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Margarita Howard

The Secret Behind HX5’s Growth: Margarita Howard’s Approach to Sustainable Business Development

HX5, a federal services contractor headquartered in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, stands out for its consistent growth and effective strategies. Since 2004, under the leadership of the sole owner and CEO/President Margarita Howard, the company has carved a niche for itself by offering specialized professional support services tailored for federal government agencies. 

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

Margarita Howard’s approach to business development is centered around sustainability. She emphasizes the importance of understanding the intricacies of the government contracting marketplace. Howard believes in building strong relationships with government agencies. “It can serve to provide the contractor with positive performance appraisals and sometimes even lead to new or additional business,” she says. 

“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.”

Margarita Howard’s Success With HX5 

HX5 is a service-disabled veteran, woman-owned small business specializing in providing a range of professional mission support services, primarily to the Department of Defense and NASA. HX5’s expertise lies in understanding the distinctive needs of its government customers and delivering the highest level of services to meet those needs.

The landscape of government contracting has its challenges. “You have to have the experience. It just doesn’t happen,” Howard shares. The market is fairly unique, but highly competitive, and opportunities abound for companies that stay abreast of market trends and understand the tools available to gain a competitive edge​​.

Margarita Howard’s success with HX5 can be attributed in part to the strategic decision she made very early on to participate in the Small Business Administration‘s 8(a) program. This initiative, designed as a nine-year training and mentorship program, supports business owners from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. 

As a first-generation American, Howard qualified for the program, opening new doors for her business endeavors. The 8(a) accreditation was a significant milestone for Howard and HX5, enabling them to successfully compete for, win, and perform on some key contracts, some worth millions of dollars.

Howard explains that the opportunity to be in the program was very important in the early years: “After becoming an 8(a) company, we were awarded four contracts in one year very quickly, and that really helped get us off the ground.” Since 1972, the 8(a) program has empowered entrepreneurs like Howard and accelerated the growth of their businesses.

Women in Government Contracting

The role of women in government contracting is evolving, with more female leaders like Howard breaking barriers and assuming leadership roles. In 2021, 4.63% of contract dollars went to women-owned small businesses. The federal government aims to annually award at least 5% of contracting dollars to these enterprises.

Howard emphasized that when she started the company that it would be something other than the type of small business that just seeks out noncompetitive sole source contract awards. From day one, she’s made it clear to everybody that HX5 will always be a highly competitive company with very competitive rates and benefits.

Prime contractors work directly with the government, managing all aspects of a project from start to finish. They’re responsible for the project’s overall completion as defined in the contract and often hire subcontractors to perform specific tasks. To become a prime contractor, businesses must register with the government’s System for Award Management

Prime contractors have higher accountability since they’re responsible for the entire project. Their earnings are usually more than subcontractors as they do most of the work. However, subcontractors don’t work directly with the government, but with other contractors. Depending on the program being supported, subcontractors are often part of the overall team performing on and supporting the program and are often included on the team to perform in specific areas of the program. 

Subcontracting is often an entry point for small businesses into government contracting. They can find opportunities by registering with the System for Award Management, attending networking events, and researching subcontracting directories. The subcontractor negotiates the work, cost, and payment terms with the prime contractor, not directly with the government. This differentiation is critical for companies like HX5, ensuring they align their business strategies with their capabilities and goals within the government contracting sector. 

No matter the contract, Howard guides the firm to deliver the very best experience. “We have won some very large prime contracts for our size company,” she says. The company also uses large businesses as its subcontractors. “And we’re also a very good subcontractor as well,” she adds. “For example, we have been awarded a Prime Subcontractor of the Year award in recognition of our outstanding performance as a subcontractor.”

Building the business has always been a top priority for Howard. She first focused on getting the proper team and infrastructure in place. “Rather than investing in fancy furniture and offices, it was more important for us that we invest in things like a high-end accounting system that was built and developed specifically for companies who work with the government, and was government reviewed and approved,” says Margarita Howard.

“So, HX5 already having that system in place made the company very attractive to large businesses; that we were very small at the time but already had this accounting system in place that many large businesses doing work for the government were using.”

Howard continues, “That’s the type of infrastructure investments the company made that were very key in the beginning. And certainly, the Small Business Administration makes those recommendations, but they don’t force [it]. So that was a risk that we took and it highly paid off.”

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