Written By Chris Mead, Editor, Detroiter Magazine
In algebraic terms, David Segura’s meteoric career path might look something like this: e + e = E. Excitement plus Energy equals Entrepreneurship.
Segura is the 34-year-old founder, president and CEO of VisionIT, a Detroit-based business that provides IT and Engineering staffing services to clients like General Motors, Ford Motor Co., EDS, Wayne County and the City of Detroit, to name a few.
The grandson of Mexican immigrants, Segura launched VisionIT in 1997 with little more than $100 in the bank, a home computer – and a load of excitement and energy. In less than seven years the company has emerged as one of the most innovative and fastest-growing technology companies in the United States. Hispanic Business magazine last year ranked VisionIT as the 10th fastest-growth Hispanic-owned business in the nation.
Segura attributes this phenomenal growth to VisionIT’s staffing services team which has expanded to handle the nationwide needs of Fortune 500 companies. In recent years, VisionIT has had a 100-percent growth rate and the company is on track to exceed that figure this year.
“We realized that our biggest opportunity is in staffing services. It’s something that we do extremely well,” Segura explains in an interview with the Detroiter at his headquarters in Detroit’s New Center One building.
Detroiter: What first got you interested in computers?
When I was a sophomore in high school I took a computer programming class. It was the last class of the day. One day after the bell rang I was still working away, unaware that everybody had left. Finally somebody came in the room and said, “Hey, everybody’s left. What are you still doing here?” I was so excited I didn’t even realize the class was over.
At that point I looked out the window and thought, “I’m finding this real exciting and I can see myself building a career in computers.” I never could have imagined at that time what this would lead to. I just knew I was pretty excited about technology. The big thing for me was the chance to create something from nothing, starting with a clean palette. I wasn’t
good at drawing or painting, but I was very good at coming up with something from scratch and asking myself, “How do I solve this problem using a computer?”
Detroiter: You had secure jobs before you started your own business. What prompted you to take the entrepreneurial path?
Everybody around me was saying, “Hey, David, you’re doing great.” But I hit a spot in my life where I said, “There’s got to be something more than this. I’m missing something. I prayed a lot about it and asked for continued guidance. In 1996 I started working in the community, especially with Hispanics and African Americans, showing young people all the things that are possible in IT. Through that experience I met executives who showed me how to structure a business of my own. My company really took off when we added Ball Park Brands as our first major client in late 1997.
Detroiter: Was it a leap of faith to strike out on your own?
It was, but I really believed that what I was doing was right. I knew it would be exciting to create an IT company that was focused on people and focused on how we can make things better for our customers. I didn’t worry about failure. People who know me well know I’m always positive, no matter what the situation is.
Detroiter: How did your business grow during those formative years?
It wasn’t long before I realized I needed to start building a team around me. I kept funding each additional person based on each contract we received. I learned a lot of great lessons in those early years – how to budget well and how to utilize the dollars we did have. And that’s never changed as we’ve continued to grow.
Detroiter: What is the biggest challenge entrepreneurs like you face?
To keep focused and stay the course. For example, we get approached with a lot of offers for partnerships or strategic initiatives. At first, it might seem like a great idea. But I’ve learned that partnerships take a lot of time and effort, and only a small number will really benefit an organization. People are surprised when you say no, but if it doesn’t fit
our model it’s not going to work. We had at least 15 other technology companies approach us for partnerships. We went through an evaluation process, and now we have a tremendous partnership with Worldwide Technologies in St. Louis, the largest African American-owned business in the country. It’s a perfect fit because they were new in the automotive market, and we know the automotive market. They are not in IT staffing; we do IT staffing. Their benefit to us is they’re a billion-dollar organization with depth and tremendous staying power. By partnering with them we can achieve a lot of things that might otherwise be out of reach for an organization of our size.
Detroiter: What makes a successful entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur you really have to find your own unique abilities. You have to find what you are really best at. As our company started growing, I started filling in the pieces of the areas that weren’t my strong point and started filling them in with other people that could fill those roles. My sister Christine Rice plays a vital role in our organization in her role as vice president. She came in with 14 years of human resources experience at EDS, and she’s very good at finding the right people and the right fit. One thing I have learned over time is that you can do someone a disservice by bringing them in when it’s not the right fit. So we’re a brother-sister team that works well. What really came together was my knowledge of the technology side and her knowledge of the people side. Put together, it was a complete system.
Detroiter: Now that you’ve been in business on your own for nearly seven years, what are your goals for the future?
We’ve gone through major growth since that first $100 in the bank. We’re well over 100 employees now, and our sales growth has probably been on average 100 percent a year every year. We should be an Inc. 500 company this year. Moving forward, we’re doing some new things in the government sector and we’ve put in some time outside Michigan tapping into some other markets. A lot of our business has been automotive in recent years, so we’re excited about breaking into new areas like government. Our goal is to make sure we’re offering current and potential employees with some of the best positions in the IT field, and to do that we have to have a diversified client base.
Detroiter: You and your company have won a number of impressive awards and honors. How does that make you feel?
It definitely makes you feel good and I am always honored. Awards are great, but what I find more rewarding is being able to help someone find the right career fit. Recently Christine and I received an e-mail that went something like this, “I was out of work for five months. I’ve never been out of a job and it was a humbling experience but you guys stayed on top of it and kept working for me, and now I’ve got a job at GM. It’s the right pay and I feel great about what I’m doing.” Feedback about how we have really made a difference – that’s the most rewarding thing. That makes me feel good about what we’ve accomplished and where we’re going. If we continue helping people like this, we will continue to grow and be successful.
Detroiter: You talk about excitement and energy. Where does it come from?
Our people. I get excited about people and about creating something from nothing.