ISL Featured - Hampton Roads Business Journal

Jul 2, 2013

Virginia Beach Company Supplies All Branches of the Armed Forces

By Katie Bennett

When it comes to managing a small business, Chris Faison has priorities.

Previously the district manager of a national distributor providing hardware to two of the largest manufacturers of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles for the U.S., Faison has more than 20 years of experience in the industrial supply industry. He was responsible for managing 12 stores with more than 60 employees, yet when the company made important decisions, Faison had no say.

"As the company grew, it became challenging to feel part of the organization," Faison said.

The company was making decisions he didn't agree with and this, coupled with the lack of employee involvement, was what prompted him to leave and start his own business, Incredible Supply & Logistics, in Virginia Beach.

The risk of leaving his well-paying job during the height of a recession has paid off.

Since it was founded in 2010, the company has grown its revenue more than twofold. It earned $2.5 million in 2011 and $6 million in 2012. In 2013, it has seen 100 percent growth in the first quarter.

For Faison it's not about the numbers.

"We want all our employees to feel comfortable approaching or talking to us, regardless of the situation," he said. "Once you cut people off, and they feel like they can't provide any input or that no one is listening to them, then you limit your opportunities to grow your business."

Faison believes the key to a successful company is finding and hiring dependable individuals, and treating them with respect. Keeping open lines of communication between employee and employer fosters an environment of equality, and by doing so, increases productivity.

"The most important thing to a small business is personnel. Making smart hires and hiring the right people is invaluable," Faison said, "because with the amount of time you spend training someone, and having them interact with your customer or your vendor base, if they don't work out, then that really sets you back."

Faison said Incredible Supply & Logistics serves all branches of the armed forces, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and dozens of other national and international companies.

On a national scale, it competes with Grainger, MSC and McMaster Carr.

The company has 12 employees, with the addition of two this year, and it plans to add two more in the third quarter.

Incredible Supply & Logistics provides all sorts of hardware, industrial and fleet supplies. There aren't many items they haven't been able to find for their customers.

"The strength our customers enjoy most about ISL is our ability to track down such a wide variety of products for them," Faison said.

An article about the company is the July cover story for Industrial Supply Magazine. It explains how the company became known as the "Special Forces of Sourcing and Supply."

Here Faison talks about his journey so far:

Biggest challenge faced Managing our growth. The challenge with a small business is that a lot of the time you outgrow your cash flow, so you have to be careful. Of course, you have peaks and valleys, but you mainly want a steady growth. You want to make a profit, but you don't want to grow too fast. It's an issue we are still working on controlling.

People who helped along the way My cousin, Bob Faison, and I really started the company together. And it was important for us to find an investor - an old childhood friend - who would allow us to make important decisions, but also help us financially so that when we did have large opportunities, we could pursue them.

Future plans We are headquartered in Virginia Beach, with a small administrative office in Northern Virginia, and we plan to keep it that way. But we do business nationally and internationally. We've sent products to Japan, Guam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries all over the world. We want to be the best industrial supplier within the federal government market.

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