The Business of Defense

Can you launch a govcon startup during a pandemic and thrive? Yes – just ask Iberia Advisory

Iberia Advisory, which helps agencies tackle complex financial management challenges, opened for business during the COVID-19 pandemic. On ASMC’s The Business...

Ryan Waguespack is a former naval surface warfare officer by choice, having graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. He’s a certified public accountant by training, with a bachelor’s in economics and a master of business administration in finance. By combining his knowledge and experience, Waguespack today is president of startup Iberia Advisory by design — and a lot of hard work.

Waguespack launched his disadvantaged veteran-owned company, Iberia Advisory, as its sole employee during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a year old, the business — which provides change management, data analytics, financial management and audit support to federal customers — today has 20 employees and is zeroing in on upward of $4 million in revenue for 2023.

But why open shop during a pandemic?

“Starting a firm was always something that was a dream of mine. My father had always encouraged me to think this way and think with an entrepreneurial mindset,” Waguespack said during the American Society of Military Comptrollers’ The Business of Defense podcast on Federal News Network. “And so, for me, I knew what I wanted, and there’s never going to be a perfect time.” (A quick aside about the company’s name: It’s a nod to that enterprising spirit instilled by his father, who was born in Iberia, Louisiana.)

Time was less a factor than preparation, Waguespack said, noting that he leaned on advice from a military mentor. “He would always tell me, ‘Ryan, one can’t predict, one can only prepare,’ ” he said. “So, all we could do was make sure that we were prepared to go to market. We were prepared to launch. And so far, we’ve been successful.”

ASMC CEO Rich Brady, the podcast’s host, asked Waguespack to share advice on founding and leading an early-stage startup in the government contracting arena. Waguespack had three takeaways to offer.

Takeaway 1: Be choosy about the procurements you go after

Iberia is strategic about the large contract vehicles that it pursues. “You know, we want those that will allow us to leverage our core capabilities,” he said.

Waguespack founded the company with the mission of helping federal agencies tackle their most complex financial management challenges. “We bring to the table a full range of financial management service offerings,” he said. Iberia buckets those into five categories:

  • Audit response and remediation
  • Internal controls and enterprise risk management
  • Budget planning and execution
  • Data analytics and visualization
  • Change management and strategic communications

To help ensure it can dynamically respond to large contract opportunities, Iberia formed a joint venture specifically to target indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) and other large contract vehicles so that those have their own team and scaling plan, Waguespack said.

Takeaway 2: Build a strong proposal capability

The company similarly has invested in creating a hearty in-house proposal engine that serves the team in developing bids and then carrying them out post-award, he said.

“When we are awarded these contract vehicles, we respond to requirements quickly,” Waguespack said. “Again, we’ve already taken action on this by investing heavily in training our folks so we can have that in-house capability.”

Takeaway 3: Take on projects closely aligned to your top strengths to support early growth

Finally, he said Iberia focuses on what it does best, and “that’s delivering top talent, every engagement that we support and putting our customers first.”

As an example of how the company’s small agile teams support and transform large-scale federal programs, Waguespack pointed to one of Iberia’s largest projects, working with the Department of the Navy on its improper payments program. The team was able to help the Navy remove the program as a material weakness, he said.

Iberia has so far mainly focused on work in the Defense Department. That said, based on its services, the company’s growth strategy involves expanding into civilian markets in the coming years, with initial targets being the Homeland Security Department and Veterans Affairs Department.

“Going back to our core capabilities, we can leverage those because they’re applicable across the federal space,” Waguespack said. “We’re certainly positive about what the future looks like and our ability to grow.”

To listen to the full discussion between Ryan Waguespack, president and CEO of Iberia Advisory, and Rich Brady, CEO at the American Society of Military Comptrollers, click the podcast play button below:

Discover other The Business of Defense podcasts here.

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