company, she says, "I haven't followed it, and I actually probably shouldn't be talking about it. I have recused myself from anything to do with it."
---Lurita Doan's company, New Technology Management Inc., initially relied heavily on noncompetitive contracts, which it was eligible for because it was an 8(a) small disadvantaged business and HUBZone company. By 2001, most of its prime contracts were awarded competitively.
|Source: Eagle Eye Publishers Inc.|