Lessons Learned: A Veteran Owner's Battle Plan
00:00 Frank Campanaro: My name is Frank Campanaro. I am the CEO of Trillacorpe Construction, which is a federal military contractor. We're a business that is generally owned, operated and staffed by veterans or patriots.
How'd your focus become federal military contracting?
00:16 Campanaro: We saw the government build up for the war and just some of the rehab that federal government was doing as an opportunity to go into a new direction, but I want to say that that was originally inspired by wanting to do something for the GIs that were coming home. I already knew, spiritually, that I wanted to do something for those that had given way more of a sacrifice than I had. I have all of my fingers and I have all my body parts. I'm lucky. And the GIs that I wanted to work with would have been severely disabled, so you may take a fully blind GI or a GI that's is an amputee or may be missing two or three or more body parts, that is a real disadvantage in this world. So I wanted to focus, if you will, in that direction.
Has it been a struggle to work with the federal government
01:04 Campanaro: The Veterans Administration, of course, is a key client for us and naturally they are solely focused on veterans affairs. It also has something that it calls a Veterans First or Veterans By First Program. What they're saying is, since we are solely veteran oriented, we should set aside some of this work exclusively for veterans. We qualified and so we went after that work, and we became one of their premier contractors. Oddly enough, while we're becoming such a unique and premier contractor for them, the government sometimes is so big that the left hand didn't know what the right was doing and the right was saying "Hey, those guys are getting substantial, we better investigate them and make sure everything is okay." That's how the government looks at stuff. So they decided that maybe we we were winning too much work. In other words, did we have help from large businesses, which would be considered illegal? In this scenario, did we have help from financial institutions unfairly? And so, we went into a 15-month investigation by which they said, "Until we figure this out, you can't work with us anymore."
How did you survive the investigation?
02:12 Campanaro: It was worse than going out of business, right? We should have... Technically, we should have filed bankruptcy, walked away, preserved our personal estates, went to the beach, waited for the storm to blow over, and then re-engaged. But we didn't do that because we had veterans working for us. We had people that needed food. We had people that needed their job. When trouble hits, you have to embrace it. You can't deny it. You have to gather the team. You have to lay out the battle plan and then you have to go to war. And you realize that when you go to war, there are going to be casualties. But the name of the game is that the organization survives. It's the same thing that we encountered when I was in special operations in the military. You were willing to step up and die for the team because it's the team that needs to survive.