Our Humble Beginnings: An Interview with Our CEO
By Philip Way
Since 2002, Longevity Consulting has made its trail of success through a passion for service, a strong sense of dedication to client needs, high adaptation to changes and commitment to excellence. Have you ever wondered what Longevity was like when it took its first step? Read on and you will find out how it all began from a personal interview with the CEO, Bobby Long.
Q: How did you come up with the name “Longevity”?
A: It came from my cousin, who thought that the startup firm should contain our last name. Then one day, it occurred to me that “Longevity” would be a great fit because the company would continue to provide value and loyalty to our future customers.
Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself – how you transitioned from where you were to the starting of this company.
A: I was working for Booz Allen as a data analyst expert, supporting different clients. I used to put in performance appraisals that [said] “One day I wanted to start my own company”. I was matrixed in from another division to support this one client – the National Science Foundation (NSF). The manager of the client, who oversaw the NSF contract said to me, “You know what? You’ve been talking about this [starting a company] over the last couple years, why don’t you actually do it and start here?” She actually [the manager] gave me the opportunity to do so at Booz Allen. Subsequently, I submitted the paperwork and documentation to get an approval. The upper management of my division was not necessarily supporting the decision as I was such as a billable resource to them, but it was already too late. I was signed up with a partner.
Q: How did you convince Eric Thompson (COO) and Bob Emerick (CIO) to join the team?
A: Eric and I worked on the same [NSF] contract at Booz Allen. Working with him, I realized that he was extremely sharp – someone who would probably be a great partner for Longevity. I talked to Eric and sold him my idea. They [Booz Allen] then lost not just one person, but two, me and Eric. We both rolled off on a Friday and started working for Longevity full time on that following Monday.
Longevity partnered a lot with Deloitte, where I met Bob. We [Longevity] worked with Bob on a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) contract. We just always had a great working relationship. At a point in time where the company [Longevity] had expanded, I wanted to bring in another person on the senior leadership team. I reached out to Bob and it was actually a good time for him. He made that transition from Deloitte to Longevity.
Q: As a start-up company back in 2002, what challenges or barriers did you have?
A: I guess a lot of the challenges and barriers were that when I had started the company, I was still working full time. I worked 50-60 hours a week for someone else, and then had to find the energy to come back to develop my own website and marketing material. It really was physically and mentally demanding. But I carried on and fueled the drive to continue working 70-80 hours a week to get the paperwork done, the website up to date, and all other infrastructure in place. So that when I could roll off [from a previous contract], everything else had been ready to go.
In the beginning, a lot of folks made a lot of promises. They kept saying that they would help us do this or that, until we truly needed those promises. At the end of the day, we had to go out and learn how to do things ourselves. That’s why today, we take a lot of time [in] mentoring other companies or individuals who wish to come and learn our process to either work for us or start their own businesses. As a result, they don’t have to make the same mistakes that we did on this tough journey.
Q: How did you recruit your first employees?
A: Our employees from the very beginning were people with whom we had a working relationship or networked. Then we started using some of the services like Monster or Careerbuilder.com. After that, we brought in recruiters and outsourced some of the recruiting events as well, when we had to pay an astronomical fee. After some recruiters worked for their company and burned off that fee, we made them Longevity employees. It was a myriad of those opportunities [to hire new talents], until we had our own recruiters.
Q: Financially, what resources did you need to start up this business? Did you use your own money, fundraise, or take out a loan?
A: We used our own money and resources. We didn’t have a lot of overhead or employees. We rented our first office with Regus Offices ® on a part time basis. We tried to keep our overhead at a level where we could pay out of pocket at the beginning until we could build up business credit and get a line of credit from a reputable bank.
Q: How did you utilize your network to connect with and attract our clients?
A: At the very beginning, we just reached out to clients where we had done a great job. That was really our network, and that is what we started with – the clients that we supported, who respected and valued our work. I informed them that I had just rolled off [from Booz Allen] and started my new company. Those clients really desired to bring us in because they were familiar with us and happy with the work we did at Booz Allen. It was a real issue in the beginning that all the clients wanted us [Eric or me], but not necessarily the new people we hired who were doing similar work. We would come in, start the work, and roll off three, four, or six months later and backfill ourselves. That was kind of the initial process: Eric, Bob, or I, specifically, would get in there, do the work, and get it up to speed. Then we would bring in someone with the same knowledge, education, and technical skills to fill up our roles to continue supporting our clients. With this process, we could get to a place where one of us would be freed to start doing business development full time and supporting the company.
As you can see now, Longevity was not founded in a fairy tale overnight but on a bumpy road with hard work and dedication. Bobby Long’s story highlights the importance of networking, client relations, mentorship, self-motivation, resourcefulness and perseverance. Nonetheless, those early challenges have made Longevity highly adaptable and resilient in today’s unpredictable circumstances. Our talented workforce has consistently created assets for our customers and our commitment to excellence has led to exponential growth in client base. Longevity’s humble beginnings painted an inspiring message: Your dream does not have an expiration date. Take a deep breath and try again.
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To learn more about Longevity Consulting visit the firm’s About Us page or connect to our Career page to check for open positions.