Paul Leslie has a proven track record when it comes to building and growing successful companies, so it should come as no surprise that the longtime businessman was recently named CEO of Dovèl Technologies. For more than 20 years Dovèl Technologies has been building IT systems for both the public and private sectors. Prior to accepting that position, Leslie was the president of Sydalco Consulting, which works to support businesses and initiate their expansion, while ensuring sound practices. Leslie has a solid background in leadership as he was also the president of the Virginia-based technology services company, Apptis, and president and CEO of Apogen Technologies, an IT and technology company that focuses on homeland security.
WashingtonExec: You were doing a lot of consulting over the past 18 months. What were the key factors that made you decide to join Dovel?
Paul Leslie: Consulting to companies over the last couple of years has allowed me to see exactly what they have to create to increase their value in the marketplace. It is not just revenue growth and great EBITDA margins – but how a company’s core competencies match up with the demand or requirements from their customers. For a small business, is all their revenue “set-aside money” or was it competed full & open? I was attracted to Dovèl because of their core strength in software and application development, Service Oriented Architecture, and their industry recognition surrounding best practices in Quality – but the “Wow!” factor was in the elegant solutions that they have developed for their customers – solutions that could solve big business problems for other government agencies as well. Once I saw how Dovèl differentiated themselves in the marketplace – my decision to join them was simple.
WashingtonExec: What’s your view of the private equity market in the government contracting space?
Paul Leslie: There’s a lot of private equity capital available in the government contracting space today. This increase in private equity investment attention has driven current M&A activity to new levels, and has driven or maintained higher valuations because of increased buyer competition. I believe that this increase in private equity investment attention is good for business. In the past, it was always the big aerospace and defense firms that drove consolidation in the government space as they acquired both mid-tier and small businesses to achieve their growth objectives. Today, given that there are fewer mid-tier company’s remaining and increased risks of acquiring small businesses due to recertification upon change of control, gives the private equity backed companies the opportunity to create something of real value in our industry. I really hope to see more equity backed platforms grow through acquisition to achieve that mid-tier status. The government customers and the contracting industry could benefit from having more companies in that $500M to $2B size.
WashingtonExec: What does it take to be a successful CEO in today’s climate?
Paul Leslie: I think that today’s challenges for a small business CEO are very different than those challenging the large prime company CEO. While the small business CEO is less worried about the large program budget cuts, we do need to get comfortable with the fact that incremental task order and contract funding has become the norm, and will most likely continue into the next fiscal year. Getting annual funding for task orders is becoming rarer. Instead of having 5 -6 months of solid funded backlog – today four months or less is becoming the norm for a task order business. Regardless, the key to being successful in today’s climate is still going to come down to executing on the fundamentals extremely well – being aggressive with business development, account management, being responsive to customers, recruiting and keeping the best employees, and providing the highest quality service will remain as critical success factors.
WashingtonExec: What will Dovèl look like in 5 years?
Paul Leslie: Five years is hard to predict – but we have quickly developed a strategic vision that in 2 to 3 years Dovèl Technologies will be at a revenue run rate of over $200M. We will be considered a premier provider of critical systems and solutions to federal government customers. Our competencies will be software and application development, service oriented architecture – a solutions provider that solves highly complex problems. We will have a focused business directed at the broad issues of Health IT, Transportation, and Department of Defense. Dovèl Technologies will be recognized as a provider of the highest quality of development of applications and systems.
Today Dovèl is recognized by Capers Jones, a noted software industry guru, in his book on software development best practices – he highlights Dovèl Technologies as a company that utilizes “Best Practices” – it is a short list that includes other notable companies such as, GE, Apple, Microsoft, and IBM. That is a pretty good list of companies to be associated with!
WashingtonExec: What book made the most impact on you and why?
Paul Leslie: Well you might be surprised to know that the book that has had the most impact on me was not a business book, a biography, or a book of fiction. It was actually a philosophy book, by Alan W. Watts, called “The Wisdom of Insecurity – A Message for an Age of Anxiety”. I read this book while in college and have always thought about its message as it relates to the world in which we live and work. The author highlights the fact that impermanence and insecurity are inescapable from our daily lives. It forces us to focus only on the present – and that to be of the present is to be always ready for some wild and crazy ride. So I’m ready for the next wild and crazy ride – I just hope everyone else is….