WashingtonExec had the chance to ask Brenda Bearden, President of B3 Solutions LLC, a few questions about the importance of maintaining security through innovation and businesses becoming innovators with new technology.
Bearden also talked of Vince Limbardi’s affect on her work ethic and how her faith guides her on a daily basis.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your role at B3 Solutions?
Brenda Bearden: As President, I am responsible for the day-to-day operations and business development activities of B3 Solutions. I began my career in the federal government more than 30 years ago and served as a senior contracting officer for 10 years. I moved to industry in the early 1990s to leverage my contracting expertise and build business capability for a certified 8(a) firm ready to graduate from the SBA’s Section 8(a) program. My government experience and expertise in contracting was highly effective in building that company and I moved to a large defense contractor in 1997 to build an enterprise-wide performance-based logistics solution for delivering aviation spare parts to a global marketplace. After working in both a graduating 8(a) firm and a very large defense contracting environment, B3 Solutions was born in 2003 to “build better business” (B3) solutions for myriad federal clients.
How was it moving from the federal workforce to business executive?
Brenda Bearden: I’ve been in the IT industry for more than 20 years. The initial move was just exciting, everyday! Through my 14 years of federal service, I had learned a lot about “how government works.” I leveraged this knowledge to help a graduating 8(a) firm build new business in niche capabilities. That 8(a) firm was Technical and Management Services Corporation (TAMSCO), a company very innovative and responsive to customer requirements. I worked directly for Nicholas Innerbichler, the president, and Bill Bilawa, the executive VP. Working at the top of TAMSCO allowed me to experience how small businesses really must flex their muscles to get in line for business opportunities. My expertise and drive to build business was “rare” (I was told) for a former contracting official. I loved building the business for TAMSCO and very much enjoyed the mentoring experience and camaraderie shared among TAMSCO’s leadership team. From my initial TAMSCO experience, I got the idea in the mid-90s that one day I would become a partner in a small firm.
How do you draw the line between security and innovation?
Brenda Bearden: Innovation is very important in sustaining and bringing in new business. Our goal at B3 is to always provide clients with quality, cost effective solutions. As a business owner, it is imperative to invest in and allow for the creation of new capabilities that drive innovation. The challenge is in ensuring information security is assured in the development of the best possible solutions. B3 Solutions’ strategy is to minimize the security risks while implementing new technologies and that is why we have experts in the Information Assurance field among our leadership and IT teams. Security will always come first and be at the origination of all technology investments we make. Since we clearly understand the importance of security to our nation’s well-being, we are engaged in the following initiatives:
- Conducting security authorization (SA) of multiple federal systems. We have and continue to support a number federal clients, in multiple locations, conducting security testing and evaluation (ST&E) (in accordance with the NIST guidelines including NIST-SP-800-37, NIST-SP-800-53, and NIST-SP-800-53A); and completing all the required certification and accreditation (C&A) documentation for information security, financial accounting and budgeting system internet system and administrative network systems.
- Instituting an IT lab where our cyber and IT engineers test and evaluate various scenarios and applications before recommending or implementing solutions for our clients. This approach ensures that deployed products are fully capable of performing in a secure manner, adding value to our clients’ IT environments.
- Implementing a hybrid cloud that provides a secure and mobile platform for business efficiency and performance optimization.
Do you see budget cuts affecting the government’s “mobile first” strategy?
Brenda Bearden: When budgets are cut, it will impact everything, including the government’s “mobile first” strategy. How deeply or ‘where’ the budget cuts occur, depends largely on the agency’s mission, its national priority and that agency’s overall strategic plan and vision. Our society is largely an automated one; everything from the power we consume to the purchases we make while at our home computers is now being accomplished online and more particularly via mobile devices. The “mobile first” strategy must continue in this direction in order to stay ahead of the IT innovation curve. B3 is moving to a hybrid cloud, which gives us the mobility and access needed for our personnel and other resources located across the continental United States.
How do you think the consumerization of information technology is affecting current trends in federal IT budgets/pilot programs?
Brenda Bearden: Consumerization has a major impact on current trends in federal IT budgets and pilot programs. People directly working for the Federal government and the private industry servicing the government are normal consumers themselves. They have the latest smart phones, and iPads, and are members of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These consumers, which by the way includes federal employees, see how well new technologies work in their personal lives and are brainstorming how new innovations/technologies might impact their workplace. In the early ‘90s for example when many agencies were just installing enterprise e-mail systems, it would not have been believable that our federal government would have available to its workforce chatting software for employees, enabling them to communicate promptly. Today, the chatting software is a competitor to standard emails systems in many government agencies. Personnel send a quick chat message to get an immediate response rather than wait for someone to read their sometimes massively-long list of inbox e-mail messages. Consumers drive the marketplace and it is up to businesses, like ours, to be the innovators, the first adopters of new technologies and on the front end of understanding the power of business solutions in the marketplace, for subsequent adaption to the federal IT business environment.
How do you see mobility increasing the value of customer service?
Brenda Bearden: The ability to put business applications and data in the hands of project teams and customers can deliver massive benefits. While technology is a double-edged sword, in terms of adding more functionality yet with a learning curve and added costs for initiation, today’s technological capabilities can and do drive significant business improvements. Mobility is an area where the customer can enjoy improved customer service, ease in access, accuracy and functionality of customer service data enabling service providers to be more responsive to client needs. What every service business wants is for its customer service organization to provide fast, efficient, quality, timely and responsive service to its clients at a reasonable cost. These success attributes are dependent upon the integration of IT and business systems and readily available systems functionality. Mobility enhances business processes and takes functionality to the fingertips of the customer service representative and the consumer. For businesses like ours to be successful, mobility has to be built into our processes so that our customer facing personnel have access to crucial information that is accurate, current, reliable and responsive to meeting our customer’s information needs and myriad demands.
What do you attribute your professional successes to? Did you have a mentor?
Brenda Bearden: I attribute my personal successes to first and foremost having a strong faith in God and believing that He has plans for my life that are greater than even my own abilities. I trust in that and understand completely that integrity, honesty, faith, perseverance and strength in character are God’s gifts to us. I have worked many long hours over the past 20 years. Hard work, dedication to an objective or a goal, passion, pure tenacity and perseverance, and yes intelligence, are the keys to success. Life can be discouraging and the road can be bumpy, but I have always had my faith and belief that God is at work around me. So, I have never given up and will not.
I do not have a mentor, per se, but I have worked for incredible people in my life. Bill Bilawa, EVP TAMSCO, was an extraordinary visionary and a great mentor. David Dacquino, now CEO of VT Group, was my former boss when I worked for Lockheed Martin. Dave is one of the most incredible business executives and leaders I have ever known. I am still in touch with both of these very fine people and share ideas, questions and personal concerns with them. They continue to be unofficial mentors in my life today.
Is there an executive that you admire and model your leadership style after?
Brenda Bearden: I love Vince Lombardi’s speech “What It Takes to Be Number One” when he says, “Winning is not a sometime thing; it is an all the time thing.” I have not tailored my leadership style after anyone but I have learned a lot about leadership both through education, leadership development and experience. No one person has it all; and I certainly am not perfect. I lead and manage through vision, consideration of facts, timing, dedication, passion, transparency and genuine love for people. The thrill of accomplishing a project well done, with people, living breathing, life forces, is exhilarating! I greatly enjoy seeing others achieve their goals and hope that all I do is helping someone get what they want for their lives as we do life together on a daily basis.
What is some advice you would give to graduating business school students?
Brenda Bearden: Take the academics seriously and then when you enter the business world, never lose sight of people in everything you do. Every person is special, a uniquely made gift of God. Treat others with respect always. Protect your reputation with all your might. At the end of the day, it is about who you are– not what you do. Make someone’s day every day. Love God; love others.