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Margarita Howard’s Insight into HX5’s Competitive Edge in Government Contracting

Founded in 2004, HX5 has carved a niche in the government contracting sector, a field characterized by its complexity and competitive nature. The company, under the visionary leadership of Margarita Howard, specializes in providing space and defense mission support services for federal government entities​​.

Margarita Howard, the sole owner and CEO/president of HX5, has been the cornerstone of the company’s success. Her leadership is characterized by a blend of business discipline and executive insight, drawing on her extensive experience and education. A service-disabled veteran, Howard holds a Master of Public Administration and a Bachelor of Arts degree, credentials that have bolstered her leadership in navigating the government contracting landscape​​​​.

Under Howard’s stewardship, the business, which is headquartered in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, has expanded its footprint across 25 states and has a 1,000-employee-strong workforce.

Howard emphasizes the importance of strategic growth, stressing, “You have to commit to a lot of hard work, and experience is very important. It doesn’t just happen.”

It didn’t “just happen” for Howard, who began her professional career as part of the contractor implementation team for Tricare, the government’s health care program for servicemen and women, veterans, and their families. There, she learned many of the ins and outs of how government contracts are bid on and won. It was enough to leave an indelible mark on Howard. After the Tricare contract was up, “I started to seriously think about and consider starting my own business,” recalls Howard. “I just felt that I had seen it from the ground up.”

Howard also credits her entry into the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program, a nine-year training program that offers mentorship and support services to business owners who are socially and economically disadvantaged. Howard, a first-generation American, qualified. Armed with an 8(a) accreditation, Howard was eligible to bid on and win contracts up to several million dollars. “After becoming an 8(a) company, we were awarded very quickly four contracts in one year and that really helped in getting us off the ground.

What are her tips for small businesses who hope to score hard-to-land, lucrative government contracts?

“To excel in government contracting, it is imperative to understand the unique characteristics and intricacies of this marketplace. Government agencies at federal, state, and local levels have diverse needs and requirements, which can vary significantly across industries and regions.

“In order to be a successful government contractor, you have to invest time in researching and understanding your target market. You need to analyze government procurement trends, identify key decision-makers within agencies, and track upcoming opportunities through government procurement websites.”

She says businesses need to understand the industry and government needs. “Large businesses and the government have to meet small-business goals,” she says. “So when they find a small company that they know understands the industry, that performs well, takes care of its employees, they know they’re not going to have to hold their hand so to speak; that makes for a very positive long-term relationship between the two companies and oftentimes leads to new contracts and the expansion of existing work.

“Building strong relationships with government agencies is an invaluable asset for successful government contractors as it can serve to provide the contractor with positive performance appraisals and sometimes even lead to new or additional business.”

Building a solid track record also helps. “You start building [on] your past performance, which those initial contracts we received provided the foundation for HX5.”

As any longtime entrepreneur can attest, it helps to remain adaptable and never count your eggs before they hatch. Howard notes that she has never relied on or depended on sole-source contracts to be the main source of contract revenue to the company or on contracts where it’s determined that only one selected vendor can supply a service. She adds that it’s important HX5 remains diversified and always an active competitor for contracts.

“Really, it’s a mix. We have won some, for our size company, very large prime contracts. And we have large businesses as our subcontractors. And then we’re a very good subcontractor as well. We have also been given a Prime-Subcontractor of the Year award in recognition of our outstanding performance as a subcontractor.”

One of the company’s notable achievements is its reputation for providing exceptional professional services, serving prominent clients, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, and the General Services Administration.

Additionally, HX5’s portfolio shows a breadth of diversity, having supported research, development, test, and evaluation projects, weather operations, software and hardware engineering, information technology, missions operations support, and program management and logistics.

Quite impressive for a CEO who bootstrapped her way to success — against all odds — as the sole owner, with no investors or partners needed.

Small, Woman-Owned HX5 Succeeds in a Tough Landscape

In the complex landscape of federal government contracting, women-owned small businesses face a challenging journey. Despite women owning around 40% of small businesses in the United States, their representation in federal contracting doesn’t exactly mirror this proportion. The federal government, a colossal buyer of goods and services, has set a procurement goal of just 5% for women-owned small businesses. This goal, established back in 1994, has been a tough target to hit, with the government only meeting it twice in over two decades, once in 2015 and again in 2019.

From 2020 to 2021, the share of contracts going to women-owned small businesses fell, and in 2021, a significant 83% of agencies awarded fewer prime contracts to women-owned small businesses compared to the previous year. Between 2010 and 2019, there was a 38% reduction in the number of small businesses providing common products and services to the federal government.

As of 2024, minority-owned businesses still face significant challenges in winning federal contracts, too. According to the Minority Business Development Agency, non-8(a) minority-owned small, disadvantaged businesses generally have lower odds of winning federal contracts compared to other small firms across nearly all industries. This analysis is based on recent federal contracting data, indicating a persistent disparity in the success rate of minority-owned businesses in securing federal contracts​.

Underrepresentation, unmet procurement goals, and a daunting contracting process paint a picture of an uphill battle for women-led small businesses seeking to navigate the federal procurement landscape in 2024 — which makes Howard and HX5’s success all the more impressive.

Margarita Howard and the Competitive Edge of HX5

Achieving a competitive edge in government contracting requires specialized expertise, strong past performance, cost-effectiveness, adherence to regulations, innovative solutions, effective networking, responsiveness, security consciousness, and quality assurance.

One of the critical aspects of HX5’s success under Howard has been its ability to balance being a prime contractor with maintaining strong subcontractor relationships.

Another aspect to which Howard attributes much of HX5’s success is its employees. She acknowledges their vital role in its achievements. She says, “At the end of the day, it’s HX5’s employees. Many of them have been with us for 10 years or so, and we just have a highly dedicated, experienced management team. We could not do what we do without them.” This emphasis on teamwork and employee value is a testament to her inclusive leadership style.

Looking to the future, the company, under Howard’s guidance, is poised to continue its trajectory of growth and innovation in government contracting. With its robust foundation in professional services and a strategic approach to business development, the company is well positioned to adapt to the evolving needs of government projects.

Margarita Howard’s leadership at HX5 exemplifies how strategic vision, team value, and industry understanding can create a competitive edge in the complex world of government contracting. Her journey and insights offer valuable lessons for businesses aspiring to succeed in this challenging sector.

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