Tom Loftus wouldn’t have started LS Technologies — an information technology, engineering and telecommunications firm based in Fairfax— if he hadn’t been desperately trying to get out of his job at the naval base in Kings Bay, Ga., 23 years ago.
Loftus had been installing telecommunications technology on submarines for the Defense Department, but was tired of the location. So he opened a phone book and started calling potential employers, including contacts at the Federal Aviation Administration. “My thinking was, the FAA has airports everywhere, so I could probably get a job any place I wanted to live.”
By 1990, Loftus was attending FAA’s technical and managerial training academy in Oklahoma City, where he met IT workers from all over the country. Whenever the FAA received new technology shipments, Loftus said, “we used to joke about being able to do it in a better way. I guess I’m the guy who did.”
While working for the FAA, Loftus was a program manager for five telecommunications programs, a job which brought him to Washington. He incorporated LS Technologies in 2000, hiring some of the workers he met at the FAA academy.
Loftus has done well enough that the Small Business Administration named him the Small Business Person of the Year for the District (where the company has an office).
The majority of LS Technologies’ work is through federal contracts with the Commerce, Defense, Transportation and Treasury departments. As part of a Defense Department contract with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and the Aviation Weather Center, LS Technologies provides Web development, software applications development, information security and other services to help aircraft better identify existing or imminent weather. The company also has a contract with the IRS, managing a telecommunications system at its facility in Ogden, Utah.
The firm has more than 200 full-time employees, based all over the country, including in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. “As I [marketed] our company services, I wanted to be able to sell the fact that instead of being based in one area, where we have to ship people to Alaska, we have people placed all over the country, [decreasing] the response time.”
Loftus founded LS Technology without any outside financing, a move he describes as a big risk.
“I cashed all my vacation, comp time and anything the government owed me, income tax returns. Plus my wife’s income is what sustained us,” he said, noting that it was several months before he was able to secure any contracts.
It is a risk he isn’t sure he would be able to take today. “Back then, there was lots of work, and the need for people to do it,” Loftus said. “The situation now is iffy.”
Loftus said he appreciated not using outside financing to jump-start his business. “We stayed in the black and white area — not gray — because we had no debt and paid bills as we went. We didn’t really need a lot of financing to continue on.”
After 12 years with the company, Loftus is transitioning out of his position as chief executive, though he’ll remain president and chairman. “I’m just not involved at the pace I had to keep up. Being the CEO, the president and chairman of the company was more than I could handle after a dozen years.”
He’s using the newfound free time to travel with his wife in Europe, where they ride motorcycles for about a month each year.