such a high-risk, low-margin line of work,” says Palmisano.
Construction companies traditionally compete on
quality, speed, and cost. Palmisano emphasizes a fourth
competency: innovation. His business recently completed a hotel that occupies a full New Orleans block. It
was prefabricated from concrete, delivered to the site,
and assembled “almost like Legos,” says Palmisano.
“We concentrate on what we can control, not on
environmental things we can’t,” he adds.
DIVERSIFICATION IS THE OLD FAITHFUL of risk-mitigation
strategies. Inc. 500 companies, many of which are too
young and have grown too fast to become entrenched
in any one category, are adept at seeking new markets
when old ones start to tremble.
VRC Metal Systems (No. 413; 1,059.8 percent) makes
high-tech welding and metalworking equipment. Fifty
percent of the $4.5 million company’s market is govern-
ment contracting. “When the budget is in turmoil, all the
federal agencies tend to hold back,” says CEO Rob Hrabe.
“Your old contracts are winding down and the new
ones are not coming on. But you can’t lay o; workers, or
when the contracts start there is no one to execute.”
To sand down the bumps, Hrabe is parlaying his
federal experience into similar jobs for the private sector.
For example, he is drawing on his work with the Navy
to land contracts in the shipping industry. “We’d like to
get down to 10 to 20 percent of overall revenue from the
government,” says Hrabe. “We’re placing a big bet on
being able to develop those markets in a timely fashion.”
In some entrepreneurs, uncertainty brings out the
best. Rather than curse the anxiety that recently beset
her market, Nicole Sahin buddied up to it. Sahin is CEO
of $40.5 million Globalization Partners (No. 33; 8, 187. 1
percent), a professional employer organization that
hires and employs people for clients operating overseas.
For three months after the 2016 election, sales slowed to
a crawl as potential clients “took a deep breath and tried
to get their feet under them,” says Sahin. She used
the lull to address problems born of politics: educating
clients with anxious immigrant employees or questions
about global expansion post-Brexit.
Sahin also strives to present a face of stability to
her work force. “As a leader in uncertain times, I think
you have an obligation to be a voice of calm and reason
and reassurance and love and kindness,” she says. Now
that sales are back up—with her client base up 150
percent since January—Sahin has turned her attention
to the social problems underlying political instability.
She plans to expand her Boston-based company with
o;ces in other cities, including St. Louis and Dallas.
“We can hire people from the middle of the country
and give them an opportunity they might otherwise not
have,” says Sahin. “We can do more. We can be part of
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an Inc. editor-at-large.
Skillz co-founders Andrew
Paradise (in blue checked shirt,
seated left) and Casey Chafkin
(in solid blue shirt, on sofa
behind chessboard), surrounded
by Skillz sta;ers at their
San Francisco headquarters.
“This is about building
out the future of