Larry Besterman is President and CEO of TWD & Associates, Inc. Prior to assuming these roles, he served TWD as Chief Financial Officer.
Besterman has more than 28 years of experience in providing support and services for professional management and technical services of the federal government, and he received a B.S. from the United States Military Academy and an MBA in finance from George Mason University.
WashingtonExec chatted with Besterman about how his military experiences have shaped his corporate career, why he enjoys working in the federal technology space, the state and future of TWD, company challenges, and goals for expansion, amongst other issues.
WashingtonExec: How did your experience at West Point shape the way you lead your team today?
Larry Besterman: West Point demonstrated that there are many different leadership styles and leaders can be successful with many different approaches as long as certain fundamental principles of leadership are followed. I may not perfectly uphold all of these principles all the time, but they are guiding lights to how I try to do my job. These principles include:
-It is important to lead by example – people watch what their leaders do and say and take many cues about how they should behave, work and interact with others. An important corollary is that you don’t have to be an expert at everything that your business does, but you do have to demonstrate competence, preferably excellence, at core areas critical to your organization’s mission and success.
Leaders must define the path and guide the organization down that path. You can call it vision or goals and objectives or other buzz terms from different management paradigms, but the bottom line is that you have to be taking the organization toward something that others can see, understand and rally behind.”
-You have to demonstrate a strong set of ethics; you have to live by them and you have to demonstrate that you expect everyone else in the organization to live by them.
-Communication with your internal and external stakeholders is critical. You can’t over-communicate and you have to be a visible physical presence in your organization.
WashingtonExec: How did you get into the federal technology business?
Larry Besterman: My first job after leaving the Army in 1984 was in the DC-area and involved government contracting. I’ve stayed with it ever since. For me, government contracting is a satisfying blend of public service with a private sector/entrepreneurial twist. We help our government customers accomplish important missions on behalf of the American public. And, we get to reap private sector benefits if we’re successful at it. When we, as government contractors, play the game correctly, meaning we vigorously compete for business, we ethically execute against the contracts that we win and we share the profits of our performance with all of our stakeholders, i.e. shareholders and employees; it is American capitalism at its best.
WashingtonExec: I understand TWD & Associates, Inc. (TWD) is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. What significant strides have been made to continue to grow the company during the past two decades?
Larry Besterman: We have been successful growing and evolving TWD’s capabilities and solution offerings in tandem with the evolution of technology. TWD has acquired a number of companies that have helped expand the company’s capabilities and opened the door to new customers.
WashingtonExec: What makes TWD unique, and how have you helped continue the company culture?
Larry Besterman: Customers come to TWD because our suite of voice, video, data and cybersecurity capabilities enhance their performance or reduce cost – or both. They stay with us because we are nimble and responsive to their needs whether they have a simple install or a large, complex requirement. It’s easy to fall into a mental trap that by simply providing great service and taking care of your customers, it should be sufficient to continue to grow and excel. The reality is that great customer service and customer experiences are merely entrance requirements to the game – without them you can’t even play. I’ve worked hard the last couple of years to force my managers and executives to look at our technology capabilities and continue to grow and evolve them so the solutions we can offer customers keep up with the fast pace of technological change.
WashingtonExec: What advice would you give to small technology companies looking to enter the federal IT market?
Larry Besterman: It is critical to understand the government procurement process. Why does a customer want to buy from you versus your competitor? How can they purchase products/services from you? What procurement vehicles are in place? Companies seeking to enter the market should look at the small business programs as opportunities to obtain prime contracts. Determine the companies that have prime contracts under the various small business programs and try to establish alliances and partnerships with them to make initial sales into the government. This is critical to establishing past performance references that will be needed to compete for future business.
Do not underestimate the cost or complexity of compliance with government policies and regulations as a government contractor and how these will affect your current business practices and resource allocation.”
WashingtonExec: What new advancements is TWD making in the near future to keep up with new technology trends in this era of significant budget cuts?
Larry Besterman: TWD is combining our varied set of capabilities to focus on a more coherent solution offering around Unified Communications & Collaboration. While there has been a lot of buzz over the last 10 – 15 years about converged networks and the advancements in productivity that they would result in, it is only in the past few years that both the network intelligence and an integrated set of applications have been available to make good on those promises.
WashingtonExec: What are some challenges you’ve seen in the federal technology industry, and how have you overcome them?
Larry Besterman: Getting visibility and traceability to true cost savings/ productivity enhancement for federal technology investment is a real challenge both for government customers and for contractors. Developing and implementing metrics and service level agreements (SLAs) has been a partial fix, but is nowhere near a perfect solution.
The growth and proliferation of contract vehicles counter-intuitively can be a challenge rather than an asset. At one time, customers were satisfied to use one major technology contract vehicle, GSA IT Schedule 70, for a large portion of their IT purchases. With so many different vehicles today, there are many options available to customers. Most have developed preferences due to ease of use and sometimes companies don’t have the preferred vehicle readily available. Not having the preferred vehicle can cause a company to lose a sale, even if they have the best value for the customer. TWD is focused on getting on additional contracting teams to have access to more vehicles. To track and respond to the procurement activity on all of these vehicles takes significant resources. It is not an insignificant task, but has become necessary.
WashingtonExec: Are there any plans to expand TWD’s global footprint?
Larry Besterman: Only in the context of supporting US government agencies that do business overseas such as with the State Department or Department of Defense.