From the Corps to the corner office: Former Marine finds business niche in pipelines, pharmaceuticals

By Mario Marroquin, September 11, 2017 at 3:00 AM
NJ BIZ

Frank Libutti, president and CEO, Renaissance Global Services LLC. - (AARON HOUSTON)

Frank Libutti, president and CEO, Renaissance Global Services LLC. - (AARON HOUSTON)

It’s not every day that someone compares overseeing 80,000 U.S. Marines to running a project management and gas pipeline inspection firm in New Jersey. But for Frank Libutti, former U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General and current president and CEO of Renaissance Global Services, the two tasks have far more in common than most people can fathom, at least in principle.

“My experience in the Marine Corps was all about leading, coaching, mentoring and making good decisions based on input from the people around you,” he said. “And that’s the way I’ve done business. I have an open-door policy and try to listen hard to my employees and keep my eye on the ball in terms of what is my mission right now. My mission is to provide qualified people in support of pharmaceutical and utilities.”

Libutti’s experience including more than 35 years in the Marine Corps, having worked in the Department of Defense, serving as the commissioner for counterterrorism for the New York Police Department and working as an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security.

The firm he now oversees, Renaissance Global Services, was founded in 2013, and has grown from a two-man operation into a team of 17. Libutti attributes the company’s rapid growth to partnerships it has developed on the private-sector side, particularly with engineering and design firm PS&S.

“When we gave birth to this company, we asked PS&S to help us by providing folks for us that could market for us in the pharmaceutical community because PS&S had a good foothold in the pharmaceutical community,” he said. “We’re a startup and a service-disabled-owned small business certified by the VA in Washington and by the New York Veterans Administration under disabled vets. When we started, through the contacts at PS&S, we maneuvered through points of contact to get to a diversity representative.”

Renaissance Global Services majority owners are service-disabled veterans Libutti and Joseph Grano, a former Green Beret with multiple business interests. AJS Federal, a holding company, is a minority owner of the firm.

Today, Renaissance Global’s missions involve gas pipeline inspection services in Long Island, N.Y., and project management services for the pharmaceutical industry in New Jersey and New England, where the firm is poised to grow.

“We want to continue to grow the company by doing more of what we’re doing. We want to look at moving from project management to program management,” he said. “At the center of gravity is the client and the mission at hand, but part of that mission includes people.”

Renaissance Global intends to add three employees to its pharmaceutical project management division.

Libutti admits his military service has allowed him to see the potential of many veterans firsthand – and even softened his heart as a business owner – but admits that, above all, hiring the best candidates remains the key to completing his mission.

“I’m all for going the extra mile with a vet, but not giving preferential treatment,” he said. “The preferential treatment for me is letting the vet walk into the office and being interviewed. But I’m going to let everyone else into the office, too. I’m not going to differentiate. My heart would be hoping and praying so that the vet presents itself so I can say ‘Okay,’ but at the end of the day, I am obligated to hire the most qualified folks, or the person who has the most potential.”

He recommended other companies at least take a look at veterans.

“They have strong leadership and they manage people and issues. When you compare a 22- or 23-year-old young Marine or soldier that comes out, male or female, with his counterpart who is working on Wall Street behind a desk, the leadership and experience, the worldwide experience of dealing under stress, making tough decisions, you can’t even compare it.”

Libutti also said that he thought having been a part of the U.S. government and being a part of a certified disabled-veteran owned small business would open doors for him. Instead, the company encountered operational and financial hurdles, especially when it was trying to get its footing in project management for government work.

“It took money to respond to a government solicitation,” he said. “You spend days completing government forms and then it goes downrange. You probably have to bring experts outside your company, consultants, to help you complete the required paperwork. So, then it goes in and you can wait months or a year before a decision is made where the government awards the contract to other companies or Renaissance Global. I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have the financial wherewithal to wait.”

In looking to the future, the CEO said he would applaud any incentives or tools that make veterans more marketable in private industry, so long as they have no negative impact on the broader community.

Renaissance Global also sees a future in environmental restoration and site remediation. However, Libutti admits that expanding this division could put a strain on his day-to-day operations, namely, on his company’s chief operating officer.

“My COO, Tom Zetkulic, has a background in environmental remediation,” Libutti said.

While the company is open to opportunities in the field, Libutti added, “Tom is second in command. He’s more than COO. The only area I would look at seriously is if we found people who are environmental experts that we could join onto our organization under Tom’s leadership.”

Regardless of what the future holds for Libutti at the helm of Renaissance Global, he said he is guided by one principle above all: ‘Take care of your troops and employees and they’ll take care of business,’

“It is an open-door policy where if someone has a problem they can get to me either through email or walk in the door,” he said “It’s about calling them on their birthdays, it’s about meeting them for lunch and asking them how they are doing and what can we do to execute the mission more smartly. Now, I turned all that military jargon into the business side of my mind to: negotiate, be a gentleman at all times and treat people with respect and dignity.”