February 5, 2013
Few people’s to-do lists include training flight surgeons, setting up military computer networks, and responding to life-threatening pandemics. But these are only a sampling of a routine day for Mary Ellen Londrie (B.B.A. ’92), CEO of P3S Corporation—a San Antonio-based company that provides solutions for the government’s day-to-day operations needs. While she may consider this a “normal day,” Londrie in no way takes her job lightly.
She views each day as an opportunity to make life better for others. Agencies including the Center for Disease Control, the Department of Homeland Security and all branches of the United States Armed Forces, rely on P3S to help them accomplish their objectives on budget, and on time. By doing just that, Londrie and her team have made a name for themselves saving millions in federal funds.
A leap of faith
Nine years ago, Londrie oversaw the procurement of contracted services for the federal government as the COO and Vice President for the United States Department of Treasury Franchise Fund. But she often observed that contractors would promise to deliver results, but would not follow through. Time and again, vendors failed to fulfill the terms of their contracts, laying waste to astronomical amounts of taxpayer dollars.
She decided she had seen enough: if contractors wouldn’t shape up, she would become the competition. Londrie paid off all of her debt, saved up $1,000, and to the shock of friends and colleagues, left her GS-15 level position, the highest-paid position on the civil service pay scale. She then started P3S Corporation from her home – her kitchen table to be exact. And, what started in 2005 as a home-based, single-employee business, grew into a thriving, minority-female-owned company providing government support in the areas of information technology, financial management and healthcare services.
“Our team consists of professionals in a variety of areas,” she says, describing her company. “We employ computer programmers, certified public accountants, biologists and epidemiologists.” With 25 offices located in the United States and in Puerto Rico, her company currently employs a team of more than 350, with estimated revenues surpassing $25 million.
Londrie grew up in poverty along the Texas coast in Port Isabel, a small town in the Rio Grande Valley. There she caught the entrepreneurial spirit early. As a child, she tagged along with her father who worked handyman jobs around town to provide for her family. Clients often bartered with her father rather than offering conventional payment, and she recalls how her parents’ resourcefulness taught her valuable life lessons.
“As kids, we’d look at the pie or the chicken someone gave my dad as payment and wonder what we were supposed to do with it,” she recalls. “But my dear mother would get so excited. She could make anything out of everything.” A good student in school, Londrie always knew that she would attend college someday. It was the tight-knit faith community that drew her to St. Mary’s University. As a corporate finance major, she met now-retired Professor of Languages Ruben Candia, Ph.D., who recommended her for the Outstanding Scholars Program.
Competition was fierce in the federal government program created to help qualified but under-represented groups of college graduates earn upper entry-level civil service jobs. But unsurprisingly, Londrie was selected, thus beginning her 12-year federal career.
Following her rise to the top of the civil service arena, Londrie continued on a path of success. Her company grew nearly 5,900 percent from its inception in 2005 to 2008. In 2010, during a ceremony at the White House, the U.S. Small Business Administration recognized P3S as the Texas Hispanic Small Business of the Year. That same year, the San Antonio Business Journal selected P3S for its list of Top 50 Private Companies. P3S was also ranked by Inc. 500 as the 17th Fastest Growing Company in the nation, first among Hispanic-owned small businesses and first among women-run firms.
“Do what you say you’re going to do,” she states matter-of-factly. “While I managed procurement for the government, I quickly learned how easy it is for a salesperson to say whatever’s necessary to win when competing for a government contract, but many often fail to deliver. With the government turning its focus toward performance-based contracting, federal employees and government contractors are being held responsible for increased productivity. We do what we promise.”
And it has worked. P3S (an acronym for performance, productivity and powerful solutions) has earned its reputation for saving millions of taxpayer dollars. In turn, the company wins greater numbers of contracts, which translates to increased revenue. Londrie shares the benefits of those revenues with the entire P3S team. A commitment to improving the quality of life for each team member is written into the organization’s mission, vision and values statement.
It’s evidenced, Londrie shares, by the fact that her employees are compensated well and never feel disconnected even though they’re dispersed throughout the country. Despite the geographical distance, she fosters a sense of community, something she picked up from her time as an undergraduate. “Personal attention is something I learned while at St. Mary’s. It was great to be at a university where every professor, and even many of the administrators, knew my name. It provided such a sense of belonging. I never felt like I was just a number.”
Compelled to give back
Londrie understands that no person achieves success alone, and she doesn’t count herself as an exception. “God has always put the right people in my path, even people I never saw or knew.” Grateful for the generosity she received throughout her lifetime, she has an extensive list of charitable organizations with which P3S partners.
“I received the best education because of scholarships that were funded by generous people. I’ve had some great opportunities, which have helped me get to where I am today. And I never want to forget where I, and this company, have come from. It’s what compels me to give back.”
Whether it has been providing internship opportunities for St. Mary’s students in the Greehey Scholars Program, mentoring other small business owners on how to successfully work with the federal government, or adopting a needy family for Christmas through a local church, Londrie urges her team to be active members in society. “I hope it’s making a difference by improving the quality of people’s lives like other people did for me.” This article originally appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of Gold & Blue magazine.