Women-owned Cd'A contractor grows with federal work - Spokane Journal of Business

Women-owned Cd'A contractor grows with federal work - Spokane Journal of Business

Women-owned Cd'A contractor grows with federal work - Spokane Journal of Business

Posted: 04 Jun 2020 07:01 AM PDT

Not even the COVID-19 pandemic has been able to blunt the tide of growth the design-build construction company Verdis is experiencing.

Since becoming a member of the Small Business Administration's 8(a) Business Development Program in 2016, Verdis has secured 99 federal projects, 19 of which are currently active, says Sandy Young, founder and principal of the Coeur d'Alene-based company.

The 8(a) program is a nine-year business development program that provides business training, counseling, marketing, and technical assistance to small businesses that have applied and then been accepted to the program.

Verdis has a greater ability to secure federal work with certifications as both a woman-owned business and an 8(a) operation. The federal government's goal is to award at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to small businesses and women- and minority-owned businesses.

Now doing business in 13 western states, Verdis recently secured its largest federal contract to date, an almost $4 million project in Alaska, where Young is from originally.

A 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck south central Alaska on Nov. 30, 2018, continues to generate engineering and construction repair work through the federal pipeline.

Despite the flourishing federal work, Young says one of the requirements of 8(a) status is to maintain local work in the community. While she declines to disclose the firm's annual revenue, she says close to a third of all income is generated by local projects.

Deemed as an essential business, Verdis anticipates annual revenue to double in 2020 over 2019. First-quarter revenue alone this year exceeded calendar year 2019, she says.

The company forecasts a nearly four-fold increase in revenue by 2022, compared with 2019 earnings, Young says.

"We've been able to self-perform much of our work, which is a big deal for an 8(a)," she says. "Very few firms do both engineering and construction. We seal fish ladders, rip up rails in powerhouses at dams, and restore old buildings and windows."

With 25 employees, Verdis occupies roughly 2,000-square feet of space in a second-floor suite at Parkside Tower, located at 601 E. Front. It's the company's fifth location since its founding in 2007, Young says.

A vice president of construction, Colin Meehan, oversees five project superintendents and six members of a field-personnel team, constituting the firm's largest concentration of employees.

Young, who is 64, moved to Idaho from Alaska in 1997 and spent the next decade working in Kootenai County's community development department. Along the way, she met her late husband, Gary, who worked as the director of community development for the city of Post Falls, she says.

The two married in 2006, and the following year, Young says the couple began the process of going into business for themselves.

"He had been in business for himself for a while; he was a licensed landscape architect," she says. "He'd say, 'It's not as easy you think, not every hour is billable.' I remember sitting on a plane—we were going on a trip somewhere—and telling him, 'Let's do it.'''

In the basement of a building in Post Falls, the couple set up an independent development and planning operation.

"Fortunately, because of our public-sector jobs, people knew us," she says. "There weren't many planners around, so we got a few clients right out of the gate."

Young says the company steadily grew. Landscape architecture work quickly expanded, and Verdis began using subcontractors for civil engineering projects.

In 2012, Verdis was granted woman-owned business status through the SBA, but the business didn't qualify for the 8(a) program due to the couple's combined assets, she says.

Then, in 2014, Gary Young contracted cancer and died the following year. It was his death that allowed Verdis to qualify for 8(a) status, she says.

"On his death bed he said, 'Get the 8(a). I want you to kill it. I don't want to have to worry about you,''' Sandy Young says, fighting back tears.

Reflecting on that time, Young says the business took off as she poured herself into work as way to deal with the grief.

"That wouldn't have happened if I would've had a spouse at home, right?" she asks rhetorically. "Who doesn't want to be home at night?"

Young says she bought a new car and "hit the road" religiously in an effort to generate new business.

"Honestly, it seemed like such a longshot because you're sitting there trying to sell your capability, and I really didn't understand the world I was in," she says. "We didn't have any idea how to put a bid together, we didn't know what we were going to do. We were designers."

As Young tried to recruit clients, she was asked if Verdis did construction work. Upon answering no, she was met with a consistent message: Come back when you do.

"Three times I heard that. The fourth time I was asked, my answer was, 'You bet we do,''' she says. "I came back and told staff we're going to figure this out."

A year later, Verdis secured its first federal contract, a $327,000 Kachess River Bridge project in Cle Elum, Washington, Young says.

Stephanie Blalack, a senior planner with Verdis, has a perspective about Young and the firm, unlike any other employee. She is the company's first hire.

"I hired Steph out of college (2004) when I still worked for Kootenai County," Young says. "When I jumped ship, I brought her with me."

Says Blalack, "She was a phenomenal boss at the county, so when she left in 2007, I was just devastated."

Seven months later, Young reached out to her with a job offer.

"I was 25, 26, and I'm thinking of leaving my government job? My parents were like, 'Are you crazy?''' says Blalack.

"But I just had this feeling that I knew she was going to make it," she says. "If it were anybody else, I would not have left my government job."

Kevin Blocker

8x8 Selects GoCardless to Manage Recurring Payments Across Its Growing Global Business - MarTech Series

Posted: 20 May 2020 12:00 AM PDT

8x8 Selects GoCardless to Manage Recurring Payments Across Its Growing Global Business
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Oracle Strikes Deal With 8x8 As Larry Ellison Picks Amazon's Pocket Again - Cloud Wars

Posted: 14 May 2020 12:00 AM PDT

But now Oracle's got Autonomous Database and has made it the centerpiece of its cloud-infrastructure strategy.

And now Oracle's got a number of referenceable cloud-infrastructure customers. Customers that came on board in spite of what was surely intense competition from all three massive hyperscalers: Microsoft, Amazon, and Google.

And then last month, as video-conferencing high-flyer Zoom was facing a stupendous increase in daily meeting attendees, Zoom overlooked incumbent IaaS provider AWS as well as Microsoft and Google and picked Oracle to help it handle that extraordinary surge.

And this week comes word that another video-conferencing company—8×8—experiencing a hockey-stick spike in demand also bypassed incumbent AWS and the other two giants and picked Oracle to handle its video workloads as monthly users boomed by 100X. Oracle's website says it simply offered 8×8 a combination of performance and price that AWS could not possibly match. From the site: "8×8 migrated its video meetings services from AWS to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure for a savings of more than 80 percent in network outbound costs, global reach, and substantial performance enhancements—experiencing more than a 25 percent increase in performance per node." 

I also want to note that an 8×8 executive said that while his company was heavily influenced by Oracle's superiority in pricing and performance, he was also "blown away" by how easy it was to do business with Oracle and how quickly 8×8's video workloads were up and running on OCI.

Mehdi Salour, 8×8's senior VP of Global Networks and DevOps, said Oracle offered "incredible support" throughout their discussions and was "extremely engaged."

Speaking on a conference call with analysts earlier this week, Salour said he had production video workloads up and running 4 days after the deal was signed.

And while 8×8 remains an AWS customer—as is the case with Zoom—Oracle's cloud infrastructure is handling the huge and complex video workloads resulting from 8×8's growth during the pandemic from 200,000 average monthly users to 20 million average monthly users. 

Here are a couple of graphics that Oracle posted on its "Cloud Economics" page to demonstrate the stark differences between its prices and those of AWS. The first compares connectivity pricing, and the second network pricing.

Table showing Oracle vs AWS pricing for connectivity

Table showing Oracle vs AWS pricing for networks

Again, I fully understand that it will take many more such wins before anyone can credibly claim that the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure business belongs in the same class as those of the Big 3. 

But in the Cloud Wars, the competitive dynamics are unlike other businesses. Because:

  • the demand is so great, 
  • the opportunities are so vast, 
  • the technology is evolving at a staggering pace, and
  • business customers know they are in a buyers' market fed by savage competition.

And then there's the Larry Ellison factor—and it would be a terrible mistake for anyone in the market to underestimate the significance of that element. For more than 50 years, the Oracle founder has been confronting existing and supposedly impregnable power structures, typically with great success.

Ellison has said that in the early days of his tech career, the prevailing wisdom was that IBM was the technology environment in which you competed, rather than against which you competed. 

That "know your place" outlook clashed directly with Ellison's outlook and personality. He set out to defy that rock-headed conventional wisdom and find a better way to deliver innovation and business value to corporate IT customers.

The result was the Oracle Database, a relational technology Ellison had read about in an IBM research paper describing a relational database as conceptually exciting but practically not feasible.

As a result, IBM's once "untouchable" market share in the database segment is now a distant second or third to Oracle's.

There are other examples—from enterprise applications to sailboat racing—and it's clear that Ellison relishes the role of plucky but clearly outclassed underdog.

Two months ago, in Oracle's most-recent quarterly earnings call, Ellison eagerly recited a list of big global companies that had chosen Oracle Cloud Infrastructure that quarter, with most having been heavily influenced by their desire to get the Oracle Autonomous Database. (You can read all about that in Larry Ellison Redefines Cloud as Oracle Autonomous Database Surges.)

Ellison then laid out what he believes is not only his vision—"it literally is the promise of the cloud"—but also the worst nightmare for his big cloud competitors. From that article:

And as Ellison described a couple unique features of his Gen 2 cloud infrastructure with the cloud-native Autonomous Database, it became harder and harder to separate where the database part ends and the infrastructure part begins. That is, no doubt, precisely what Ellison is intending.

"But another thing that people may not know about Autonomous Database is that it's both serverless and elastic," Ellison said on the call.

"When your application isn't running on the Oracle Public Cloud, you don't pay for any CPUs—you've got no CPUs dedicated to you and you're not paying for servers. That is not true of Amazon databases. If you have Redshift, you pay for the right Redshift processors. If you have their MySQL implementation, you pay for those processors.

"But we're not only serverless, we're instantaneously elastic," Ellison said. "So if you suddenly need to go from two servers or two cores to 20 cores, we do that instantaneously, while the database is still running. And then when you no longer need the 20 cores, we automatically go back to the two.

"So it literally is the promise of the cloud."

Can Oracle keep this cloud momentum going, now that its OCI business is gaining visibility and will surely draw much more competitive attention from AWS, Microsoft and Google?

We'll get our first clear indication in about a month when Oracle reports its fiscal-Q4 earnings in early June. Until then, who knows—maybe Larry Ellison will have cause to make another YouTube video or two.


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