corporation while its 900-employee workforce owns 31.1% through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, and a minority shareholder owns the remaining shares.
One of the keys to DI’s success has been its creation of proprietary products, especially Flight Explorer. With this totally customizable system, subscribers can see a map of the U. S. with small airplane-shaped icons representing each flight in the air. Clicking on one of the planes shows its flight information (the airline, flight number, origin, destination, time of departure, and estimated time of arrival) and flight pattern (indicated by a thin line). Users can zoom in on individual streets and highways to see which airplanes are overhead and view weather fronts and other satellite images. A valuable homeland security tool, Flight Explorer has been used by government agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and law enforcement agencies to determine if a flight has veered off course or if a plane is approaching a no-fly zone. Flight Explorer also has lucrative commercial applications. Companies such as FedEx, UPS, NetJets, and American Airlines have adopted the software to track and manage their aircraft fleets. Other customers include Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, JetBlue, and Airborne Express.
In addition to its proprietary products, critical mass will be vital to sustaining or enhancing DI’s competitive advantage. “I think they now have the best of both worlds. They did an acquisition and they’re fueling their growth that way, but they’re also having success growing organically,” says Allen. “And that’s very important. You need to be able to compete head-to-head as well as through acquisitions. I like where their profitability is heading, and there seems to be room for the margins to continue to improve.”
And Wright is looking to improve. With the SENTEL deal, he and his team pulled off one of the hottest IT acquisitions of the year. “[The acquisition] reflected Russ’ style. He does take risks, but he’s not a shoot-from-the-hip person,” says Beveridge. “He makes the ultimate decision and he’ll make decisions quickly, but he always makes very sound, informed decisions.”
There will be more quick decisions to make if he wants to meet his sales forecasts: more than $130 million in gross sales this year and more than $160 million in 2006. Then there’s his focus on the development of multiple revenue streams. Some 90% of the company’s business comes from the government. Wright wants to map out a strategy to further expand into the corporate arena — gaining contracts from large multinationals.
Those decisions will have to wait. First thing in the morning, Wright will call a management meeting to discuss issues related to controlling costs and hitting revenue targets.
As the basketball game is wrapping up, Wright is already on the road. His slick black Benz weaves through evening traffic in the nation’s capital as he thinks about the next items on his agenda. He remains optimistic, confident that his strategy of growth by critical mass will enable DI to score big for years to come.