Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dana Linnet, President and CEO of The Summit Group DC., located in Washington, DC, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

The Summit Group DC gives our clients access to sophisticated programs, relationships, strategies, and knowledge to successfully do business with the U.S. Government, as well as to export smoothly to foreign Allies and Partners. Our clients range from large OEMs to startups. We also serve large institutional investors, hedge funds, and consulting firms that need a more comprehensive understanding of aerospace, defense, and tech sector market drivers, technologies, regulations, and how it all works. I bring them the lived experience, data, and insights that underpin and validate their financial analysis. I help them put the data into context. Most companies find it difficult to understand and do business with the U.S. government. I level the competitive playing field for them, give them a look inside, and connect them in the right way. One of my clients calls me their "secret weapon."

Tell us about yourself

After 27 years of global experience as a career diplomat and international aerospace and defense executive working for large, mid-size, and startup companies, I wanted to make a unique impact. For me, the mission has always been constant: support our national and international security against those who wish to do us harm. I found a way to pull it all together and in service to our clients in support of that shared, existential mission. The world is always changing. There are new challenges and technologies. I get to learn new things and help teams solve important problems every day, which is a huge privilege. I’ve been fortunate over the years to have amazing mentors, teachers, and champions. It’s extremely important to pay that forward despite being busy.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment is having the courage to leave very safe, comfortable employers that I loved and had success with, to take a huge risk to strike out on my own with a clear vision. Many of my former government and aerospace colleagues think I'm nuts to have made ‘the jump.” Creating my own successful company that’s making a positive impact for our clients gives me deep satisfaction. That said, when our new website is finished, I will see that as a big accomplishment! We never needed one, but now it's a market necessity. I like to focus all my attention on clients, so I hired a fantastic brand design firm. They are amazing!

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Show me a business owner who feels they have enough time! It's liberating to be one's own boss, but you must ruthlessly prioritize. You have to say “no” to time spent on things that are interesting but don't advance your business. Like most business owners, I'm intellectually curious and love connecting with people. But there are human limits. Trade-offs to be made. I'm learning time-optimization strategies, including how to say "no" and how to unplug. I’m working on making my time “High Impact, Maximum Efficiency-HIME,” which means creating breathing room in the day to think, solve problems, and live a more balanced life. I learned the hard way that a back-to-back, packed, reactive calendar every day, 12-16 hours a day is NOT productive, lucrative, or healthy. It’s inefficient. It drains your time, performance, and profit. Instead, I try to work in my “HIME” to make the "difficult" easier, the complex simple, and create time for more joy in life.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

First, whatever your business, keep it simple, so your customers understand your value. The second tip is to leverage LinkedIn, especially if you are an independent consultant. Your network is your lifeblood. I've never paid for automated sales marketing or advertising. My clients and jobs all came to me, either through LinkedIn or by word-of-mouth recommendations from my clients and network. Deliver value, and that will be the best advertising. Finally, put people and relationships first. Suze Orman says, "People, then money, then things." I think that's the right order. If you're not putting people first, especially your own employees, then you're at an automatic disadvantage, no matter how great your product or service is. Be ruthless about your time. Find people who share your mission and values and lift them up without asking anything in return. Be a net contributor and serve others.

Where can people find you and your business?

LinkedIn (Personal):
LinkedIn (Company):

If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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