- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2000

Hilton Augustine Jr.'s business is based on an effort to make life easier for himself and everyone around him.

He has turned that philosophy into a profitable enterprise with Global Management Systems Inc. (GMSI), an office automation integrator in Bethesda.

But he had to revise his initial business plan to make his idea work. Originally, he started out in home automation. His business made dishwashers start at programmed times, lowered the volume of music on stereos automatically when the doorbell rang and displayed who was coming up the driveway on a monitor.

It didn't take long for Mr. Augustine to realize there was no broad market for home automation and he shifted his focus to businesses by 1990.

"It was nice for a few people in Potomac, but it wasn't for the mass market," he said. "This is basic business plan 101: where's the need?"

His current venture automates offices, allowing businesses to transfer e-mails, connect computer systems between cities and even operate voice-activated computer programs.

In what he calls a calculated risk, Mr. Augustine left an office job at IBM in 1988, exhausted the credit on 11 credit cards, totaling $80,000 and went to work.

"If you truly believe the plan, you have to make the commitment upfront," Mr. Augustine said. "It's not like a lottery ticket."

He said he found there was no market, and that it was too early to profit off of home automation.

"That one year turned into three years before I started bringing money home," he said. His wife, an industrial engineer, was supporting the couple.

So, in 1990 he hired two vice presidents without pay, one from 3Com Corp. and one from Fibercom, for marketing purposes, basically to find users for this automation.

"I had to sell them on the idea that 'you can trust me for nine months without salary,' " he said. "I am a chicken so it was a calculated risk."

Mr. Augustine and his two vice presidents essentially knocked on the doors of their colleagues and former clients from his job at IBM. He also won contracts from the federal 8A program, which aids minority businesses.

"I'm the same guy in a different environment" was Mr. Augustine's line.

In 1992, GMSI brought in its first million dollars.

North Dakota Air National Guard was the first company to demonstrate its trust in GMSI by giving the company $100,000 to fully integrate two Computer-Assisted-Design systems connecting data between Washington and Minot, N.D.

"I think the market he is in isn't going anywhere," said Steven Burnett, president of Coleman & Associates, a competing firm. "He's grown every year and I would consider that a market."

GMSI's other clients include the Department of Defense, Siemens and Lucent Technologies, for which the company is working on a budgeting system that includes a financial planning system.

The company also has designed and provides hardware, software and even some people for the Giant Foods help desk, which supports the computer systems and inventory tracking systems of the grocery store chain.

By 1993, that million turned into $5 million in revenues. In 1996, the company brought in $17 million.

Now Mr. Augustine expects revenues to reach about $70 million this year and he is ready to sell the business.

Mr. Augustine, a tall, seemingly confident man said he dislikes authority, and calls himself lazy.

"He's energetic, not lazy," said Mr. Burnett, who acknowledges he has lost in bidding wars for contracts against Mr. Augustine. "He couldn't be lazy with what his company's doing now."

GMSI was listed in the Black Enterprise Industrial/Service 100 for the second consecutive year in 1999.

Mr. Augustine laughingly said he resists being a stuffy authority figure by not carrying the office's master key and by actually installing a game room for employees to use during their breaks.

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