Bhupesh Wadhawan is the President and CEO of Link Solutions, Inc (LSi). Since founding LSi in 2006, Wadhawan has grown the company from a single person enterprise to a company that now employs over 300 people. Today LSi performs on multi-year, multi-million dollar Prime programs for various Federal Government and Commercial clients providing information technology and management consulting services.
Wadhawan stepped into the government contracting community when he landed his first job at a small government contracting 8(a) company out of college. He credits much of his success to great mentors and the breadth of experience he received at small, mid-sized, and large companies.
In 2006, Wadhawan decided to leave his current employer, STG, and start on his own venture with a company he called, Link Solutions, Inc. “On December 16, 2006, I incorporated Link Solutions, Inc and in January of 2007 was my last day as an STG employee. I really haven’t looked back since,” Wadhawan said.
WashingtonExec recently had the opportunity to interview Mr. Wadhawan and discuss the 8(a) small government contracting community, the current business climate, and his company, Link Solutions, Inc.
WashingtonExec: Could you tell us about your background and what made you want to become an entrepreneur?
Bhupesh Wadhawan: My first job out of school was for a small government contracting 8(a) company called Alphatech. They later changed their name to Alpha Insight. In a small business environment I had the chance to learn more than just corporate finance, accounting, and contracts. I really worked my way into what an 8(a) really is and what a government contractor really is.
I then joined Lockheed Martin as a help desk technician (supporting our EPA client) and really thought back to days at Alphatech, planning out my career, where I wanted to go and what I wanted to be. During my Alpha Insight days, I ran into several senior industry folks who became mentors to me. After about a year at Lockheed, I had an opportunity to join another mid-tier government contracting firm, STG, Inc working for some of the leadership from Alphatech. I jumped at the opportunity to join STG as Director of Business Operations where I had operational responsibilities managing the Fed/Civ Sector Infrastructure team (contracts, accounting/finance, recruiting, program control, etc.). During my five years there I had the opportunity to lead capture teams and business development activity for various opportunities, manage programs and get the full look into general overall management of an operation.
On December 16th, 2006, I incorporated Link Solutions, Inc and in January of 2007 was my last day as an STG employee. I really haven’t looked back since.
WashingtonExec: You’ve worked for small, medium and large corporations. How would you say the market has changed since you first entered the industry?
Bhupesh Wadhawan: I would say it is completely night and day from when I started in the late 90s. In my mind it was a much more open market, not as many 8(a), set asides or competitive stories to be told. Business during that time was certainly not easier to get, but it was a softer market. After 9/11 there was a lot of opportunity in our space for security and government spending. It allowed a lot of small businesses to flourish and grow.
Now it is different – more competitive (capability and price) – and there are a lot of small and mid-sized businesses that are very well-qualified. Now it’s all about building a team that can execute, bring on the talent that will allow you to tell that story and how to best leverage the experience. Cost is certainly an issue – so execution and solid delivery are what is really driving business for us.
“We have a lot of investments into the employee culture, how we treat people and the work experience. Obviously if people like coming into work, they generally will do good work for us.”
WashingtonExec: What differentiates your corporate culture from other organizations?
Bhupesh Wadhawan: We have a dedicated focus in not only the way that our benefits are done, but also our work environment, flexibility, and telework. We go out of our way to work hard and also play hard. Twice a month we shut the office down and have a “corporate fun day.” We push the culture of getting outside of the work environment, building the team and growing outside of your professional development. We have a lot of investments into the employee culture, how we treat people and the work experience. Obviously if people like coming into work, they generally will do good work for us.
WashingtonExec: What do you do on your corporate fun days?
Bhupesh Wadhawan: We have a farmer’s market that comes outside of our office. They have a pit barbeque and bring us catered lunch. The rest of the afternoon is spent on various team building activities, Wii competitions (bowling, dance off, etc..). There are prizes and things associated with that. Apparently someone caught me on tape doing a Michael Jackson dance – that sold for a lot of money. In the past we have had outings outside the office: bowling, lunch and then watched a movie afterwards at a local theater. Those were our last two.
“Family always comes first. Work hard and work honest and everything else will take care of itself.”
WashingtonExec: Does categorizing Link Solutions, Inc. (LSi) as minority-owned ever have any pitfalls?
Bhupesh Wadhawan: There are certainly no pitfalls to it but I think in the more competitive environment, it won’t matter if you are an 8(a) or anything else – if you can do the work, with the right price, you will win the contract regardless of your status. There are tons of 8(a)s that are coming into the program and competing for our business, but other than that, there really are not pitfalls that I see. On the corporate or administration side, the rules and regulations with the SBA – there are some pitfalls around that and managing around that. Other than that it is a good problem to have.
“We are really transforming our company from that small business 8(a) mentality, to a growing mid-sized business.”
WashingtonExec: What do you foresee being the biggest challenge for Link Solutions in the next five years?
Bhupesh Wadhawan: Over the next five years we will graduate from the 8(a) program. All of the hard work in the early years will shift to figuring out how to retain or replace those set-aside programs. Over the next five years we have to compete in the mid-sized and full & open environments. We’ve already started to do that with major full and open contract wins.
We are really transforming our company from that small business 8(a) mentality, to a growing mid-sized business. We’ve brought on experienced industry talent and certainly continue to grow that team. We are investing and focusing on our growth, transitioning out of the 8(a) program, and targeting and marketing full and open programs that will allow us to go beyond our 8(a) years to bigger and better things.
WashingtonExec: What is something that most people don’t know about you?
Bhupesh Wadhawan: Honestly, I’m pretty wide open. I was very close to becoming a professional soccer player before I took the job with Lockheed Martin.
WashingtonExec: How did that change?
Bhupesh Wadhawan: I had a full ride scholarship to Chapel Hill, graduating high school. Certain circumstances didn’t allow me to fulfill that so I ended up doing a local school here and didn’t play soccer but received the opportunity to go to England and try out for some clubs and go that route. The tier 1 job was actually paying a little bit more than the professional soccer was.
WashingtonExec: What position were you?
Bhupesh Wadhawan: I was a mid-fielder.
WashingtonExec: What’s the best piece of advice that you have ever received?
Bhupesh Wadhawan: I got it from my mom. “Family always comes first. Work hard and work honest and everything else will take care of itself.”