WashingtonExec Series: Want To Be GovCon Executive Of The Year?
The finalists for this year’s Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards were announced in September and WashingtonExec is bringing you its annual series with the nominees.
The winners will be unveiled on November 7th at The Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce (FCCC), the Professional Services Council (PSC) and Washington Technology magazine. With over 900 business and public sector leaders attending the event, our series will keep you up-to-date about all the finalists for this year–who they are, what they do, and why they are worthy of winning.
Today’s interview is with Brad Antle, president and CEO, Salient Federal Solutions. Antle is nominated for “Executive of the Year” and Salient Federal Solutions is nominated for “Contractor of the Year”. Both nominations are for the $75 -$300 million category.
WashingtonExec: As a leader in the community, how have you approached the government shutdown? What did you learn from the last government shutdown? If you were not in the business at that time, how has the industry changed since you first entered the sector?
Brad Antle: During the shutdown in 1995-96, we weren’t sure how long it was going to last or how the government was going to respond following the shutdown. There were many things that were different back then, we had approved agency budgets, we didn’t have a sequester, and we were well beyond the beginning of a Government Fiscal Year boundary. This time we had plans for the shutdown to run through the month of October. Given the timing, there were second order effects of the shutdown. With the government furloughs this summer, followed by the government shutdown, many expected procurements were delayed weeks and months.
Some even pushed into next year.
We were fortunate that we only had about 6% of our employees impacted by the shutdown; some companies I talked to were impacted to a much greater extent. The first priority during this event was keeping the lines of communications open. Communicating to our employees so they would know what was happening and what to expect as the shutdown continued was critical. I personally wrote to each individual furloughed expressing my concern and provided information to answer their basic questions. Our leadership team was in touch with each furloughed employee every day. We sought to assure keep them connected in a time of uncertainty.
The lack of approved budgets that have gone through the appropriations process seems to be the new normal. We have learned to deal in the world of Continuing Resolutions (CRs).
“Health Care remains a highly fractured industry with hundreds, if not thousands, of companies in this space. Data Analytics serves a pressing need for automated methods to help correlate vast streams of data.”
WashingtonExec: What is your 2014 market outlook for the federal contracting community? Where are you seeing areas for growth?
Brad Antle: Increasing Cyber-attacks, increasing the use of mobile devices, continued migration to the cloud, and leveraging agile development to improve speed, reduce costs and retire risks early for software development. These will continue to drive growth for many years. It is essential for companies to adapt to rapid and continuous evolution of technology with decreasing budgets and smaller less prepared workforces.
Going forward, our strategy is to position ourselves in well-funded market segments as we round out corporate capabilities in areas such as Healthcare IT, Data Analytics, Cyber and Mobility solutions. Innovating the Health IT space is on the to-do list for many federal agencies. Health Care remains a highly fractured industry with hundreds, if not thousands, of companies in this space. Data Analytics serves a pressing need for automated methods to help correlate vast streams of data. The data that is collected each day overwhelms the systems that process them and elude the people who need to make decisions from the information. Data is generally stored and rarely analyzed. However, the key to finding efficiencies, attacking fraud, or providing intelligence from massive data stores, requires data analytics. This is also a very broad area of opportunity for many years to come.
We are also looking at applications of social media, deployment of cloud computing, mobility and other newer technologies that will further drive our industry for the next 10 years and expand our business portfolio to stay competitive. We continue to help agencies adapt to agile software development. As we enhance the breadth of our capabilities and distinctions, we will continue to sharpen our focus by investing in making our services smarter with agility, speed, and quality. Delivering what matters most to our customers.
“A performance culture drives consistency in how we assess and reward performance, creates a culture where team members and managers feel a shared commitment to success, drives alignment between individual performance objectives and business goals, and supports a merit-based system where employees are rewarded based on performance.”
WashingtonExec: How does your company identify and then cultivate high-potential employees to become leaders in your organization?
Brad Antle: Identification of top talents begins long before we win new work. Our recruiting model is unlike other federal contractors who typically wait to recruit until the work is won. Salient focuses on finding talented leaders all day, every day in advance of our next win. We do this by proactively seeking out individuals who have the skills sets and performance track records that our clients expect from us. We establish a relationship with these individuals and routinely touch base to keep the candidate “hot”. We seek to understand the motivations of each hire. We don’t want to put them in just any job. We want to place them into a position where they can lead and become top performers.
Once we have an opening to fill, our Talent Operations Specialists are able to look through our databases to find the perfect fit for our client. Our candidates and employees know that performance matters. In our quest to become the preferred partner for our clients, our employees are encouraged to make a difference each and every day. Our performance culture is rooted in our core values and supported through our performance management program. Individual performance objectives are aligned with the company’s vision, mission, and strategic goals. A performance culture drives consistency in how we assess and reward performance, creates a culture where team members and managers feel a shared commitment to success, drives alignment between individual performance objectives and business goals, and supports a merit-based system where employees are rewarded based on performance. Performance Management training is offered annually to managers to explain the Company’s schedule and process for planning and delivering employee performance appraisals. Training is delivered by the Human Resources department via in-person and live web conference sessions. The schedule and resources for the training are coordinated by the Human Resources department to align with the annual focal point performance review process. All company supervisors and managers must attend this annual training.
Salient’s executive leadership team developed the Salient Leader training. All employees who lead teams or projects attend this training. All of the training sessions are led by the executive staff encouraging interaction and engagement. We believe that leadership is often more caught than taught and we want to ensure that our employees have meaningful time with our executive team to learn both the content and the spirit of the curriculum.
To keep top talent, you must engage their minds, hearts and hands. We must provide meaningful work where the individual will contribute and thrive, we must provide the rewards and incentive structures to encourage top performance and we must provide opportunities for the employees to give back – to make a meaningful difference every day to our clients, their colleagues and the communities where we work and live. Our leaders at all levels are given the full backing of our leadership team to serve their clients, employees, and communities. We honor the commitment that our leaders make and provide them the safety net to grow their leadership abilities.
“Change is constant in today’s business climate, and we understand the true value of internal communications and its potential impact on the bottom line.”
WashingtonExec: How does your organization engage effectively with all levels of employees, on and off site?
Brad Antle: Our culture is not an imposing approach, but rather a collaborative high-performance approach that builds positive near in and long-term growth. Employees are empowered with decision-making authority to solve critical customer problems in challenging environments.
In everyday business decisions, we recognize that every person is an asset to the company. We put great emphasis on communicating a vision of the future and encouraging each employee to take ownership. Because we have 17 offices and employees at over 150 locations, we use many different programs to continue communication throughout the organization. A monthly CEO e-newsletter is sent out that focuses on the state of our business and current events. This communication tool is used to build a broader understanding of our industry, activities within the business and our customers, and to discuss topics of importance to our business. We maintain a dialogue with our employees through frequent travels to our company locations as well as the “Ask the CEO” email box for employees to reach out directly with questions, business input, or concerns, as I personally respond to and which gets used often. Annually, we hold our Offsite that allows our leadership and business unit teams to merge together for strategic planning and continuous team bonding.
Our HR News You Can Use is a company-wide e-newsletter that contains timely and relevant employee information and recognition. By giving employees insight into the strategy and business development plans of the company, they become more engaged as they understand how their unique role plays an integral part in the organization’s success.
Salient University is our online learning portal delivering training and on-the-job support tools that enhance business and technical skills. Our online platform helps accelerate an employee’s career with e-learning from anywhere at any time. It is through these various platforms that Salient communicates consistently the company’s services, customer benefits, distinctions, and corporate.
Change is constant in today’s business climate, and we understand the true value of internal communications and its potential impact on the bottom line. All of our communications are focused on building a culture that defines Salient as a go to employer – one worthy of spending time with.
WashingtonExec: What trends are you seeing that are important to your customers?
Brad Antle: While we are not in the clear with sequestration there is a possibility that sequestration will continue through FY 2014, high probability of a continuing resolution v. enacted budget, and furloughs may impact decision, review, and processing times for solicitation release and awards. As the government faces unparalleled challenges, public services continue to rise. From services vital to our domestic interest – defense, intelligence and homeland security – to the complex infrastructure of our country, government will be seeking new ways to provide essential solutions.
Innovation is paramount to customers and to provide ideas and exploit capabilities to help them thrive. We need to continue to work close with our customers and understand what they are thinking and what things are important to them. Good people bring good ideas and technology. Those attributes are key to surviving.
“We pushed the boundaries of establishing new distinctions that resonate with our customers and capture their imagination, fill critical technology demands, and separate Salient from the competition.”
WashingtonExec: What is your company’s biggest accomplishment in the last 12-18 months?
Brad Antle: In 2012, we strategically acquired ATSC and LIST to diversify into federal civilian markets and complement Salient’s strong DOD/Intel base. And by establishing a strong presence in self-funded agencies, Salient is better insulated against budget uncertainties.
The acquisition of ATSC, a public company, in 2012, marked a major milestone towards the strategy of building a fully diversified mid-tier company for today’s IT and engineering challenges and broadened customer base in federal civilian to complement Salient’s strong DoD/Intel base, and better balance the business portfolio. The ATSC deal doubled Salient’s Washington presence and enhanced the company’s capabilities while making stronger contributions to the local economy and community.
The acquisition of LIST adds excellent past performances relevant to support current opportunities in modernizing older technologies; further positions Salient for maximum agility to help government agencies.
We pushed the boundaries of establishing new distinctions that resonate with our customers and capture their imagination, fill critical technology demands, and separate Salient from the competition. Consistent with this vision, over the last 12 months, we launched Cyber Security, Agile Development, and Mobility Centers of Excellence (COE)’s. These distinctions represent our commitment to innovation, thought leadership and to the most pressing missions
We stood up our third Talent Operations Center (TOC) office in San Diego, CA integrated with the company’s Program Management Control Center (PMCC). Salient’s strategic approach to talent management coupled with its management control center will work together to deliver rapid delivery of mission essential personnel while reducing risks with complete visibility of contractual aspects for rapid mission impact. Our talent operations management is an innovative approach to identifying and qualifying talent that is unique to the federal contracting market. TOC eliminates program risk and drives results by enabling Salient to determine with a high degree of certainty which people precisely meet its customers’ requirements. The PMCC is another tool that Salient utilizes to enable its program teams to deliver on its promise to provide high quality service. The combination of the TOC and the PMCC available at this new location will allow for continued customer support in a transparent and collaborative environment.
We also recently opened a new location in San Diego that will provide state of the art technologies in Southern California.
WashingtonExec: How is your company involved in the community?
Brad Antle: Our focus on making a difference extends into the community. The very best way to contribute to our community is to build a strong company. By doing so, we help build the local economy. Many of our employees are eager to take their skills, time and talent into the community. Salient provides a wide range of opportunities for employees to volunteer and contribute to national and international organizations. We encourage groups of employees to come together for a common cause. Volunteer projects help build community within and outside of Salient.
“I believe a good leader is one that instills authority, sense of purpose, and proper encouragement. When engaged, you see a positive difference in work ethic and enhanced customer and community engagement.”
WashingtonExec: What would you say was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
Brad Antle: Taking the leap out of a large organization like Lockheed Martin and running a $20M company that was known as Statistica. That was the first acquisition of SI International. It was a very liberating and energizing move. I found the bureaucracy of the large company very stifling. It is amazing what a company can do if the organization restraints are removed. Most people want some level of autonomy. We can give them that in a more agile company like Salient.
WashingtonExec: What book did you read this summer?
Brad Antle: Well, I read a few different books and some were very quick reads. The most recent was Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly. That was a very quick read but an interesting historical perspective. I read a detective mystery The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen, and James Patterson’s Second Honeymoon. Also a very quick read. I suspect too much time on a plane this summer. I am now reading Transform by Christopher Morace.
“Work hard and let your accomplishments speak for themselves. Don’t worry about recognition for what you have done but take satisfaction in knowing that you have done your best and be proud of your accomplishments.”
WashingtonExec: What makes a good leader? How would you describe your leadership style?
Brad Antle: I believe a good leader is one that instills authority, sense of purpose, and proper encouragement. When engaged, you see a positive difference in work ethic and enhanced customer and community engagement. As Salient’s CEO, I remain visible to our employees and my style is more natural and informal. I believe in being approachable, open, and collaborative with everyone I meet. Our employees are given the responsibility to understand the business and make decisions that support our mission. I encourage our employees to set ourselves apart from the competition and the best way to do that is with the right mindset every day, to come to work and find a way to make a difference for our customer. The customer will notice this kind of positive, affirmative attitude. I encourage all Salient employees to continue to focus on making a difference thorough continuous deliverable actions; changing our behavior to distinguish ourselves form the rest of our competitors. We set in motion a Salient’s “Make A Difference” campaign that recognizes employees achievements and actions. Through this initiative, Salient focuses on celebrating those who have made a positive impact on their customers, colleagues, and communities.
WashingtonExec: What three pieces of advice would you give your kids?
Brad Antle: Work hard and let your accomplishments speak for themselves. Don’t worry about recognition for what you have done but take satisfaction in knowing that you have done your best and be proud of your accomplishments. Rewards, if merited, will follow.
WashingtonExec: As a previous nominee, what has changed in your company over the last year and what makes you optimistic about winning this year?
Brad Antle: I know we have been focused on the right things during this downturn in the industry. We are approaching the bottom of the curve and will emerge much stronger as a company out of the other side. We recognize that the world has changed and we have made changes to keep in step. We are ready for the new normal that is the government services industry. It is different today that two years ago. We are prepared to do business in the new normal.