Former Army executive Annette O’Banion spent several years consulting with top brass in the Pentagon on issues such as recruiting and retaining talent for the Army Reserve. Her expertise in strategic planning and implementation often had her partnering on projects outsourced to national defense consulting firms.
Captain O’Banion, USA, Retired, now uses her experience to create a new brand of business consulting as founder, majority owner and CEO of KMA Business Solutions. Her McDonough-based company serves national and local governments and businesses, particularly in IT solutions and strategic planning.
“Now that I’m out of uniform, I look at problems a different way,” she says. “There are a lot of experts who do not work with government because they don’t know how, or they don’t want to work with government for a living. I started looking for interesting problems and solutions and have found incredible talent for my clients.”
“We take the boutique approach to finding A-team talent: matching solutions to problems,” she says.
In 2009 O’Banion realized she needed A-team advice for her growing business. So she contacted the UGA SBDC at Clayton State University.
“Annette was one of my first clients,” says Area Director Alisa Kirk. “She was getting government contracts that required she pay her team up front. Then she waited another 30-60 days until she was paid. She was looking into a new type of Small Business Administration working capital loan to put her over the hump until the money came in.”
Kirk helped O’Banion prepare her loan documents. “She needed a business plan, projections and some paperwork for her partners. She wrote the plan, and I reviewed it and suggested changes. We did the projections together, since I knew what the bank needed. It was a joint effort.”
Kirk’s team assisted O’Banion in obtaining an SBA Patriot Express Loan that provided significant capital. “It was so new in the beginning; no one knew how to do it. The SBDC helped us do it.”
A year later, O’Banion and her manager attended the SBDC GrowSmart™ program. “I needed a good second look at what I knew and how to do it better,” she says.
“Since I went to GrowSmart™, we’ve been able to almost triple our revenue. We now have 19 employees. When I started working with the SBDC, we had 5 or 6. Even if you’ve been in business for a while, you need to take the time to go.”
O’Banion’s company is certified as woman-owned, but she’s going a step further with Kirk’s help in getting certification as a disadvantaged woman-owned business.
“She’s a government contractor. If there’s a set-aside for disadvantaged businesses, this certification will give her an advantage,” says Kirk.
“I work with the SBDC because they’ll know how to get it done,” says O’Banion. “When I meet other entrepreneurs, I advise them to go to the UGA SBDC. I tell them to go find their SBDC even if they work in other states. They have the answers.”