Bernie Gauf is the CEO of Innovative Defense Technologies (IDT). He has more than 20 years of experience leading the design, development and delivery of innovative technologies for defense industry customers. At IDT, he directs the company’s efforts to develop Automated Software Testing solutions. Prior to IDT, Gauf served as President of Digital System Resources, Inc. (DSR), a system integration and software company. The firm became one of the top 100 largest prime Department of Defense contractors for RDT&E and was acquired by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems (GD-AIS) in 2003.
IDT recently won SECAF’s 2013 Government Contractor of the Year Award. Gauf spoke to WashingtonExec about the company’s win, gave advice to small businesses striving to succeed in this economic climate, and revealed to us his thoughts on the LPTA’s impact on the goals of small businesses.
WashingtonExec: What does it mean to you to be recognized by SECAF’s Government Contractor Awards?
Bernie Gauf: It is exciting and an honor to be recognized for our performance by experts in the government contracting market space. Many outstanding companies were being considered, so the recognition by SECAF certainly helps affirm the strategy we have been executing at IDT.
WashingtonExec: What advice do you have for small businesses who are working hard to achieve success in this time of economic challenges in the contracting industry?
Bernie Gauf: Focus on identifying what your customers consider to be their strategic objectives and on supporting them in reaching their goals. Given the current budget environment, customers are going to be concentrating on what is really important to their mission. To be successful, I think it is essential that you understand and support your customer’s objectives and goals.
WashingtonExec: Does the LPTA environment help small businesses accomplish their goals or hurt their goals?
Bernie Gauf: I think it is too early to tell. The concern for small businesses is the case where they may have outstanding performance and technology solutions, but are able to be underbid by a larger company simply based on the company’s size. On the other hand, LPTA may also provide the opportunity for small businesses to offer a significantly lower cost alternative and not be penalized if they do not have the same level of experience as incumbents. Like many others, I am very interested to see the types of contracts to which the government chooses to apply LPTA and the actual criteria used for selection.
WashingtonExec: What can small businesses do to stand out in the government contracting community?
Bernie Gauf: Small businesses should focus on outstanding performance relative to delivering on time and within budget. Unfortunately, the norm is that programs are often behind schedule and over budget. It may sound obvious, but if you can consistently deliver high-quality products on time and within budget, my experience is that this is the best possible way for a small business to stand out. I know our company has benefited from our commitment in these areas.
WashingtonExec: Are you finding the current budget climate better (or worse) for teaming opportunities or better for priming opportunities, etc.?
Bernie Gauf: In general, I see the current climate as worse for teaming opportunities. Given shrinking budgets, companies are more inclined to look to do more of the work themselves and be less inclusive of teammates. As a result, I believe you are seeing and will continue to see more companies bidding as prime contractors.
WashingtonExec: What’s the greatest risk an entrepreneur can take?
Bernie Gauf: The greatest risk is taking the leap from talking about having a better idea or solution to investing the time, talent and money to build it. I would also say it can be the greatest reward. Coming up with the next new idea that can make a difference for our customers is what I enjoy the most.
WashingtonExec: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Bernie Gauf: As a business leader, you should not worry about being the smartest person in the room. Instead you should be ensuring you are surrounding yourself with the smartest people in the room.
WashingtonExec: What is something most people might not know about you?
Bernie Gauf: I am an avid recreational athlete. I always have some type of event for which I am training. For example, I recently ran a half-marathon with one of my daughters. Then once I complete an event, I am immediately looking ahead to find the next challenge.