Phil G. Busey, Sr., JD
Founder and CEO
DRG and the Busey Group of Companies

Quite often the most intimidating factor in launching a small business is daring to take the first step.

Lau Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher said, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Simply put, to begin a thousand – mile journey we must have the courage and be willing to take the first step.

Stepping into your dream of starting a small business is no small feat. There are risks. It requires a leap of faith. There are sacrifices, and we have to find it within ourselves to take a first step and not look back. 18 years ago, after practicing law for over twenty years, my wife, Cathy, and I launched Delaware Resource Group (DRG). While meeting with a Boeing buyer at a small business trade show in 2001, I floated a model that I had seen used at Johnson Space Center by Lockheed Martin to reduce costs on a NASA contract. I ventured to see if there was any possibility to develop a business relationship with Boeing. I presented the economic solution to them based upon a multi- faceted concept to not only reduce costs significantly for Boeing, but to also secure minority small business percentages required by some government contracts. By utilizing DRG, Boeing could obtain a 5% rebate offered to prime contractors that use Native American sub-contractors under the Indian Incentive Program with the Department of Defense (DoD). Boeing was re-competing a contract in which they were the incumbent. Though they were technically superior to their competition, the concern was cost.

I was surprised that my first step resulted in an invite to the table. It took 18 months to work out the subcontracting role. We learned a new lesson at every corner. When Boeing called on September 1, 2002 with the news that they won the E-3 AWACS Mission Crew Training Contract, we were told that we had 30 days to fully transition 93 Boeing employees to DRG, leaving us with little time to celebrate. In those 30 days we had to transition all 93 employees to our payroll, match and provide Boeing’s healthcare benefits, provide a 401k, and re-negotiate a CBA. We did it! On September 30, 2002 there were 2 of us, and on October 1, 2002 there were 95. DRG was launched, and we never looked back.

Today we are a family-owned Native American Aerospace and Defense Contracting company with a global presence of well over 120 locations and approaching 800 employees. I often think, what if we did not take that first step with Boeing? The lesson was to understand the market’s needs and craft solutions that were valuable to this large company. We adopted a strategy to start as a subcontractor and eventually gain the experience needed to bid and perform contracts as a prime. We developed strong past performance, cultivated business relationships, offered solutions and utilized minority and small business advantages.

When starting a new business, begin by determining the services you can provide. Set reasonable goals, secure needed expertise, craft affordable yet attractive benefits to maintain the best employees, and understand small business or regulatory advantages. Next, I recommend establishing a strong banking relationship. This step was essential to secure cash availability and sustained performance before we were ever awarded a contract. On the other hand, guard against leveraging too much. It can affect profitability because of added costs and force your pricing upward. It is also important to adopt a strategy for measured growth, building infrastructure as you go. We implemented a relationship building approach for the expansion of our business with the hope of securing long term growth opportunities. It was not easy. There were sleepless nights.

DRG has grown over 6,000% since 2002 because of our flexible, ever evolving business model. We adapt to market changes and are willing to learn and lead with humility and integrity. Our number one asset is our people. We now have multiple service lines that can offer support on starting or growing your business in all industries. Building lasting relationships is key to our growth and success. If you have a dream to begin your own business, be ready to get knocked down and get right back up. Commit to the challenges of operations and growth. Be ready to change with the market even in tough situations like a global pandemic. 20-30% of small businesses may fail., but do not give up. There are always opportunities in adversity, so have courage, prepare and take the first step.

Most importantly, do not over plan. Execute your vison. While addressing a crowd of 500 small business owners at the INC 500 Awards Conference in 2005, American writer, Tom Peters asked “How many of you are working on your strategic plan?” Everyone felt the need to raise their hand. He looked around the room, took a dramatic pause and profoundly said, “Just do it”.

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