Maggie M. Harris has been in the government contracting business since graduating from college and working at the Unisys Corporation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and U.S. Department of Defense. In 1992, she joined Engineering Systems Consultant Inc., moving within the ranks from a program manager to chief technology officer to vice president of operations.
When ESC’s founder, Major General Calvin G. Franklin, passed away, his family offered Harris the Landover, Maryland-based firm (it has since relocated to Arlington, Virginia).
“My strategy was to acquire the company and use the many avenues, my prior background and achievements, to catapult the company to new heights and prosperity,” says Harris, ESC president and CEO.
Today, ESC is a woman-owned firm, certified under the US Small Business 8(a) development program that employs 75 full-time staff. ESC designs, implements, and maintains professional solutions for federal government and commercial clients, such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, IBM, Hewlett Packard and General Dynamics. ESC was initially founded as a strategy and information technology company, but has expanded its footprint to cover information security, assurance, research information sharing, intelligence analysis, cyber security, enterprise architecture, and medical assistance.
Harris was able to acquire ESC in 2004 thanks to an ongoing banking relationship.
“Wells Fargo provided the timely delivery of service and personal attention needed to assist in my acquisition through an Asset Sale.” She was able to tap into a $113,000 line of credit from Wells Fargo to buy ESC.
Harris put into practice what many entrepreneurs often fail to do. That is to build a rapport with a banker long before needing to borrow money. This person isn’t the local teller who knows your name when you make deposits. This is a business relationship banker who understands your industry—a trusted financial adviser on par with your accountant or lawyer.
One way to get assigned a banker is to ask a branch manager. Once you have identified someone, you can tell that business relationship banker who you are, what you do, and ask how he or she can help grow your company.
Not only had Harris used Wells Fargo for her personal banking, but ESC had an extensive business banking history with Wells Fargo (Wachovia before the merger). Most importantly, as ESC successes mounted and the business continued to grow, so did the support received from the bank.
Initially, Wells Fargo provided ESC with a business line of credit in the amount of $113,000. In 2006, it was increased to $500,000. As ESC’s account receivables increased, so did the need to increase the line of credit. As such, ESC transitioned from a relationship managed through a branch store to a relationship managed through the Wells Fargo Business Banking Group. In 2010, Wells Fargo increased ESC’s line of credit to $750,000 and in 2011 it was increased and is currently at $1 million.
“This was as a result of our ability to demonstrate that we know how to manage the business, cash flow and growth in the marketplace,” notes Harris.
In addition to a business line of credit, services and products provided by Wells Fargo include, checking, credit card, money market, CDs, stocks, bonds, merchant banking for credit card acceptance, and mobile banking.
“We see ourselves as being an advisor and community partner,” says Kimmey Doney, vice president, senior business relationship manager. He talks to Harris on a regular basis via telephone, email and onsite visits. “At least once a month we have an event providing opportunities for [business owners] to meet senior members of Wells Fargo and to hear from economists or product specialists,” he says.
“He constantly keeps me abreast of Wells Fargo new and innovative products and services, networking events and Wells Fargo Economics Group Training,” says Harris. “Just recently he invited me to attend a reception in Washington, D.C. to meet John G. Stumpf, Wells Fargo President and CEO, as well as the Wells Fargo Board of Directors.”
Every year, Wells Fargo conducts an annual review of ESC’s line of credit.
“I request financial statements year-to-date and previous years. I talk to operations and accounting,” says Doney. “One way you can tell if a company is growing is by the amount of invoicing they are doing. If they are invoicing a lot and they have a large amount of receivables,” he adds.
A line of credit was used in ESC’s case as working capital so as to meet contractual obligations.
“It is vital that we continue to update and provide quarterly and annual financial statements to Wells Fargo,” says Harris. “So that the recommended solutions we receive from our bank remain perfectly aligned with our emerging services and ever increasing market share.”