Shaun Thomas knows his business.
He's been in environmental and storage tank maintenance, repair and replacement in the Kansas City area for more than 20 years.
After working in such areas as CAD drafting and surveying, Shaun joined an environmental remediation company in Independence in 1990. Over the next 14 years he learned the business so well that he was making virtually all the project decisions in the field and the business decisions in the office. So, after discovering he could run a business he decided to start his own firm in 2004.
When Shaun opened the doors of Genesis Environmental Solutions Inc., the company had a workforce of one. But Shaun knew his business and he knew where he wanted to take it.
From one employee, one desk, part of an office and minimal equipment, GES has mushroomed in seven years. Today the company's expandable 16,000 square-foot Blue Springs-based headquarters has more than 20 employees and three acres to accommodate a work shed and the growing legion of vehicles and heavy equipment required to tackle the customers' needs.
"We've changed quite a bit in the seven years since I started GES," says Shaun. "But all the while I knew where I wanted to go. We're on the right path."
That path includes providing a full-service approach to industrial and facility maintenance as well as environmental remediation and construction. The 8(a) certified Native American-owned business (Shaun traces Ottawa ancestry from his mother's side of the family) provides diverse professional expertise, including environmental remediation, tank integrity testing, high-performance coatings and industrial cleaning.
With the company's full-service capacity, it fills a unique niche in its industry. While other firms in the field each focus on a single aspect of the coatings and storage tank maintenance service, GES covers the full range of customer needs and serves as a one-stop shop. GES's roster of clients — Kansas City Southern Railroad, Exxon Mobil, Water One of Johnson County, YRC, Allied Aviation as well as various federal and state agencies — and its geographic range, from Georgia to Colorado, testify to the firm's breadth of capabilities.
One of those many capabilities — technical coatings application — led to GES's first contract with the Missouri Department of Transportation. GES is a subcontractor on MoDOT's "Safe & Sound" bridge improvement program. GES workers apply a high-performance epoxy coating to bridge beams as they come off the production line at another contractor's manufacturing plants in Iowa and Kansas.
The nearly $1 million contract awarded last year was the result of a lot of government contract bid preparation and paperwork completed with the help of Donna Leonard, procurement specialist with the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (MO PTAC). Leonard, who is based at the University of Missouri Extension office in Blue Springs, has worked with Shaun since soon after he founded GES.
"It was one of the first orders of business I had," says Shaun. "I needed to know what government projects were out there, regardless of whether I bid on them or not."
Leonard assisted Shaun with such bid-ready steps as selecting key words to describe and align his firm's capabilities with the specific requirements of selected projects in the government bid-matching system.
The government procurement bid process can be time consuming and frequently resembles a journey through a maze. Procurement specialists such as Leonard provide expert advice to smooth that journey. The procurement path for Shaun ultimately led to the MoDOT contract.
In addition to Leonard's expertise, Shaun also found business counseling assistance from Carmen DeHart, director of the Small Business & Technology Development Center at UMKC. DeHart initially served as Shaun's coach through a FastTrac© GrowthVenture™ class that coincidentally was funded by MoDOT.
"Carmen helped broaden my understanding of such things as financial evaluations and cost ratios," says Shaun. "The accounting side of the business was one where I needed more knowledge and Carmen gave me the guidance to increase my understanding in that area."
Looking down the road, Shaun can envision a retirement filled with frequent visits to Caribbean beaches. Planning for that day — which may be only 10 years away — he sees the company continuing its growth. His 26-year-old daughter works in the business as his office manager.
"She's energetic and bright," he proudly admits. "She runs a lot of the operation now and she has the drive and ambition to keep this company on the right track.
"Of course, I've still got some drive and ambition left in me, so I plan on taking GES farther down the path of progress myself in the next few years."
Client contact information:
This story was featured in the June 2011 newsletter
Read PTAC success stories