Karen Trowbridge has plenty of reason to celebrate these days. As the president and CEO of Trowbridge & Trowbridge, the D.C.-area executive — who started her business at the age of 26 — recently oversaw the company’s 10-year anniversary.
Along the way T&T has grown into a high-performing mid-tier contactor, providing technology and engineering services to defense and federal civilian markets.
In the past five years alone, T&T’s revenue has grown by nearly 500 percent, with a current run rate in excess of $70 million in annual revenue.
The secret to that success? For Karen Trowbridge, the answer comes down to several key ingredients.
“It requires a lot of agility and mitigated risk-taking, coupled with the confidence and capabilities required to successfully achieve established goals and objectives,” says Trowbridge, speaking from T&T’s newly expanded headquarters in McLean, Virginia. “That’s the only way that a company can weather the storm — or continue to grow — in an environment like this one.”
True to form, in 2010 – just as the industry was beginning to feel shockwaves from the greatest financial upheaval since the Great Depression — Trowbridge acquired Altech Services, Inc., an Oklahoma City-based company with over 17 years of experience supporting the Defense Department’s IT and telecommunications systems nationwide.
The move was unconventional, just the way Trowbridge planned it.
“Instead of trying to only grow organically as a startup, with little prime experience and no GWAC vehicles at the time, we acquired a platform company,” Trowbridge explains. “That gave us a foundation of past performance experience in defense and an ability to accelerate growth that helped shape the early days of the company.”
T&T soon catapulted from a five-employee business into a company with over 300 employees; in addition, T&T expanded its customer base from the National Institutes of Health and the Energy Department, into additional agencies such as the Labor Department and within DOD, the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force.
Today, T&T’s dynamic growth continues, having received several prime contract awards.
Among other contract awards, in 2016 T&T won a $33 million contract with DISA to migrate many of the agency’s information systems to a managed facility; as well as an $11.1 million prime contract providing information management technology services to the Naval Sea Systems Command Submarine Maintenance Engineering, Planning and Procurement organization. T&T also expanded into new areas supporting the Army, the Air Force and intelligence community.
The Navy contract comes more than a year after another key win: In October 2015, T&T received a $42.5 million contract to contribute systems engineering, service design and operations, application development and specialized support for mission-specific systems and applications to the Pentagon’s Joint Service Provider.
Such awards speak to an “extremely structured business approach,” as Trowbridge puts it.
“We are always looking at market predictors and external factors that may affect the industry along with our business,” Trowbridge says. “We account for those things in our strategic and tactical planning — that flows down into all of the functional areas of the company, from operations to business development, and shapes our service delivery and customer experience.”
That approach also means focusing on mission-essential work that can weather any political climate — as well as focusing on ongoing development of a diversified portfolio of offerings.
“We didn’t want to be a niche company,” Trowbridge says. “We wanted to offer more broad and expansive services for our clients as an integrator and, in some cases, a specialized integrator, all in the context of achieving our growth goals.”
Over the past five years, T&T has grown its cybersecurity, information technology and unified communications portfolio, while branching out into systems engineering, architecture and cloud computing.
“We have made investments in expanding our focus and expertise in those highly technical areas, and continued to build a very strong national security portfolio,” Trowbridge says. The common link, across all offerings, is a passion for the mission, she adds.
“We take our work very seriously because we support critical missions across the government – helping the warfighter on behalf of DOD, and the American people on behalf of federal civilian agencies. We love what we do,” Trowbridge says.
Over the past decade, T&T has also fueled mission efficiencies through a continual investment in quality methodologies.
For the past decade, T&T has been ISO 9001:2008 certified. T&T has also won two American Business awards for “best support team” and “best support staffer” for its implementation of CMMI Level 2. Then this year, T&T earned the international standard for information security, ISO 27K certification. Plus, in an almost concurrent timeframe, T&T also successfully completed its CMMI Level 3 appraisal.
Trowbridge is equally proud of another distinction: In 2016, T&T returned to the Inc. 500|5000 list, which ranks the fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States. This was T&T’s fourth time on the list since 2011.
Underpinning that distinction is a corporate culture focused on attracting and retaining top-level talent that’s well-versed in federal issues. Throughout, Trowbridge surrounds herself with a strong team — that’s the same advice, she adds, that she would offer any 26-year-old seeking to start a business today.
“Decide who you want on your team, then hire people who share your vision and values and recognize you can’t — and shouldn’t — do it alone,” says Trowbridge, who notes that T&T’s entire leadership team has significant experience in technology services and the federal and defense community.
Trowbridge also places a premium on employee autonomy.
“We look for team members who are passionate, dedicated, with high integrity and an entrepreneurial spirit,” Trowbridge says. “We also try to foster employees’ autonomy, which cultivates a higher degree of innovation, flexibility and agility for the organization.”
Looking ahead, Trowbridge plans to continue positioning T&T for the full and open market, fueled by a combination of organic growth and the possibility of future M&A activity. If past performance is any indication, Trowbridge won’t be shy about taking calculated risks.
“As a company grows, it’s imperative to shake things up at various intervals by critically reviewing what builds enterprise value and what does not,” Trowbridge says. “As we look ahead, we are excited to see where we can go next — and how we can continue to bring value to our clients.”