GovCon Success

Success for everyone is different.  Some may say it’s a lifestyle company; others may point to the infamous sale at $100M.  Further, others say it’s buying the island after the sale.  Regardless of what you define success as, there are certain tenets that are true.

  1. Top Line is for Ego, Bottom Line is Business – essentially, you can push all the revenue you want into your company, but if you aren’t profitable, it does not count.  Don’t sacrifice your bottom line.


  1. Culture – if you don’t appreciate your employees or your clients, your reputation will get around the industry.  Poor delivery, major rate hikes in execution, and non-responsiveness of senior leadership will quickly get to the source selection team.  Your employee’s morale will be known throughout the recruiting world.  Your competition will know whether your key personnel are ripe for the picking or if they won’t make a move.  Your clients will know whether your employees are treated well and if they enjoy working for you.  A GovCon that manages to get past the “employees that have gone native” challenge is indeed a success.


  1. Compliance – In an industry that is overly regulated and where everything must be documented to the nth degree, staying compliant only keeps you off the front page of the Washington Post (in a good way).  If you plan on staying in this industry or selling at any point, remember that folks have long memories when it comes to scandal in GovCon.  Having your house in order is a success.


  1. Diversity – You become successful by listening to those that have differing opinions and different viewpoints and pushing beyond your boundaries.  Diversity of thought, diversity of background, and a diverse client base all bring value.  If you are surrounded by people that look, speak and think like you…you’re not doing it right. You’re missing the opportunity to pivot.  If your leadership team professionally challenges one another, through their different points of view to do better and drive towards your end goal, you are successful.


  1. Innovation – This is an overly used term when applied to anything, but it’s hard with which to argue.  If you are a butts-in-seats organization that does pretty much everything, you really have little value or differentiation in a market filled with butts-in-seats organizations.  Success is finding your niche and exploiting it across various agencies/clients and differentiating yourself from the herd.

Perhaps right now, success is just making it through the proposal season, winning your re-compete or hiring a new business development person. Regardless of your measurement of success, remember the above factors in how you keep score.

Need help aligning your team to a common set of goals, with focus on the above? Are you looking to put your strongest proposal foot forward this season?  Shoot me an email at [email protected]

Forced Promotion

Did you fall into management? Were you rewarded for your technical skills with the extra bonus of now having direct reports? This cycle happens time and time again where folks excel at their trade. Generally, very few people are asked if they want the additional responsibility of a leadership role or guiding a team. Even fewer are given any training on how to be a good manager. Instead, they are given timesheet approval responsibilities, a list of when performance reviews are due and told to make the team work. There’s no Cliff Notes or Management 101 class for how it’s done and most learn via on-the-job experience. A trial by fire, if you will.

As small organizations grow, the scenario above becomes more normal than unique. This is dangerous for several reasons. First and foremost, it takes a brilliant, high-achiever away from the thing they do best and forces them to spend time on tasks they may not enjoy. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t always the case. There are some people that want the additional management responsibilities and enjoy managing a team. If that’s the case, good grief, encourage it! Yet in many cases, it’s a technical engineer or high-tech professional who enjoys their trade and wants to spend more time doing it, not less.

This is also a dangerous move as these types of managers may not have the instincts to follow employment laws, cultivate a team or build morale. Those traits can be gained through experience, but only if the participant wants to. Many times, the management piece filed under “other duties as assigned” and those who are not prone to leadership are less likely to spend time improving their skills in this area. This leads to issues within the team and potentially putting the company in legal risk (unintentionally). Thus creating more problems where a simple conversation, gauging the interest of your team and gleaning appropriate leaders from the ranks may have avoided many issues.

If you are a technical company, I recommend you seek out those who are keen to manage and have the skills or drive to learn. Encourage this and build from there. For those who don’t, allow them to continue to climb in their careers, but do so with the top cover support from managers who understand their talents. Micro-managing a highly technical person is a recipe for disaster. Instead, hire leaders who respect and understand the technical expertise. In return, they will win the respect of the techies.

Happy Techies, Happy Leaders, Happy Company… for the most part.

When it comes time for you to seek new leadership for your teams- invest in reviewing skill sets, employee goals and find the best fit on paper and in person for the needs of your company. Want to learn more? I’d be happy to throw some pointers your way! [email protected]