Years of Service: 1984 to 2006
Highest Rank: Lt. Colonel
MOS: Army Officer
It’s been a big year for Brian Butler, founder and president of Vistra Communications. The 22-year Army veteran and the strategic marketing and communications company he built have received a host of awards and accolades over the past 12 months. In November 2015, Butler was honored as a Hero at Work by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. Then, in April of this year, Butler was named the SBA’s South Florida District 2016 Veteran-Owned Small Business Person of the Year.
Most recently, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce named Vistra Communications Small Business of the Year and recognized Butler as a finalist for Small Business Leader of the Year. And Vistra was ranked #1 this year in Tampa Bay Business Journal’s List of Public Relations Firms in the Tampa Bay Area. Vetrepreneur also honors Butler this month for his achievements, recognizing him as NaVOBA’s 2016 Minority Vetrepreneur®
of the Year.
Founded in 2007, Vistra Communications today boasts a staff of more than 50, with multiple office locations in two states. The firm caters to a wide range of clientele, from small businesses and non-profit agencies to corporations and government organizations. In 2014, Vistra saw its revenues grow by 282 percent, and in 2015, by another 108 percent. For all of its success, Vistra Communications’ rise to the top was not without its challenges.
Butler recalls launching the business in 2007, during an economic recession that saw hundreds of thousands of businesses crumble. He didn’t hire an employee until 2010, the same year Vistra secured its first government contract. Even then, Butler says the business didn’t really take off for another two or three years. Indeed, Butler’s story is an insightful study in just how much a business can grow, and ultimately thrive, when giving up isn’t an option.
Putting the Team First
“It was a long time before we started paying ourselves,” Butler remembers. “We knew it was more important to pay good people to help us grow the business. Given the economy, we knew we were really lucky to still be around. We operated with a lot of fiscal responsibility, took on no loans and used what little dollars we had.”
Butler is quick to point out that his success is due to the efforts of his entire team. His commitment to sharing his business’s achievements with his employees is evidenced when Vistra receives recognition. Most recently, when the company received the Small Business of the Year Award from the Greater Tampa Chamber, many members of the staff joined Butler at the podium to accept the honor.
Being the Change
Butler’s approach to business is built on his adherence to the golden rule, and he maintains that “treating others the way you want to be treated” is key to building a thriving business. The company’s strong values are evident not just inside the workplace, but also in Vistra’s involvement with the local community. From the beginning, Butler and his wife sought to give back to the region they chose to call home. And they didn’t wait until they’d achieved a certain measure of success to take action.
“Every time something good happens to our business, we turn around and give back to the community,” explains Butler.
Tapping into Training
So how can other veterans achieve their own entrepreneurial goals? Butler maintains that research, preparation and careful planning are instrumental to any business’s success.
“Do your homework and always go in prepared,” he says. “If you’re going to meet with a larger company, go in knowing something about their needs, their requirements, their opportunities. Don’t just show up. Preparation speaks volumes.”
Additional Facilities: Va.
Company Website: consultvistra.com
Number of Employees: 53
Military/Veteran Employees: 21
Year Founded: 2007
Philosophy: “The company can only be successful if its clients become successful.”