Dr. Wright began his enterprise by cold-calling government agencies. After a lot of investigation and piles of paperwork, his firm landed its first contract, worth $4,800, to design architectural drawings for the offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. After that, Dr. Wright methodically grew his business one contract at a time for the next two decades.
On March 6, 2003, he passed the torch to his son, naming him chairman and CEO.
FROM GOFER TO CEO
The younger Wright’s rise to the top was a combination of intense financial and technical training and tough love. He began his career at DI while attending Morehouse College, doing everything from working the switchboard to moving office furniture. When he graduated with a business management degree in 1989, he joined DI as a full-time employee. “The best way to describe my position when I started is as a gofer,” Wright recalls. “I went to get lunch for people, took mail to the post office and FedEx — all the ripping and running around.”
He then went to work in accounts payable where he began to learn DI’s inner workings. In accounting, he learned how to handle billing and payroll, before moving into contracts — the lifeblood of the company. It was during these early days that the younger Wright developed a keen sense of discipline and responsibility. “When I turned 23 … as most young adults, I found myself in a little bit of debt,” says Wright. Wright then went to his father hoping to get a raise. Rather than bailing the recent college grad out of debt, the elder Wright suggested he find a second job. Despite being the son of a businessman with a multimillion-dollar company, he moonlighted as a stock clerk at the discount retailer T.J. Maxx.
Every night for roughly 18 months, Wright would leave work at Dimensions to stock shelves and check inventory. The elder Wright felt it built character. “You can’t just hand the company over,” says Dr. Wright. “He hadn’t progressed far enough in the company for me to arbitrarily give him a raise. To his credit, he went to T.J. Maxx and I went down one day to check up on him and he was working the cash register on the checkout line. He earned his way.”
Over the years, Wright would work in each department within the company, climbing the corporate ladder and understanding every nook and cranny of the business and government contracting. No special treatment was asked or given. “My father is a big proponent of tradition and earning your keep,” Wright says. “If you earn it and deserve it, you get it. If you don’t earn it and don’t deserve it, you don’t. Being his son didn’t earn me any extra kudos or any extra influence. [He didn’t pass] the company to me just because I was his son.”
It’s evident that the Wrights run a meritocracy: they have given their employees a piece of the rock. The Wrights control 59.4% of the stock of the privately held