Four: Turning Government Contracts Into Win-Win-Win-Win

The information technology reseller won $290 million in federal contracts in FY18 to earn its appearance on the BGOV200.

Jeff Nolan, COO of Four Inc., on the “secret sauce” that helps his company manage $100 million deals for the government – and land on the BGOV200 at No. 200

How did Four get started?

About 13 years ago, I was working in software at Northrop Grumman when the company decided to get out of the software business. We had a daughter starting college and collectively we had about $40,000 to our name. My wife, Greta, who had a background in sales, and I decided to leverage our house, our cars, literally everything, to get started. Four Inc. was started at our kitchen table.

We started as a services company but later morphed into a company aimed at financing the acquisition of IT. To put that simpler, say the Army this year wants to acquire $10,000,000 worth of software products but they only have $700,000 in their budget. Four Inc. will stand between the software vendor and the government by providing a payment stream that best fits the government’s budget. Four Inc. pays the software vendor immediately for the software products procured by the government and receives a large discount, which is passed on to the government – and of course, margin is included for Four Inc.’s and our partners’ benefit.

Why the name Four?

The name Four Inc. was created because four parties are involved in a transaction: the bank, the government, the software partner, and us. If we do the transaction the right way we can help all four parties benefit.

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What sets you apart from others?

About nine or 10 years ago, we noticed the government was struggling with terms and conditions included in a deal. As a result, we crafted an approach where we were able to limit the number of objectionable terms and conditions, thus setting us apart from our competition. It provided an innovative, competitive advantage.

How were you able to do that?

Well, that’s our secret sauce. It’s the one thing we don’t discuss. We were able to develop protections that allowed us to take this approach. Once we really learned how to implement this approach successfully, our business began to soar.

How has Four grown since your start at the kitchen table?

We have done deals in virtually every civilian, DOD, and intelligence agency. We tend to do large, multiyear deals – it’s the nature of our business. Our deal sizes can be as high as $100 million, where Four Inc. sells software for three to five years at a time, all funded right upfront. In addition to financing, we are also getting involved in reselling IT software to multiple agencies.

Where it has gone has been beyond our wildest imaginings. If we’ve done one thing right, it’s who we’ve hired. As a prior high school baseball coach, a lot of my former players have come to work for Four Inc. It’s a lot like a family. My director of finance was my daughter’s maid of honor. Our people are the reason we’ve gone to the heights we’ve reached.

Other companies on the BGOV200 interested in sharing their story can contact us here.