Episode 57: S6E2 – Building a Successful Business, Book, and Community
Today, Tom Dunlap chats with Sharon Virts about building her successful government contracting business, her new book, and her recent philanthropy work.
Federal Consulting Services
At 22 years old, Sharon Virts started her own consulting company that helped government contractors find work in the federal government. She touches on the ups and downs of growing a successful business, and how she had to pivot ten years in to become a federal contractor herself.
By 2007, her company had 30 government contracts, focusing on business process outsourcing. By the time she sold the company in 2017, she had over 5,000 employees and 127 offices nationwide. Listen to the episode to hear her approach to strategy and bidding when it comes to landing contracts.
How Sharon Started Government Work
Sharon started working in and with the government at the young age of 16, when she won a junior fellowship through the Department of Education. From there, she worked as a statistician’s report person for Housing and Urban Development all throughout college. She talks on how much she learned in her four years at Computer Sciences Corporation working on large clients.
Selling the Business
After a pivotal conversation with her son in 2015, Sharon began examining what she wanted to do with her company and her life. She didn’t want debt in buying a partner to grow the business, but she started thinking she didn’t want the business at all anymore. She advises anyone starting a business to come up with an exit strategy before you start.
Research, Research, Research
Sharon also talks about which challenges she didn’t see coming and the ones she did. Around 2001, her company almost went under as their client list dwindled due to Mergers and Acquisitions. While Sharon was blindsided by this, she researched new areas for her company to enter. She did in dept research on immigration and fee-for-service work, and found that no matter the current administration in office, her work could remain stable.
From Business to Living History
After selling her business, Sharon took some time off to travel and restore and move into a historic home, Selma. She gives the history of the home and the area. After restoring the house, she now hosts philanthropic events in the space. Eventually, she and her husband will convert Selma into a B-n-B, with all of the proceeds of that B-n-B going into her foundation that serves the community.
Virts Miller Foundation
Sharon began her foundation to support four pillars that she believes are necessary for a thriving community: education, cultural and historic preservation, healthcare, and opportunity for development. They have donated millions of dollars to build much needed systems like a Trauma Center in Loudoun County, and STEM, reading, and art programs for the local schools.
Masque of Honor
After a conversation with one of her screenwriting friends, Sharon realized she needed to write a novel with all the stories she learned about the history of the Selma Mansion. She started researching more on Armistead Thomson Mason, the U.S. Senator who built her home, and the people in his life. Her book incorporates politics of the 1800s, voter fraud, and duel between two men—sound familiar?
Her second book, Veil of Doubt, is about a lawyer in 1872 who defends a woman accused of killing her four children, her husband, and her aunt. The book encompasses topics of 1800s forensic science, mental health, and how different laws were back then.
Three Pieces of Advice
The first value Sharon wants to highlight is that giving back to the community and taking care of the vulnerable is our job and purpose. No gift is too small, whether you give your time, money, or services. Find a way to incorporate it into your business and your life.
When it comes to running a business, Sharon says the smartest thing she ever did was focus and plan what she wanted to do and have research to back it. For her book, she urges any writer to keep writing, and don’t be afraid to cut.
No matter what ventures you’re tackling, stay focused and stay determined.