Lisa Firestone launched her employee benefits and disability management consulting firm in 1997, but it wasn't until six years later that she saw an untapped niche: handling case management for workers' compensation issues for the federal government.
"We went from pure consulting to offering a suite of products that assisted the recovery of employees injured on the job," said Firestone, President and CEO of Managed Care Advisors, who, armed with the technical expertise, partnered with another small, woman-owned firm that was better versed in government contracting to bid for the first job.
Although teaming with another company to try and win a single contract is a strategy lauded by consultants, landing that first one wasn't easy. "We were up against large businesses and up against the fact that we never had a contract before," said Firestone. "We also had to protest the first bid, where the initial determination was that no small business could handle the job. But we ended up winning it."
From there, Firestone decided to "really learn the government contracting business" so she could successfully compete for prime contracts, where her company would be solely responsible for fulfilling the job.
The research set a precedent for how Firestone investigates future jobs. Before landing her biggest contract to date—a so-called blanket purchase agreement for up to $53.5 million from the Department of Homeland Security—she spent at least three years researching the agency, figuring out the opportunities it might afford her company.
Today, Bethesda, Maryland-based Managed Care Advisors generates about 90 percent of its revenue from federal contracts; it holds six prime contracts and two subcontracts with a handful of different agencies.
While the company wouldn't disclose an exact revenue figure, the $53 million contract is for up to five years, and that's just one of eight contracts Managed Care Advisors currently holds. Firestone said 90 percent of revenue comes from these contracts, and year-over-year sales have been growing at a rate of 30 percent to 40 percent. She plans to add at least 20 employees—making 60 total—in the next six months.