In this Entrepreneur Spotlight we have put our focus on ELEVI Associates, an Information Technology company supporting customers throughout the US in both Federal as well as Commercial Enterprise markets. The company is comprised of three business units: IT Professional Services, IT Staffing Solutions, and Technology Systems & Support. ELEVI was founded in 2002 and is based in Columbia, MD. We took a few moments to interview Phil Puccio, CEO of ELEVI, to ask some questions and learn more about his company.
- Tell us a little bit about ELEVI and how you first got started?
It was one of those situations where, after being caught up in a massive reduction in force during the .com bust, I looked at the glass not being half full or half empty, but rather as an opportunity to fill the glass up again in entirety. I was so far out of my comfort zone at that point that it was the perfect opportunity to do what I had thought about doing for several years, yet I was too comfortable to take the chance on it. So, with my wife’s support, I embarked on this journey of creating a different type of IT Consultancy firm from that which was in the market – a business enabler offering our customers the opportunity to gain efficiency and an edge on their competition by creating a more effective workforce through the benefits that technology offers the human foundation.
Information Technology doesn’t make business happen, people do. However, people can be much more effective at their job and an organization more efficiently if IT resources are employed the right way. It’s ELEVI’s subject matter expertise that makes this happen. We put technology to work for you.
- Elaborate on the three different business units that make up ELEVI?
All three business units are inter-related, meaning they all support each other. Our IT Professional Services business unit is comprised of computer engineers, cyber security professional, and systems administrators. They each help our customers with ensuring that the systems which support the business operations work seamlessly together, are secure from external and internal threats, and are easily accessible with the reliability that end users expect.
Through our Technology Systems & Support business unit, we provide customers the hardware and software products that we deploy and integrate through our Professional Services business unit. The unit also provides for the manufacturer relationships that make the engineers in our Professional Services business unit more effective at what they do for our customers.
Finally, our IT Staffing Solutions business unit provides for the IT staffing needs our internal operations in staffing for contracts that we perform on in the Federal market. It also provides the staff augmentation needs of our commercial enterprise customers needing subject matter expertise for deployment or integration of new technologies or simply additional IT personnel to support large project initiatives. In addition, our IT Staffing Solutions business unit provides for the internal organic growth of ELEVI’s own technical staff enabling us to expand upon our geographic and vertical market footprint.
- What does the name “ELEVI” mean and how did you come up with it?
The word “ELEVI” comes from the Italian language and it means “to maximize”. I can’t take all of the credit for the name myself as it was a group effort between my wife, son, daughter and I. Our company name had to first represent my heritage because I firmly believe that you always have to remember and respect where you came from and what got you there and secondly, it must have relevance to what we do for our customers. Being that the work-life balance and so many other values of the Italian culture molded who I am today, it was a no-brainer that the name needed to be of Italian origins. And when thinking about what our mission as a company was to be, the word ELEVI was very fitting as “We MAXIMIZE the benefits of technology for mission and business.”
- What has been the biggest challenge in this industry?
Being that I was as bold as to create a start-up Information Technology company in the middle of the .com bust, I’d have to say that was a significant challenge in itself, but not the biggest. What I would consider the biggest challenge would be trying to stay ahead of the pendulum. By this I mean that, in 2008, when the bottom fell out of the commercial market, we had both the luck as well as the foresight to see it coming. We had to take the necessary steps to restructure and develop as well as act on plans that would enable us to leverage our knowledge of the Federal market, including the DoD and Intelligence community. Then in 2012, when there were signs of things going amuck in the Federal market with sequestration and political parties at each other’s throats, we had to once again make the necessary adjustments in the company to ensure successes and growth in the commercial enterprise market. Our ability to continue to grow even while these market shifts happened is due to maintaining a very delicate yet simplistic balance between products and services as well as Commercial and Federal business. This to me has been the most challenging thing for our company, but it’s like my Mother of nearly 94 years has always said to me, “everything in moderation!”
- What are some key milestones you are hoping to achieve in 2017?
As I mentioned above, 2008 and 2012 were definitely key years for us as we made significant transitions in our business, and 2017 is proving to be another one of those pivotal times. There have been a few other key milestones that have gotten ELEVI to where we are today. The first major milestone came in 2004, when we began to shift the business model from our origins as a “Manufacture’s Rep” approach selling and providing marketing services for strategic partnerships, to providing services and products directly to our customers. This was when we created our IT Staffing Services business unit which quickly also spawned our Professional Services business Unit. Then again in 2009 when we fleshed out our product offerings and created our Technology Systems & Support business unit, we once again had to make adjustments in how we operated and in the necessary people, processes and tools to support that facet of our company. And now in 2017, we have opened our “ELEVI West” operations to bring us closer to our customers on the left coast, and at the same time are taking the necessary steps in the Federal market to prime larger contracts, we’re once again taking monumental steps forward in the growth and success of ELEVI.
- What advice would you offer other small business entrepreneurs starting out today?
Rather than give any advice myself, I’ll simply reference a poster that My Father gave me a long time ago and I still have it hanging in my office today. These are words of wisdom from Robert Fulghum that any entrepreneur can take to heart as guiding principles to lead them through their journey both in business and life.