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Celebrating Success and Looking to a Promising Future

Seventeen years ago, on April 18, 2007, I filed the paperwork to create Vistra Communications, now an award-winning industry leader providing integrated marketing, communications, and consulting services. Over the past 17 years, the diverse Vistra team has  solved challenges for a broad range of clients in the federal and local government, corporate and nonprofit arenas. We’ve made a difference in our communities and created and participated in some extraordinary programs and events that make our team proud to serve.

And we are not resting on our laurels. I don’t like to spend a lot of time re-hashing the past, preferring a forward focus on the future. With that said, a 17-year anniversary is a good time to reflect on our humble beginnings and how we have grown to not just survive but thrive in a highly competitive environment.

Grit Forged with Passion

Starting out was tough. It was just me working out of the house with no clients, but plenty of ideas and support from my friends and family.

My 22-year service as an Army officer included extensive operations and strategic planning and communications experiences ranging from combat operations to serving on the Homeland Security Council in The White House. But I was having trouble finding a job when I returned home to where my extended family lived and I was raised, in Florida. I took a contractor position providing strategic communications counsel to the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM). I learned a lot and enjoyed it but had dreams of there being more to my destiny. The thoughts of my own firm with the ability to pursue a variety of interests grew stronger every day. I was jotting down more and more ideas on paper as I talked to more friends. Owning a business was a childhood dream.

What's in a Name

The Vistra name came to me in church. I used to carry around 3 by 5 inch index cards. When I was trying to come up with a name for the company, I started playing with the letters of words I thought were important. These three words resonated more than others: Vision, Strategy, Action.  Our business is about how to help clients create vision (VI), develop strategy with them (STR), and take the action (A) to get it done.

The one thing I’ve learned in all my years of working is it’s never all about me. Those first few years there were times when I had doubts whether Vistra would succeed, like many start-up entrepreneurs, but then the clients and later the team members came. Word of mouth travels fast and successful media relations projects for a couple of small businesses and nonprofits led to more clients. When I kept winning new business, I realized I needed to hire people to help me so I could go out and earn the business of even more clients. Whenever we won a project, we invested in the company and would hire more people, then we would win a couple more projects and hire more, all while stressing the need to keep our current clients happy. Some have been with us more than ten years.

Success is Best When Shared

The crystallizing moment when I realized we were going to make it came when we won our first prime contract with the federal government. On a parallel track, as a subcontractor in the state and local government space, it hit me that we don’t have to do this by ourselves, we can do more with partners.

Vistra moved out of our house in 2009. Five locations later we have a headquarters in Lutz, Florida, a satellite office in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area in Alexandria, Virginia, and remote workers in several states.

We’ve grown and thrived by hiring good people who embrace our values and objectives. Our people understand it’s not about us, it’s about the service we provide for our clients to make sure they are successful. If our clients are not successful, that could be the end of the relationship. If we don’t provide quality service, we don’t get to do it a second time.

How do we inspire quality? I’ve always admired people who know what right looks like. We strive to recommend the right thing, the best thing for the client, not just the easiest for us. Don’t deliver a final product just to get by. Do it the best way possible. We want the client to ask us back, saying we exceeded expectations providing something better than they thought possible. With that kind of success, we get to do it again, and again, and again. We inspire high quality by devoting time to make sure we fully understand what the client wants to accomplish – using our listening skills, doing our homework, conducting research. Once we understand what the client really wants, it’s easier to rally the team and have the conversations we need to have to deliver the best products possible.

Staying True to Our Values

It comes down to values, and values must come from the soul, our nature as human beings. We want good people who know and will do the right thing and be positive. That made the process for deciding on our company values easy. We talked about what we do, what we stand for, and what is important to us. The more we talked about it the more our values became clear. Our value statements over the years mean the same thing as when we started and have been consistent in our thoughts and actions for 17 years. Again, to be successful we know it can’t be about us. For Vistra, we’re all about client success first, quality service, respect for others, meaningful relationships, and positive community engagement.

Respect for others is so simple and a constant reminder that people have value. Building relationships is crucial. We made a conscious decision to be engaged and active in the community, which opened more doors, gave us a better understanding of what’s going on in the community, what was needed, how we could help. We help the federal government, corporations, state and local governments and nonprofit organizations see what’s needed.

I just finished a term as chairman of the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, and currently serve on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors as well as several local and national boards. Many of our Team Members are also actively engaged serving on boards and volunteering in communities.

Our team has helped working families with low and moderate incomes with remodeling and home improvement work, buying holiday gifts and helping people wash clothes and linens as volunteers with the Laundry Project. We have created and helped create impactful programs such as CEOs in Schools and Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards.

I am a living testament and a firm believer that service to others reaps rewards in ways you just can’t imagine.

I’ve never had a better business vision, or a better strategy in life than to put others first, do your best with the highest quality you can muster, always show respect for others, treasure and nurture relationships, and engage in your community to build a better world. It’s not about us. Get out and donate an hour of your time at a local shelter if you can. I’m thankful for those who make the commitment to serve our country, state and the global community to make the world a better place.

Those are values worth keeping. Thank you to all who have helped build and sustain a company to make us all proud. It’s not about me, it’s about you, our team members who offer your talents and hard work, and you, our clients who have believed in us and trusted us while inspiring us to public service and commercial success.

Happy anniversary, Vistra!