News :: Oct 25, 2018

Dorinda Schmidtknecht Washington Business Journal Interview

Washington Business Journal

Recently, Dorinda Schmidtknecht sat down with Carolyn M. Proctor of Washington Business Journal to talk about being a founder of a company in a male dominated industry. The article covers starting a company, challenges and many other interesting topics! Be sure to head to their website and read the rest of the article!

Meet nine women founders who dominate otherwise male-dominated spheres – Washington Business Journal

Dorinda Schmidtknecht, founder, president and COO


Dorinda Schmidtknecht co-founded cBEYONData in 2010 with her husband, David. The Lorton company’s specialty is building analytical data systems for government agencies, though it also works with higher education and other regulated agencies. She previously helped lead portfolio and asset management at National Real Estate Advisors and was a senior manager at Cambridge Asset Advisors and Charles E. Smith Cos.

About Dorinda:

  • Age: 52
  • Residence: Lorton
  • Family: Spouse and co-founder, Dave; standard poodle, Moose; rescue cats Paddy and Mo
  • Education: Bachelor’s in accounting with minor in business, Strayer University, Arlington
  • First job: Assistant legal secretary

What did you want to be when you grew up? Interestingly it was a photographer. But in school, I was a natural with numbers and decided to go into a career in property and asset management, which was a field that has a heavy focus in finance — but not as an accountant, because it also allows you to utilize your business management skills as well. Photography is still a hobby of mine, and I prefer using a 35mm camera with its manual settings to a snap-and-shoot camera for serious picture-taking.

When did you decide you wanted to start your own company? Dave, my husband and co-founder, has a master’s of science in finance, a bachelor’s in accounting with a minor in computer science, and is a CPA. Dave has been in the business intelligence/IT industry for 25-plus years, and when we talked about starting our own business in 2010, we decided this industry would be a great fit because of his career history and contacts in the federal space. We also saw a need. Many of the agencies have these incredible systems that collect pertinent data. However, the systems are not capable of producing the required compliance reports, dashboards and data analytics that enable the agencies’ CFOs to achieve their missions. We moved forward knowing that Dave could build the customer and employee base, and I could bring my managerial and finance skills to “run the office,” work the financial relationship with the bank, establish long-term and short-term goals and budgets, etc.

How long did it take for you to start your company? About two months, with our first contract being awarded approximately six months later as a subcontractor

What obstacles did you face along the way? The federal government is a difficult industry to break into as a prime contractor, especially without a facility clearance or GSA schedules for the company. The kicker there is that you cannot get a company facility clearance unless you are working on a government contract that requires a clearance. It also takes time to build a past performance history with the government so that when you bid on government contracts, you will actually have a chance to win.

How did you finance your startup costs? Savings, 401(k) loan

What skills did you learn early on that most helped to prepare you to run a business? My financial and budgeting skills, as well as the contract negotiation and legal document reviews that I learned from my previous career in portfolio and asset management

What is the best lesson you learned from a mentor? It’s better to take your time and look at an issue from all possible angles to mitigate the risks than to rush into a decision so that you can say “I’m done” — without realizing the fast decision could leave you exposed to failure in the long run.

What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself? Invest in your 401(k) immediately when you start working!

Next big goal: Watching the company hit the $20 million revenue mark

Biggest current challenge: It is taking the government longer to award contracts from the time it issues an RFP, anywhere from 12 to 24 months. This makes it next to impossible for a small business, or any business for that matter, to hire or retain the proposed key personnel required for that specific RFP. The other current challenge is the employment market in our industry in the D.C. area is going insane again. This is causing potential employees to ask for astronomical salaries that cannot be supported by the government contract rates. Also, we are seeing a very unethical turn of events because of this bull employment market. We have had candidates accept our offer in writing and not show up to the job, not call, basically go “radio silent” — only for us to find out through LinkedIn or other social media that the candidate had already started working for a new company at the time that they signed our offer letter.

Biggest misconception about your industry: That government contractors “make a fortune” and that government contracts are easy to get. I’m here to tell you that as a small business, we put all of our resources into our employees and their benefits/compensation packages so that we can stay competitive with the large companies. We also have to remain competitive with our rates for the government, which does not leave much of a profit margin given the government’s cutbacks.

Businessperson you most admire: Jeff Bezos – his vision for Amazon and especially Amazon Web Services has been outstanding. I admire him for his “quiet” success as a person and a company.

Biggest pet peeve: People that don’t own up to their mistakes. We all make mistakes because we are human. It’s how you deal with the mistake that matters.

What is one thing you can’t do without each day? My cold brew coffee with vanilla almond creamer.

Guilty pleasure: I would have to say red wine and dark chocolate

Favorite movie: “Remember the Titans” with Denzel Washington

Favorite book? “It Worked for Me” by Colin Powell

Favorite place outside of the office: In general, any great spa to unwind with a massage and facial. Otherwise, we love to go to Cancun in February to get away from the cold. And we would love to get back to Italy sometime.

Favorite restaurant in the D.C. area: It’s a family-owned restaurant where everyone knows you by name. You feel welcome the minute you walk in, even if it’s your first visit: Ciao Osteria located in Centrewood Plaza in Centreville.

By   – Data Editor, Washington Business Journal

cBEYONData is a results-driven firm that provides value to government agencies and organizations through Business Intelligence (BI) solutions for the CFO’s Office and end-user missions. We ensure our customers’ analytical and reporting requirements are met through solutions such as financial reporting, audit readiness, DATA Act analytics & submission, procurement & external reporting, dashboards, analytics, visualizations, and geo-mapping. cBEYONData is committed to customer success, as demonstrated by our strong customer retention rates, references and awards.