Technology-focused Advent Services’ CEO Tomas Santos-Alejandro has won the North Florida District Small Business Person of the Year award.
The U.S. Small Business Administration announced this and related awards recently in leading up to National Small Business Week, April 30-May.
Tomas owns Advent Services, and the company now has a presence in multiple locations including Puerto Rico. The LLC has grown from eight to 31 employees and well over a dozen government contracts, plus has booked millions in revenue over the next four years.
“It took us a while, but we got there,” Tomas shares on the phone with his Florida SBDC at UWF.
The technology solutions provider helps clients accomplish goals, manage risk, and protect information. They pride themselves on execution, reliability, and agility. Part of their vision is to be the best-in-class in technically-challenging areas, and they work in industries from construction to healthcare, engineering to cybersecurity, information technology to professional services. Clients include military branches, the U.S. Forest Service, State of Florida, Gulf Coast State College, Embry-Riddle, and Jellyfish Health.
“We faced several challenges while preparing the business to grow in the government contracting sector,” Tomas discusses, “including lack of access to capital; lack of expertise in the federal acquisition process; and limited knowledge of contracting regulations.
“Our greatest success so far was last year. The company started the year with one location, six employees, one subcontract, one prime contract, one federal customer, and $500K in revenue. As of today, the company has been awarded 17 prime contracts and two subcontracts for a total combined value of $25,817,957 — as well as prime contract awards in three Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Multiple Award Contract (MAC) with the Navy, Air Force, and General Services Administration. Advent’s workforce has grown by 450%, and the company now serves 12 federal agencies across nine states and the territory of Puerto Rico.”
Minority- and Veteran-Owned Business Climbs Into Contracting
Tomas is a 10-year Navy veteran with a background in cryptology, and he supported operations in the Far East, South Asia, Middle East, and South America. He went on to work for General Dynamics and Booz Allen Hamilton. He started his first company in 2009, Nexus Technology. He sold the small business in 2012 to the Seneca Nation of Indians, where he worked as general manager, responsible for the business transition from privately-owned to tribally owned.
In 2014, Tomas joined his wife Amy at Advent Services as vice president of operations to diversify the business into the IT space. In 2016, Amy was looking to sell the business and Tomas assumed full ownership; in that year, he received his Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) certification. In 2017, he received his HUBZone certification and in 2019, he received his 8(a) certification.
Tomas has grown Advent significantly through government contracting and commercial work, and he emphasizes: “The SBDC’s help was crucial in obtaining the 8(a) certification.”
Additionally, with the help of consultants from the SBDC, PTAC, and Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), Tomas created a plan to network and form joint-ventures and mentor protégé agreements with other graduated 8(a) firms. He took the opportunity to learn about contracting and business development through formal training opportunities, counseling, and strategic tools offered by the SBA and its small business support partners.
He also networked as much as possible with other firms both large and small as well as with government agencies by attending conferences and functions, providing company briefings to specifically targeted agencies, and joining professional or trade entities in the contracting space.
Moreover, Advent received assistance from the SBA in the form of an COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
Putting the Support System to Work
Tomas says business owners “have nothing to lose and everything to gain” by reaching out to support centers like the SBDC.
“The resources offered by the SBDC are invaluable to the establishment and growth of a business in the federal sector. The free counseling by itself is worth its weight in gold, and combined with the free training and exposure to potential customers makes the SBDC a must-have partner while starting a business.”
During 2022, Advent’s growth created a financial situation in which the company cash flow couldn’t keep up with the performance demands of contracts won. However, through careful financial planning and using financial advice services offered by the SBA and its financial partners, Advent acquired a significant line of credit for its operations and avoided interruption to employees and customers.
Not only was this line of credit an immediate help, Tomas explains, but it also allowed the business to optimize its cash flow and establish an internal line of credit that can be used whenever access to credit isn’t readily available — and be able to surge operations when a new contract is won.
Advent is also fully committed to its responsibility of making communities better through its community engagement program based out of its HUBZone principal office in Tomas’ hometown of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. The company provides community support and engagement by using its volunteer staff in local events such as food drives and distribution, environmental clean-up, as well as elderly care and support.
Growth has furthermore facilitated a program to increase food security for underprivileged communities and institutions like homeless shelters, recovery centers, halfway houses, and retirement homes. The program is a collaboration with local government, nonprofits, as well as volunteers from Advent, partners, and local companies to spearhead the creation of gardens where native root vegetables can be planted and harvested for consumption; they’re sold to the public as a source of additional income and to create awareness for increased public support. The first garden will be built in May 2023 at a shelter for homeless and abused young girls called Refugio El Nazareno.
This driven, smart, philanthropic entrepreneur has been married for 25 years and has two adult children. When he’s not working you’ll find him fishing, boating, watching crazy YouTube videos with the family, traveling with his wife, or just sitting on the warm sand of a beach in his hometown of Fajardo, simply enjoying staring out at ocean.