In 2020, Red River marked 25 years in business. From its origins as a value-added reseller to the federal government, the company has evolved in recent years to fulfill a bigger, more complex need.
“Our rapid growth as a company drove us to another inflection point in our history when we made the decision almost 5 years ago to embrace our evolution from a small business to a large business,” said Chief Programs Officer Ross Woodley. “The investments we have made in people and capabilities has us well positioned to help our clients today and into the future.”
Five years later, the company has largely reinvented itself, and is on track to take a new and more prominent role in the GovCon ecosystem.
A number of key acquisitions helped set the stage for Red River’s evolution.
The first one was a commercial-based IT solutions company in the Northeast, followed by an application development company in Sacramento, California, that mainly did work with the State of California. The year after that, Red River acquired an application development company in Austin, Texas, and in 2019, added a premier managed services company out of Chantilly, Virginia, to round out its portfolio.
“Our most recent acquisition, which closed at the end of 2020, added training and education capabilities our expansive list of client services,” Woodley said.
Those key buys set up Red River to become a full-fledged technology transformation company.
“What we’ve built here is very unique,” Woodley said. “We run strategic programs such as providing storage and backup as a service to Veterans Affairs, supporting the Navy’s enterprise cloud program and running all the critical mission applications for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.”
The company has developed a network of some 150 strategic technology partners in support of this work. This network of trusted partners enables Red River to deliver programs at scale with deep technology expertise, as well as a managed services division for customers who want a fully outsourced solution or need support in areas where they do not have the internal resources.
To leverage its acquisitions effectively, the company has taken a decidedly hands-on approach to integrating its newly acquired capabilities.
“With our first sizable acquisition, for example, we sent one of our corporate (vice president) out to live in California for an entire year,” Woodley said. “We wanted to make sure that we were onsite to integrate all those back-office functions, to help ensure a good culture fit.”
For those pursuing an acquisitions-driven business strategy, Woodley said, communication is a key driver of success.
“The hardest thing we do in business is just making sure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing,” he said. “We certainly faced our fair share of challenges along those lines, and we determined that it’s really mid-level management that makes your business successful. Now, we have rock-solid communications across our middle management team.”
To keep leadership aligned, the company holds regular technology-oriented summit meetings: A Cloud Summit, an Application Development Summit, a Technology Adoption Summit and a Program Management Summit, to name a few.
“Those go across the entire corporation,” Woodley said. “Anybody who touches that aspect of the business will come together for a couple of days every year and consider the challenges specific to that piece of technology or delivery operation.”
In addition to the summits, leadership hosts an annual company meeting.
“We take the entire company and move it to a new location, and we’re on that location for about four days,” he said. “But what makes it really unique is the fourth day, we do a community service project.”
In 2020, the company was in San Antonio and went to a homeless shelter for children who have been abused. With its partners in attendance, Red River rolled in with 600 people, with all the equipment preplanned, “and the transformation we made to that organization’s facilities in just one day was phenomenal,” Woodley said.
“It’s amazing what that one day of giving back does to our corporate culture,” he added.
Now that Red River has established itself as a tech transformation entity, company leadership is looking to differentiate itself in that space.
“Our size and our mentality allow us to be very flexible in terms of how we actually roll out different capabilities,” Woodley said. “We take great pride in ensuring that things are done in a ‘white glove’ manner as much as possible. We want to deliver a high-end customer experience, and we try every day to do that.”
A 28-year Air Force veteran, Woodley retired as a colonel. He joined Red River in 2016 as head of the strategic-programs division, the first executive to be hired as part of the company’s transformation effort.
“I literally love to grow teams,” he said. “I like to see people change. How do you take someone and make that person a better player?”
Woodley learned this in the military and also as a coach.
“I coached travel hockey for 10 years and coached other sports as my kids were growing up,” he said. “It’s the same in business: You’ve got to coach people up, give them the tools, give them the foundation. When I can do that, it’s a very satisfying feeling.”