It’s been three months since ECS Federal’s George Wilson transitioned from president to become the company’s new chief executive officer. He’s taken the reins from the company’s previous CEO and founder Roy Kapani, now chairman of ECS Federal’s board of directors.
Wilson told WashingtonExec that the transition has been smooth and one that he and Kapani had been planning for some time.
“Proper succession planning often takes a back seat to the daily requirements of running a business but in this case, I think we did some things right. I have known Roy for over 15 years so, in 2011, when Roy asked me to join ECS we had some candid and detailed discussions about the type of company he wanted to grow and future plans. His vision and purpose for ECS aligned well with my views of what makes a great federal services contractor. That goes a long way toward making a smooth leadership transition.”
Asked what the future plan is for ECS, Wilson said, “ECS Federal has doubled in size in the past three years and we hope to double again in the next five. Our vision is to become a recognized industry leader in growth, corporate culture, customer service and quality of workforce.”
Wilson acknowledged that ECS faces challenges, the same challenges other federal services contractors face but said the management team is focused on and committed to making ECS Federal a success.
“We were very fortunate that we continued to hold true to our core values.”
Wilson discussed his added role as a spokesperson for the company.
“That is not my favorite part of the job,” he said. “I would rather be working closely with the senior managers and on opportunities for growth but as the company continues to grow communication become more and more important – both internal as well as external. We recently stood up a dedicated communication director and continue to work on ways to ensure all employees understand the vision for the company and what they can do to help make the company successful. We have close to 100 customers, more than that number of partners and 1,300 employees. Communications with customers, partners and with our employees is vital. I may be the one who talks about the business but ultimately it reflects the hard work and dedication of a lot of ECS employees. Getting that message out, about what makes ECS such a great place to work and how ECS employees are providing the best service possible is something I am very happy to talk about.”
Another recent change is the addition of a new advisory board of directors, which held its first meeting April 22. Along with Kapani and Wilson, members of the board include Anthony Schulien, Robert Silberman and Jeffrey Munk.
ECS Federal is also proud of its ability to attract and retain great employees, and Wilson explained what ECS looks for in hiring employees.
“The most important factor when hiring an employee is their fit with the corporate cultural; sometimes hiring managers focus entirely on the technical skills and do not pay enough attention to the corporate culture fit. We want employees who can perform well on their daily assignments but also feel a sense of pride in working at ECS Federal,” Wilson said, adding, “ECS incorporates peer reviews and multiple interviews to ensure a candidate has been vetted by seasoned ECS managers.”
“Roy is very supportive and a great chairman but he did add, don’t mess it up.”
ECS also provides incentives for employees to recommend new hires.
“That helps attract potential employees that understand our vision, our core values and what it means to be an ECS employee. If an ECS employee recommends somebody for hire, that’s a very good indication that the applicant has the qualities needed to succeed,” he said.
The last ECS acquisition was closed in 2012.
Wilson said that more acquisitions are definitely in the future.
“Once you get to a certain size and decide to make growth an important part of your long-term strategy then acquisitions become a part of that plan,” Wilson said. “You must have healthy organic growth, defend your position on re-competitions and win new work but you also want to reinvest the earnings from the business and enter new customer markets, build out skill sets and provide a broader range of services and solutions to customers.”
“That’s all part of a healthy organization,” Wilson noted.
And Wilson has experience growing small companies, particularly Stanley Inc., which started as a small, private business with 20 employees and $2 million in revenue, and grew to a public company of nearly 6,000 employees and more than $900 million in annual revenue. The company was sold to CGI in 2010.
Wilson, who resides in Alexandria, has 25 years of executive-level experience in the federal market space. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the United States Naval Academy and a master’s of business administration degree from George Washington University.
Wilson, along with his wife, Ashley Wilson, chief architect for the National Trust, work on fundraising to support The Choral Arts Society of Washington.
He said that if he had to advise a company toward growth in an economic downturn, he’d note that it’s a lot of hard work and persistence, never losing track of what the core values of the company are.
“I’ve got a lot of bumps and bruises,” he said. “Even at Stanley when we were growing, there were setbacks and there were plenty of chances when the company could have gone down the wrong path and not been as successful. We were very fortunate that we continued to hold true to our core values.”
The current market presents opportunities but there are also dangers for companies to lose sight of what should be their mission – to provide great service in support of federal programs and provide opportunities for employees to grow and succeed professionally, Wilson said. Some of the dangers in the federal services marketplace such as inappropriate use of lowest-price, technically-acceptable (LPTA) contracts present dangers, he noted.
“That goes a long way toward making a smooth leadership transition.”
“Lowest-price, technically-acceptable, in certain situations, does not fit with the culture of a company that wants to provide the best people and the best solutions,” Wilson said.
It comes down to remaining true to a company’s core values, he noted.
“A company has to stick to its core values and that might mean that you grow a little slower; it might take a little longer but at the end of the road you are going to have a much better company,” he said.
Wilson said his wife asked him if it felt any different a few days after the switch to his new role.
“I have to say that it did; there was the added responsibility and exposure,” Wilson said. “It comes with a little less sleep and a little more anxiety.”
And when asked what Kapani’s advice was when he took over as CEO, Wilson said, “Roy is very supportive and a great chairman but he did add, don’t mess it up.”