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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Small Business: Pushing forward with a dream

StraCon Services Group  

6100 Southwest Blvd., Suite 510

Fort Worth 76109

817-698-0100

StraCon – Enhancing Operational Capability

By Rick Mauch

FWBP Correspondent

A few years ago Deborah Paris pushed forward with a dream. Today, she serves as an inspiration for others pursuing the same.

Paris was recently named the Texas Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration for her success as president and manager of StraCon Services Group LLC, a business she began in 2010.

Paris is one of 54 winners from across the United States and its territories.

“These small-business owners define entrepreneurial spirit and best represent the 28 million small businesses that are the backbone and economic engine for today’s economy,” said SBA Administrator Linda McMahon. The winners will be honored in April in Washington, D.C.

Paris has over 20 years’ experience supporting the government as an Integrated Product Team member while working for various government services companies, as well as with Bell Helicopter providing flight simulators for the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft for Marine Corps and Air Force clients.

StraCon, founded in 2008, provides program management, training systems solutions, engineering, logistics, foreign military sales and other technical services and solutions for the Department of Defense. In 2010, she faced multiple challenges in obtaining capital for her business, but forged ahead by pursuing a SBA loan and was subsequently approved for $125,000. That same year she became certified to work in federal contracting by being accepted into the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program. This is a nine-year program that allows socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses to obtain set-aside contracts with federal agencies.

StraCon has shown consistent increases in revenue between 2012 and 2016, despite a limited funding environment within the government. The company has grown from eight employees in 2010 to over 100 today. According to INC Magazine’s INC 5000, StraCon had revenues of $6.2 million in 2015 and had a three-year growth rate of 289 percent.

“As this year’s top entrepreneur in the state, Paris characterizes strong, courageous and creative leaders who help build our communities and create jobs,” said South Central Region Acting Regional Administrator Dottie Overal, who leads the delivery of SBA programs in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Also from Fort Worth, Reginalea Kemp of Kemp and Sons was named 8 (a) Graduate of the Year for SBA’s Region 6, which consists of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

“We are proud to have two of the top Texas small businesses representing the Dallas/Fort Worth District,” said Herbert Austin, SBA’s Dallas/Fort Worth district director.

Paris took a moment to answer a few questions for the Fort Worth Business Press:

What does this award mean to you? Were you aware you were in the running?

Winning this award is a huge honor and very humbling to represent our wonderful state of Texas. This gives our employees an opportunity to know they are doing something right, the company is heading in the right direction and it gives them even more reason to be proud of being part of the team.

Our Dallas/Fort Worth SBA business occupational specialists (Kevin Sloan and Amhad Goree) encouraged us to apply. We applied but had no idea we would be considered for anything beyond our local district.

What will this award mean to StraCon Services?

Recognizing the hard work and exceptional work of your staff is important, and an award like this helps keep an already motivated team even more motivated. I think it will also give new employees a sense that they are truly joining a great team.

Who are the people you’d like to thank most for this award?

Obviously, the SBA. They have an excellent group of people there that are invested in helping small businesses succeed. I would also like to thank all the great employees at StraCon. Recognition like this is a direct reflection of their professionalism and dedication to helping Team StraCon do a great job for our clients and our warfighters.

Who were the biggest influences in your career and advancement?

One of my first influencers was Ron Bell, when we worked together at Bell Helicopter. He was my former program manager for our V-22 simulation team from 1998–2002. He really challenged me to stretch the limits of what I thought I was capable of doing. He continually pushed me to absorb greater and greater responsibilities, and this helped me to believe I could accomplish almost anything I set my mind to.

Back then, the entire aerospace environment was male-dominated and Ron pretty much taught me that I could kick those doors down with outstanding performance and determination.

My biggest influence in life and work has been my husband, Ken Fancher. Ken has always been a constant source of encouragement for me to take brave steps. I might not have had the courage to open my own company given the timing of the economy without his belief in me and abilities. His continuous encouragement to excel and take risks has been a huge influence. Ken has always been my greatest cheerleader and it is wonderful to know he and I have each other’s back.

What are the biggest challenges StraCon faces moving forward?

Sustaining our culture at StraCon. We really have a deep dedication to doing what is right for the warfighter and maintaining a family environment within the company. I have seen companies grow and lose that small-town feeling. We want to sustain the capability and agility to do bigger and better things, but retain our commitment to making our employees feel they make a difference.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Growing StraCon from one employee (me) in 2008 to over 100 today. Looking back, it has been a very rewarding, challenging, exciting and humbling journey.

If you could visit with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you ask?

Christopher Columbus. He was the first to tackle the uncharted waters of the vast ocean. Previous explorers had always hugged the coastline of familiarity when they ventured out to sea. Not Columbus. He was told he was crazy when he sailed across the Atlantic in 1492 even though he did not know what, if anything, lay ahead.

I first heard this from my husband and his business partners years ago, and called it “going perpendicular.” I would love to ask Columbus how he summoned the bravery do something so different, when people think you are nuts. However, I love the term “going perpendicular” that somebody coined, and feel that taking risks is a trait that small business must have.

Where do you see yourself and StraCon in five years? 10 years?

In five years, I’ll still be running hard and laughing every time somebody mentions work/life balance. In 10 years, I’d better be on a beach and starting to hand over the reins to younger blood in StraCon. It will remain a small but highly productive business that continues to serve our government clients. Hopefully, we can do that for many years to come.

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