Advice From Barry West On How A Government Executive Prepares For The Private Sector

Barry West

WashingtonExec “Secrets To Success” Series:

WashingtonExec reached out to area executives to gain insight and share local “secrets to success” stories.

Today’s advice is from Barry West, former CIO of the Department of Commerce, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and National Weather Service (NWS).  He is now Partner and Executive Vice President of SE Solutions.

Barry West: As government executives prepare for their next chapter of life, the following key factors should be considered:

1)      Know what job you want to do. Don’t just join a company without knowing exactly what you are going to be doing and what you want to be doing.  Many government folks making the leap just want to make money and they typically end up in a job making good money but not a match with what they thought they would like doing.  Do you want to be a stock holder, technical type, marketing, part of the executive management team, a program manager on the ground that is billable, write proposals, do pricing, etc., etc.?

2)      Do your homework on the company you plan to join. What’s the integrity and reputation of the company that you are interviewing with?  Know what you are getting into from an employee perspective.  You will be with these individuals day in and day out.  Ask your contacts in industry what they think of the company and the executive team.

3)      Turn the switch and be humble. You are no longer an executive with a big office at a government headquarters building.  You no longer have 3 or 4 assistants catering to your needs every minute with answering phones and doing power points.  You are now going to be in control of your calendar, appointments, preparing your own presentations and other administrative needs.  Get used to it.  This is part of the private sector and you will have to wear many hats so leave the ego at the door when you leave the government.

4)      Nail down your employment offer and employee agreement. Most individuals coming out of government will not understand the language put forth in their offers and agreements.  Have them reviewed by your lawyer.  Now what your worth is and what compensation package is appropriate along with a signing bonus, educational expenses, travel reimbursement, etc.

5)      Everyone is a Business Developer. Don’t think you will not have your rolodex used or that you will not be doing any business development.  Everyone’s job in the company is to grow the business!!

6)      Don’t be disappointed when you get “No”. You will be calling on previous colleagues to take meetings and do try and do business.  Don’t be hurt or feel disappointed when your phone calls are not returned or you get a flat out no in a response.  You are now a contractor supporting the federal government.  Some clients will not need your service for various reasons so move on to those where there is a match with your company’s capabilities and their requirements.


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