Geeks, Mush Heads and the IT Revolution: How SRA International Achieved Success over Nearly Four Decades

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9781442242807: Geeks, Mush Heads and the IT Revolution: How SRA International Achieved Success over Nearly Four Decades
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SRA International grew from one person in his home basement to more than 7,000 people and nearly $2 billion in revenue in thirty years. The firm was profitable, revenue increased every year, and it became highly admired for its values and culture. SRA was on the Fortune list of 100 Best Places to Work in America for ten consecutive years. The company’s initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange was the sixth most successful in 2002, and the price of its stock soared. Then, at the height of success, the top management team changed twice, growth declined, the firm made a bad acquisition, and the market it served began to decrease.

SRA was sold to a private equity firm. The new owners (including the founder and author of this book) hired a dynamic young CEO who implemented changes designed to restore values, culture, and business success. As this account ends, the market was challenging, but the outlook was promising.

This book describes the lessons learned through varied phases: startup, rapid growth, changes in leadership, business problems, privatization; and it explains how high ethics and a sense of service to customers, employees, and society led to a very special company. Its intended audience is business professionals in emerging and established companies and for current and former employees and friends.

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About the Author:

Ernst Volgenau has a wealth of management and educational experience. A Naval Academy graduate and a PhD in engineering from UCLA, he spent twenty years in the Air Force attaining the rank of colonel, headed the Office of Inspection and Enforcement at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and then founded and led SRA as CEO for twenty-seven years and remained chairman for the rest of the time covered by the history in this book. Not relying solely on his own judgment, the author collected the perspectives of others who had helped build the firm.

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SRA is an outstanding company, dedicated to high ethics and care for customers and employees. I highly recommend this history for its lessons learned in creating an excellent example for corporate America. (General David C. Jones, former chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of Air Force)

A fascinating history of SRA International’s four decades of growth, challenges, and success driven by a brilliant, hardworking, and high-minded farm boy with a blooming ingrained talent for leadership, team building, and commitment to serve customers and employees. A must read for those with an interest in entrepreneurism. (William A. Anders, Apollo astronaut and former CEO of General Dynamics)

Having served on the boards of startups as well as attending over 500 board meetings of Fortune 100 companies, I only wish this book had been written years earlier. It could have saved my employers a lot of money (and myself a lot of scar tissue!). (Norman Augustine, creator and CEO of Lockheed Martin, leader of national studies for the President and Secretary of Defense)

If you want to know what it’s really like to start a business, grow it from small to big, and how to confront serious transitions and challenges along the way, you can get it all from this very readable and candid book about one of the most successful firms in the field. (Charles Rossotti, former head of the Internal Revenue Service, entrepreneur)

This is the story of Ernst Volgenau’s unrelenting belief that culture and values define the core around which a firm is built, grows, and prospers. ‘Honesty and service’ drove customer and employee satisfaction, and ultimately shareholder value. We need more leaders who understand the importance of a company’s culture to its long-term success. (Steven A. Denning, chairman, General Atlantic Partners; chairman, Stanford University Board of Trustees)

I worked with Ernst in the McNamara Pentagon in the late 1960s and recall when he started SRA. I was a competitor and saw SRA at close hand for at least twenty years; a great company with a strong culture, aggressive and tough, yet very ethical and fair. They were leaders in applying IT to the business and operational challenges of DoD and many civil agencies. Today’s CEOs can learn many lessons from this book. (Phillip Odeen, former CEO, TRW)

SRA International grew from one person in his home basement to more than 7,000 people and nearly $2 billion in revenue in thirty years. The firm was profitable, revenue increased every year, and it became highly admired for its values and culture. SRA was on the Fortune list of 100 Best Places to Work in America for ten consecutive years. This book describes the lessons learned through varied phases: startup, rapid growth, changes in leadership, business problems, privatization; and it explains how high ethics and a sense of service to customers, employees, and society led to a very special company.

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