On September 2, 2020, the National Capital Chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth announced the winners of their annual Corporate Growth Awards. These annual awards are presented to the region’s biggest deals, top executives and fastest growing companies, and serve to celebrate the dealmakers that make the national capital region and its business community one of the fastest growing, successful and active in the nation.
The recipient of this year’s award for Corporate Growth Company of the Year (Under $25M) was IronArch Technology, a provider of next-generation IT solutions and consulting and advisory services to the federal government and military. The company has exhibited incredible organic growth in the government contracting marketplace – which remains one of the most crowded and competitive in the region.
To learn more about the company and what has helped sparked its incredible growth, we recently sat down with IronArch’s CEO, Joe Punaro. During our discussion, we asked about the key differentiators helping to separate IronArch from its competitors in the government contracting space, the company’s dedication to employing veterans, and the attributes that have helped the company compete for – and win – business and government contracts, even when competing against much larger companies.
Here is what Joe had to say:
Corporate Growth, Capital Style (CGCS): Can you tell our readers a little bit about IronArch Technology?
Joe Punaro: IronArch is a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) that provides IT modernization and operations services and management consulting to the federal government. As a decorated combat veteran, it has always been important to me to give back to the country, so I founded IronArch Technology as a means to do just that. The IronArch purpose is to ensure future generations have the same opportunities we do.
We help customers evolve their strategic and operational performance to meet the needs of today’s diverse, complex, and globally distributed environment. We help agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, better serve their constituents by offering services that range from application migration, software engineering, and digital transformation to financial management. For example, we assisted a customer with moving an application from an on-site environment to the cloud to ensure veterans located in rural locations had access to the medical care they earned.
Back when I was in sixth grade, I desperately wanted a pair of Air Jordan shoes. Instead of buying them for me, my parents told me to get a job. I started a paper route shortly thereafter. That translated to waking up at 5 am every day, rain or shine, to deliver papers. (And I owe my mom a big thanks for getting up with me!) Back then, you hand-delivered the paper to each customer’s front door, rather than throwing it at the end of the driveway. People were very particular about where you placed their paper – some wanted it on their mat while others wanted it placed inside their storm door or mail slot.
I knew that if I delivered for each customer, every day without fail, my reward would be receiving good tips over the holidays. While I did earn those Jordans, the lessons I learned early on have proven to be my most valuable and enduring rewards that have translated to every aspect of my current business.
CGCS: IronArch Technology was named the Corporate Growth Company of the Year (Under $25M) by ACG National Capital. Much of this growth appears to be organic growth resulting from an impressive list of government contract wins. What has positioned IronArch to compete for and win this business?
Joe Punaro: Our unique company culture and technical acumen are reasons why customers keep us around and continue to grow our teams. Since my time in the service, I have carried one of the key Marine Corps Leadership Principles with me: “Know your Marines and look out for their welfare.” Whether in uniform or a suit, I have found this sentiment applicable and resounding.
At IronArch, we aim to know our teammates and look out for their welfare; we call this our “People First” approach. I expect every one of the IronArch leaders to get to know the people on their teams beyond their skillsets. By caring for the whole person, such as ensuring that they have the tools to be successful on the job and providing benefits that support those individuals and their families—our employees are free to provide best-in-class services to their customers. I believe this idea has truly served as the foundation for the success and growth IronArch has been fortunate to experience over the past few years.
CGCS: The government contracting space is a very crowded and competitive marketplace. How has IronArch managed to compete with some of the massive government contractors in this space? Has the company been able to leverage relationships with these larger players to facilitate its growth?
Joe Punaro: Early in my Marine Corps career, I discovered the value of learning from those who have come before me, and this lesson has been critical to IronArch’s success in this competitive marketplace. I am fortunate to have cultivated a network of successful professionals who have been willing to mentor me; I am not shy asking for help when I know I need it. I have been intentional in building relationships with organizations of all scopes and sizes, and IronArch has benefited from mentor-protégé relationships with the best of the large players.
While relationships are critical, I believe the biggest competitive advantage we have is our people – we employ some of the most talented professionals in the nation. Our employees are a tight-knit and highly collaborative team, and they achieve world class results by continuously raising the bar and consistently putting the needs of our customers ahead of their own. We take our customer relationships very seriously; in the same way we ardently strive to enable and serve our employees, the entire IronArch team works to provide that same level of high-quality, professional service to our customers.
“In addition to providing a superior customer experience, we are also equally committed to the intellectual growth, professional fulfillment, financial well-being, and happiness of our teammates. It might sound cliché, but when an employee joins IronArch, they’re joining a family. And we mean it.”Joe Punaro
CGCS: One of IronArch’s capabilities or solution offerings is next-generation enterprise IT solutions. What trends and challenges are driving IT investment across government agencies today? Why are agencies investing so heavily in IT and digital transformation today?
Joe Punaro: Many agencies are hindered by legacy IT systems that are difficult, expensive to maintain, and even more difficult to modernize. Evolving agency missions add complexity, and there is a growing expectation that government technology should be comparable in quality to that of non-government consumer apps, systems, and services available in the private sector. However, due to security requirements and other unique issues, government technology has traditionally lagged behind private sector counterparts. The public sector is making great progress, but there is much work left to do.
Consequentially, as technology becomes fundamental to everyday business processes, government enterprises and agencies are seeking to produce capabilities that operate as efficiently as private sector offerings. When looking towards the future, distributed cloud is becoming increasingly vital. As part of this strategy, the need to adopt As-a-Service models is growing. Specific offerings include Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and even Data Management as a Service (DMaaS).
By adopting these capabilities, government agencies and organizations are better equipped to collect, synthesize, and utilize data trends to ultimately produce right-sized, efficient solutions. This also enables organizations to make smarter decisions more quickly, something increasingly important in today’s ever-changing digital environment.
The pandemic has triggered agencies to fast-track these transformation initiatives, as they realize that modernizing their IT solutions to leverage cloud capabilities and current technologies can literally mean the difference between their mission succeeding or failing. The pandemic has underscored the need for agencies to be able to execute missions and initiatives with a remote workforce. It’s highlighted the need for an on-demand and as-needed IT resources that only the cloud can provide.
CGCS: How has this been impacted by some of the more unique societal issues and challenges that we’ve experienced in 2020? How are things like the pandemic influencing digital transformation initiatives and IT spending in the government?
Joe Punaro: The pandemic reinforced the need for government employees to be able to work from any place, anywhere, at any time. COVID-19 has shifted where employees, customers, and even suppliers physically exist. Many workers, nine months later, still cannot physically go into their offices. Additionally, many users of these government services need the ability to access these services remotely, too. Location independence requires technology shifts.
Further, the scalability of cloud computing remains important. IronArch can assist agencies in transitioning to flexible digital-based platforms as well as help implement new practices and technologies. By making these necessary updates, government services are better equipped to assist their constituents in any environment, whether COVID-19 or any unexpected challenges should arise.
Before COVID-19 evolved into a full-fledged pandemic and before many companies decided to allow remote work, we pivoted to allow the entire workforce to be completely virtual. We purchased all the necessary home office equipment for our staff to remain productive in their new work settings. For example, to optimize the ‘work from anywhere’ mindset, IronArch implemented Microsoft Office 365, including their best-in-class cloud and communication applications.
These new practices have also allowed our teams to continue working at their best without being inhibited by the challenges of COVID-19.
CGCS: IronArch has been named a top place to work by the Washington Business Journal. What makes IronArch such a great culture and environment for employees? Why is this important to the company?
Joe Punaro: At IronArch, we are a “people first” company. In practice, this means we strive to put the needs of our colleagues before ourselves. In addition to providing a superior customer experience, we are also equally committed to the intellectual growth, professional fulfillment, financial well-being, and happiness of our teammates. It might sound cliché, but when an employee joins IronArch, they’re joining a family. And we mean it.
Even as we continue to expand in size, we work hard to maintain a tight-knit culture and community. For example, I add personal touches to our business practices, such as sending handwritten notes to employees on anniversaries, birthdays, etc. We are a company where no individual is bigger than the next – including me. I believe trust is key and employee empowerment is a vital step in providing customers with high-quality professional services.
To keep up employee morale during this unprecedented time when we cannot be together in person, we have sponsored multiple, “Happy Hours from Home,” for our employees and their families to participate in games such as Trivia and Pictionary, with prizes for the winners. We have hosted socially distanced outdoor lunches for employees to gather in a safe setting. In lieu of the annual company picnic, I mailed a gift box to each employee, with items like bluetooth speakers and monogrammed water bottles.
Based on recent survey results, IronArch employees have not experienced any decline in their connection to their teammates or the company, which is a win in my book.
While relationships are critical, I believe the biggest competitive advantage we have is our people…Our employees are a tight-knit and highly collaborative team, and they achieve world-class results by continuously raising the bar and consistently putting the needs of our customers ahead of their own.Joe Punaro
CGCS: IronArch employs a significant number of veterans and military families. Why is hiring veterans important for the company? Why should other companies follow your lead?
Joe Punaro: When I first envisioned IronArch, I knew I wanted to create a place that sought out and valued veterans and military family members. In addition to my own experience in the Marine Corps, I was fortunate to grow up with a father, mother, grandfathers, and grandmothers who demonstrated strong work ethic and integrity, values they attributed to their time in the services or supporting a spouse in the service.
Additionally, after completing my own transition out of the military, I knew I wanted to create an environment that specifically helped veterans build strong civilian careers.
After running IronArch for seven years, I can confidently say that our veteran and military family employees are some of the most dedicated, solution-oriented, and hard-working people I have had the pleasure to work with. Additionally, their experience in uniform or managing a military household brings a unique perspective that proves especially valuable in the federal marketplace.
I strongly recommend all companies seek out and support veterans, military family members, and caregivers looking to join the industry. Not only will you be helping people who have put their lives on the line for us or the people who supported them first-hand in this mission, you will also gain an amazing teammate.
For a full list of 2020 Corporate Growth Award winners, click HERE. To learn more about IronArch Technology, click HERE.