COVID-19 pandemic provided opportunity for IB3 Global Solutions to innovate with significant results

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

For many companies, the COVID-19 pandemic meant simply trying to keep their heads above water. For Oak Ridge-based IB3 Global Solutions, it was an opportunity to further innovate, and the results have been significant.

We checked-in recently with Sean Gleason, Chief Operating Officer, who listed a number of accomplishments for the woman-owned company with a focus on the provision of high-quality services and solutions that reduce threats across the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) spectrum.

For starters, IB3 has doubled its workforce, going from 70 employees when we posted this article last June to 145 at last count. “We kept everyone paid all year even if they couldn’t work,” Gleason said proudly, adding, “We have recently found work for most of them.”

You might ask, “What’s the driver?” The short answer is being innovative and opportunistic with much of the growth fueled by developing a special solution for the company’s federal clients.

“When COVID hit, IB3 pivoted pretty quickly,” Gleason explained. “We created a distance learning solution, initially for the Department of Energy (DOE).” That offering responded to a key challenge facing DOE and other federal agencies – maintaining relationships with partners when airplane travel was severely restricted if even a possibility, particularly on the international front.

“We went from concept to operational mode in two weeks,” Gleason said. Within three months, IB3 had acquired an additional 6,500 square feet of space in Oak Ridge where it built two sound stages to provide the remotely-delivered instruction.

“We have trained in dozens of countries and helped maintain relevancy for DOE,” he said, noting that IB3 has added 88 instructors in the past year, many for ever-increasing work for another federal agency – the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Knowing the impact that remote education was having on its employees with school-age children, Gleason said that the company responded by converting 1,500 square feet of space into classrooms and opening IB3 Academy.

“We hired part-time educators for the K-7 program,” he explained, noting that the decision allowed the parents to be sure their sons and daughters were in a positive learning environment while they worked. “The students are doing fantastic. The decision aligns culturally with our values and helps solidify IB3 as an employer of choice in our market.”

The company made strategic investments in its fairly new testing and evaluation service line. The result was $750,000 in revenues in 2020 compared to zero the year before.

As is the case with many technology-focused companies, talent recruitment and retention are always challenging, but IB3 addressed that in part by developing a “junior employee program” for the testing and evaluation initiative. Gleason said the company onboarded three graduates of Texas A&M University using the new approach to more or less grow its own, and he expects revenues in that service line to nearly double this year to $1.3 million.

IB3 also launched an employee newsletter named “The Globe.” It is printed and mailed to home addresses because, as Gleason explained, “it is more for the spouses than employees.”

Today, IB3 is a more diversified business that will not only position it for growth but also make it better able to weather challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic.

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