As she contemplated her path to becoming an entrepreneur, Sonja Hines admitted that it wasn’t always clear that she would own a thriving business one day. “I always had dreams of doing ‘something else,’” she reflected. “I hadn’t envisioned this.”
“This” is H&S Resources Corporation, a woman-owned, minority small business incorporated to perform facility operations and maintenance services such as planning, consulting, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and preventive maintenance. H&S, which is headquartered in Columbia, is also organized to provide integrated facility management services such as logistics, information technology and energy management to government agencies and commercial clients.
That’s a lot on one company’s plate, but Hines, president and CEO, said she enjoys the challenge. “I always thought maybe I could do wedding or event planning because I enjoy the creativity and coordination of putting together an event, and the challenge in that line of work.”
Although H&S’s name has become more well-known over the last decade, it’s sometimes difficult to explain the company’s array of services. For its federal government clients in the area of facilities management alone, H&S provides licensed engineers and trained technicians who keep a facility running smoothly and continuously through preventive maintenance and inspection activities including HVAC/R, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection and other specialty systems.
“H&S keeps growing, and our name is getting out there,” said Hines. “The tough part of marketing is describing the complexity of our services. It’s extremely tricky.”
Eventually … the World
Even as H&S grows, Hines is still what she describes as “the face of the company, meaning I’m the one going out and bringing in business.” With contracts now in seven states — including California, Alabama, Georgia, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia plus the District of Columbia — and 128 employees, Hines often hits the road to see how the work is going.
The company’s geographical region is wide within the U.S., and Hines envisions it becoming even wider. “That’s definitely a dream,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go global?”
Hines is modest when claiming credit for her company’s growth. “We have great employees,” she said. “We really do. They tend to buy into our culture, and we treat them well. We always try to keep that open communication. For a long time, there was really a direct line to me. It’s a little difficult now, but if one of my employees were to call me, they know I’ll be there. That’s who we are as a company.”
The Transportation Connection
H&S’s biggest area of unexpected growth has been in its transportation division, said Hines. “That just kind of popped up.”
H&S offers experienced and licensed drivers with a full suite of transportation services, including transportation motor pool management and operation in addition to shuttle and van services. H&S drivers currently serve the nation’s Wounded Warriors, driving them to special events and medical appointments throughout the Washington, D.C., region.
One of H&S’s biggest strengths is its versatility when considering the needs of its clients, said Hines. “One of the things that makes us special is that, when we receive a call asking: ‘Can you do this?’ we say ‘yes,’ then we ask: ‘How are we going to do this?’”
Making an effort to learn, understand and address each customer’s needs has paid off in terms of growth, she added. “We put that puzzle-solving talent into a pot, and it comes out, and we make it work. It’s the very rewarding part of our jobs.”
While the goal is to keep growing, H&S is selective about the opportunities it actively pursues. “We sit down and discuss opportunities and vet them,” explained Hines. “We ask: Does this make sense? What is the initial startup cost? Do we have the resources to handle it?”
Such a thoughtful approach has been honed as the company has matured, she said. She founded the company in 2006 with her business partner Thomas Scanlon, who serves as the chief operating officer.
In 2014, H&S was recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest-growing companies in the nation. From 2011–2013, H&S increased its gross revenue from $2.6 million to $10.2 million, and added 83 employees.
The company also was recognized as one of the 50 fastest-growing women-owned businesses in North America by American Express Open and the Women President’s Organization.
“When you are in a growth phase, there are so many variables that make you come to the ultimate decision about whether to take on a new area. We have a kind of flow chart based on repetitive corporate experience,” said Hines.
Even as H&S becomes larger, Hines envisions a company that remains creative and eager for new experiences. “One of the things I always tell individuals is that you have to be open to learning and gaining more knowledge,” she said. “I take that same philosophy and apply it to my entire company.”