Tim Slater, president of Information Solutions Design, Inc. is an entrepreneur with a $12-million company and 125 employees.
“Growing up in this city and to be a success at what I do, that allows me to contribute back to the city I grew up in,” Slater said. “That’s a gratifying feeling.”
Slater will be recognized as 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year on Thursday, Nov. 15 at the 13th annual Salute to Excellence in Business Awards & Networking Luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis. The networking reception begins at 11 a.m., and the luncheon and program starts at noon.
The event is jointly hosted by the St. Louis American Foundation, St. Louis RCGA and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.
A person has to make calculated risks when starting a business, said Slater. When Slater calculates risk, it comes from 20 years of U.S. Air Force service in information technology.
After spending his life instructing and managing the U.S. Air Force’s computer training centers, he could have gotten a job with AT&T, he said. The company had openings in San Antonio, Texas, where he was stationed. He could have worked for an IT company and stayed in the South.
Or he could try to shoot for his dream. He always wanted to go into business, watch his own business grow and offer opportunities to other people to develop their skills as well.
“You just do it,” he said. “Or else you will always wonder, ‘What if?’”
In the fall of 1997, Slater moved back to St. Louis and became the project task leader for Dynamic Process Solutions Incorporated out of Scott Air Force Base. Five years later, he bought the business. DPSI largely provided information technology services to clients such as the Air Force, U.S. Army, and other Departments of Defense organizations.
Slater started with three employees, and he grew it to 100 in four years.
This kind of success can only happen, he said, “when you’ve got a family unit that you can say, ‘Let’s circle the wagons, let’s make a run at it.’”
He gives much credit to his wife of 30 years, Sheila, his Normandy High School sweetheart. She is the human relations manager for Information Solutions Design and New Horizons.
In the early stages, there was a lot of uncertainty.
“You’ve got this company in this building. There are employees on payroll, and you’re trying to find revenue streams,” he said.
Within the first two years, the business paid off its debt.
In 2005, Slater started Information Solutions Design, adding a consumer IT training sidekick to his government services business. Through Information Solutions, Slater opened a global franchise called New Horizons Computer Learning Center for St. Louis and Metro East. It’s the world’s largest IT training franchise with 300 centers in 60 countries.
In 2006, EADS North America Defense Security and Systems Solutions, Inc. bought DPSI. Slater put more focus on developing the training business.
Before New Horizons was able to get fully rolling, the economy took a downturn. It actually ended up being a blessing.
“While most businesses went down, ours went up,” Slater said.
New Horizons was able to partner with the state and federal government to provide workforce investment programs. The company received $1 million in the Workforce Investment Act funding to offer training classes as a free service for those in the local community who were impacted by layoffs.
“In our partnership with the state, we are focused on outcomes,” Slater said. “Can we make people employment ready?”
Students learned the functionality of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – all with the objective of connecting with potential employers. It provided training certifications in various technologies, including Microsoft technical training, Cisco, Project Management, ITIL and Lean Six Sigma.
More than 200 unemployed area businesspeople have enlisted in New Horizons Computer Learning Center to learn how to leverage social media to land jobs. The training program has a 70-80 percent job placement rate.
Equally significant, the federal and state partnership was able to bring in more diversity to the company’s training programs. Before the partnership, New Horizons center students were 90 percent white males, ages 25 to 45. As a result of the federal and state funding, now 35 percent of the students are African Americans, women and minorities.
“This funding is giving more minorities and opportunity to increase their technical and IT management skills without out-of-pocket expenses,” he said.
The goal, of course, is to keep growing. Information Solutions recently closed a $2 million deal with Scott Air Force Base. They will be providing IT training to the people that are part of the Air Force Network Integration Center.
“We’ve been blessed to be where we are and that we can afford to make an opportunity for the others,” he said. “Our purpose is to continue mentoring others and grow an organization where people can achieve their objectives.”
Tickets to the 13th annual Salute to Excellence in Business Networking & Awards Luncheon are $75 each for general seating, tables of 10 available for $750; $100 each for Preferred/VIP seating, tables of 10 available for $1,000. Call 314-533-8000 or visit stlamerican.com.