Adams has forged Sa-Tech into rising military industry player
$50M Largo contractor supports training, other Pentagon programs
This story was corrected on June 7, 2011. An explanation follows the story.
When Timothy Adams approached a bank in 1988 to ask for a loan to start his own business, he was 29, had three years of experience in the aerospace industry, a master's in business and nothing to offer for collateral.
"I told them, I have a solid business plan. Why do you need collateral when you have me?' " he said. "I figured if anything happened and the company went under, I could get a job and pay them."
Adams' prospective lenders found his determination amusing, he said and they agreed to extend a line of credit.
Twenty-three years later, that ambitious dream has grown into Systems Applications & Technologies, a 350-employee company with more than $50 million in annual revenues.
The Largo company, which provides testing support services for federal military agencies, often supports some of the last training soldiers receive before they are deployed. It also has provided anti-terrorism support protection training.
The Baltimore-Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce in Laurel recently named the company, known as Sa-Tech, its Large Business of the Year. The award recognizes businesses that have supported both the chamber and their communities while distinguishing themselves among other businesses.
Adams, 52, said this is the first time Sa-Tech has landed a large-business award, having been categorized as a small business until three years ago.
Revenues have grown as much as 12 percent annually, but Adams expects this year to be tougher, as the company is no longer eligible for many small-business set-aside contracts.
"But that doesn't mean there won't be larger business contracts to propel us forward," he said.
The next step for Sa-Tech is looking at mergers and acquisitions, as it can no longer grow organically, Adams said. Sa-Tech also is moving more into the simulation training field.
Adams, a New Orleans native, began his career with a Navy contractor that helped support weapons systems for the Pacific Missile Test Center in California. He held many positions during those three years, rising from courier to eventually manager for engineer and logistics.
This was at a time when the government was first realizing the benefits of testing missiles through simulations other than live launches, Adams said. It was also the advent of independent verification identification software development.
Having learned many aspects of the field, he was ready to start his own company.
After charming his banker, Adams secured his first prime contract with the military in 1991, supporting training with military ships.
He later moved Sa-Tech to Largo from California, where he launched it, after amassing more and more federal contacts within the District, and meeting his future wife, Sheila R. Tillerson, a judge who later became administrative judge for the 7th District Judicial Court and Prince George's County.
Greg Gill, partner with Baltimore law firm Venable and longtime professional and personal associate of Adams, praised him for his foresight and ability to anticipate what will happen next in his industry.
"He spends his time figuring out how to navigate these difficult waters and choose the best direction for his company," Gill said.
Adams warned of uncertainty in the industry regarding military spending.
Military agencies spent more than $80.65 billion on developing, testing and evaluation in fiscal 2010. They are requesting $80.39 billion for fiscal 2011, according to the Department of Defense.
Agency leaders are tasked with making "good, conscious" decisions about how to proceed, Adams said, and they may have to buckle down on funding only a precise group of priorities and performing those missions well.
Adams said Sa-Tech has grown by homing in on its target market and focusing on what it does best.
"This nation is based on democracy. Our warfighters are what guarantee that to us," he said. "To know that what we do every day impacts and supports that makes you feel good about getting up every morning."
Adams has adhered to this mindset, even after a fall during a family vacation six years ago that damaged his spine and left him a paraplegic.
Sa-Tech staff continually visited Adams during his rehabilitation, ensuring he remained an active part of its operations, even holding the annual holiday party in his room, he said.
Much of Sa-Tech's success is due to the character and quality of its people, many of whom were former military leaders, Adams said.
"He engenders support for those who work with him," said H. Walter Townshend III, CEO of the Baltimore Washington Corridor chamber.
"He's not missed a beat," said M.A. "Mike" Little, president of Oxon Hill human resources company B&W Solutions. "He's a person who thinks things through. He's logical and methodical in his approach and passionate about his business, but grounded."
Little and Adams both have served on the Bowie State University Foundation, along with Gill. Adams is the foundation's chairman.
Adams also is previous chairman of the Greater Prince George's Business Roundtable, which links business executives with government officials, community leaders and military personnel to tackle common issues. The group has spearheaded efforts such as bringing the Maryland Room to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and securing a charter school at Joint Base Andrews in Camp Springs.
Adams lives in Bowie with Sheila and their three children. He enjoys listening to all kinds of music.
Timothy J. Adams
Position: Founder and CEO of Systems Applications & Technologies, a 350-employee Largo company with more than $50 million in annual revenues that provides testing support services for federal military agencies.
Previous positions: Courier, manager and other positions for contractor with Pacific Missile Test Center in Point Mugu, Calif.
Education: Masters of business administration, University of New Orleans, bachelor's degree, Xavier University in New Orleans.
Organizations: Board of directors, Prince George's Black Chamber of Commerce; chairman, Bowie State University Foundation; former chairman, Greater Prince George's Business Roundtable; chairman, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Privatization and Procurement Council; U.S. chamber's Corporate Leadership Advisory Council; commissioner, Maryland Economic Development Council; board member, University of System of Maryland Foundation; board member, Doctors Community Hospital and Hospital Foundation; National Black Chamber of Commerce.
Family: Wife, Sheila, and three children.
Hobbies: Listening to music, spending time with his 9-year-old twins, reading.
Correction: This story was changed to correct the information about Adams' children.