“Know your customer” was the message delivered by a number of panelists at a small business conference Wednesday at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center. That message applies to whether doing business with the federal government, to a subcontractor’s relationship with their prime, or to dealing with the general public.

The conference was sponsored by the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) with participation by the NAVAIR Office of Small Business Programs. It included sessions on dealing with NAVAIR and other Navy agencies, local government and prime contractors.
The conference also included a panel of seven local business success stories. Leonardtown High School graduate Adelle Pierce started AM Pierce & Associates just four years ago and already it has grown to 38 employees with almost $5 million in sales from offices in Lexington Park and Huntsville, AL.
 After working for others Pierce decided to come back home and start the company that provides systems engineering and integration, and IT and program management services and solutions to government and business. “Here at Pax we have something unique,” she said, adding it has been especially rewarding to provide support to the warfighter. “We are able to have an impact.”
Chopticon High School graduate Jason Burroughs cut his teeth in the defense industry at Webster Field and then forged out on his own with AV3, Inc., an audio visual company. They got their jump start by subcontracting for Smartronix, which prides itself in being a small business incubator. Burroughs credited their success to hard work and “We stick to what we know.”
Complete Contracting Services, LLC is a Howard County firm considering locating in St. Mary’s County to be close to the Navy. Owner Daniel Burns discovered the area because he has a friend here and came down to do some fishing. He then become involved with the building trades foundation. Burns echoed the sentiment of others by saying, “In order to run your work you have to know your customers and have relationships.”
One of the first things Maria Icaza did when she was getting ready to open a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in California was join the St. Mary’s County Chamber of Commerce. She is now getting ready to open a second store in Charlotte Hall. The Panama native and former lawyer said she treats her customers as if they were guests in her own home. “Know your customer. That’s what makes me happy and that’s what makes my crew happy,” she said.
Nancie Lumpkins founded Imagine One Technology and Management, Inc. in 1998. The Great Mills High School and St. Mary’s College graduate has gone from being the sole employee to having a business with 275 employees, a third being local and 17 in Afghanistan. Sales will top $32 million this year. She attributed part of her company’s success to her hiring a person familiar with government contracting to complement her management background.
Lumpkins was given business plan assistance in her early days by th