How a woman-owned business doubled revenue in two years

By:  Ruchika Tulshyan

Staff Writer- Atlanta Business Chronicle

May 16, 2013, 10:02am EDT


The top 50 fast-growing women-owned/led companies in America created $3.2 billion in 2012 revenue and collectively employed 24,000 people in 2012.

Atlanta-based IT company Xtreme Solutions Inc. ranked 13th in an annual list compiled by the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and American Express OPEN. Phyllis Newhouse, founder of Xtreme Solutions shared how her company’s revenue more than doubled to $8.9 million in just two years.

Don’t let other’s perceptions hold you back

“I’m a service disabled veteran and an African-American woman. But I don’t use that as a crutch,” Newhouse said. “I’ve had people think I’m going to roll in on a wheelchair. Many don’t understand the concept of service disabled. But really, it’s your work that speaks for you.”

“I’ve often gone to meetings where everyone assumes that a man will make the presentation,” she said. “But when they see the knowledge you possess, that’s what changes their minds. You will be able to establish a connection with your audience through knowledge.”

Xtreme Solutions had an average annual growth of 44 percent in the last five years and counts Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) among its clients.

Shop in your own wardrobe

“It’s necessary to rebrand yourself every four years so you can assess your sales processes, client needs and what’s happening in the industry,” she said.

Being stuck in what worked in the past can often hinder a company’s growth. More than 65 percent of Xtreme Solutions’ growth came from existing clients after a rebrand.

“For one government contract, we wrote their technology plan, and recommended a solution. Then we developed that solution in the next three years, so we could get win our next contract from that client,” she said.

Women don’t just bake cookies

“The WPO compiled the list of the top 50 fastest-growing women owned businesses to prove that women don’t just bake cookies,” said Marsha Firestone, founder and president of the WPO.

For Newhouse, being a woman in male-dominated fields – first the military and now in technology – is business as usual.

“It’s actually a piece of cake being a woman in business, after being a senior leader in the military,” she said.

Mentoring only works when it’s a two-way street

“The best thing you can invest in is finding a mentor,” Newhouse said.

Newhouse’s mentor runs one of the country’s largest staffing agencies. She heard about her from someone else and tracked her down.

“My mentor said to me: ‘if you’re serious about growing your business, you’ll come to L.A. and meet me in 2 days,’” Newhouse said.

She jumped on a plane and five years later, her business grew to nearly $10 million. But she said it’s important to ask powerful mentors how you can help them too.

“In order to sit down at the table, you need to bring something too. They need to learn something from you,” she said.

What’s your ‘why’?

Knowing why you’re in a business is crucial to success. Newhouse has seen multiple businesses fail because entrepreneurs never stopped and asked themselves what motivated them. “When you’re passionate about the ‘why’, success is almost a given.” Newhouse said she re-establishes her ‘why’ every three years. Surround yourself by people who motivate you. “Energetic people can help you refocus your ‘why’,” she said.

Be nimble

When Newhouse started her company, she planned so that commercial clients would make up 70 percent of clientele, while government contracts would only account for 30 percent. But within the first year, she had more requests from government clients. “We had to change the way we worked very quickly to take advantage of their needs,” she said.

Invest in the best

Xtreme Solutions employs skilled engineers that are very expensive.

“To keep our retention rate high, we offer to pay for the certifications our employees need,” she said. Employees tend to commit because they are offered incentives to enhance their own career paths. The company now has 264 employees.

Discipline wins you clients

The core characteristics of her success comes from the discipline she learned in the military, she said. “It transferred to everything I did, from writing a business plan to focusing on a sales strategy.

When Xtreme Solutions approached AT&T as a client, the mobile provider had a rigorous checklist of what they needed before any company could be a supplier for them. Newhouse had no employees, but was “very diligent” about getting certifications that normally take between six to eight months to get. It took her three weeks.

“It was a tremendous amount of work, but I just don’t procrastinate,” she said. “AT&T was amazed by my diligence.”

What do you fear the most? Do just that

Despite a fear of heights, last year Newhouse climbed the Piton mountains peaks in St. Lucia.

“I challenged myself to climb the mountains and it took seven hours,” she said. “But sitting at the top of the mountain reminded me of everything I’ve done. The end results were not easy to get to and there’s pain along the way. But it’s worth it.”

That pretty much sums up Newhouse’s business strategy.

Ruchika covers banking and finance