Anthony Verna, vice president of worldwide business development for Cubic Defense Applications, takes a “highly participative” approach to leadership, and he truly enjoys building teams.
“Pass the glory on and take the blame,” he said. “I very much believe you have to lead from out front and you’ve got to mean it. The people that you’re working with know it if your motives are for the good of the team. You have to pass on the credit, ensure people are growing and ensure you’re demanding, but also be sympathetic. You’ve got to get the best out of them. People generally rise to the occasion, at least the ones I like to surround myself with do.”
Verna should know. He has more than 24 years of experience in national security and technology solutions in the defense and federal IT market, as well as leadership, operational and business development expertise amounting to more than $1 billion in career competitive new business bookings. His industry experience also includes prior senior executive positions with CACI/Paradigm Solutions Corporation, ManTech International and Northrop Grumman.
Verna recently discussed lowest-price-technically-acceptable (LPTA) contracts, his career, mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), security, emerging technology and a few travel and reading favorites with WashingtonExec.
“Pass the glory on and take the blame. I very much believe you have to lead from out front and you’ve got to mean it.”
According to Verna, LPTA has its place. But viewing it as the path of least resistance or failing to perform due diligence when evaluating the technically-acceptable portion often leads to customer disappointment, he said.
“Often the customer winds up with extra work that negates any perceived savings they may think they’re getting,” he said. “LPTA works out when administered for the appropriate product or service. But let’s face it, even if an opportunity isn’t an LPTA, price still matters a lot. Affordability is at the top of every customer’s list.”
As a global business, Cubic naturally has a mobility component built into the company’s DNA. This has its advantages, as collaboration often occurs exactly where people happen to be. In some cases, employees telecommute full-time, making secure mobile solutions essential, he said, and in those instances, mobility is an absolute requirement, instead of an advantage.
I need to be in collaboration with my team and the greater Cubic team wherever I am,” he explained. “There are many great tools to let this happen. I don’t see setbacks.”
But he added, in-person interaction is critical, too. Sometimes there is no substitute for looking the other person in eye to make sure things gets done the right way.
Emerging technology often makes in-person interaction less necessary, but with respect to BYOD, Verna says the concept makes sense.
“Our devices are pretty much with us all the time now. For me, like many people, my device has a work calendar, home calendar, e-mail, task list, applications and social media but it also has pictures from my daughter’s prom last month,” he said. “The convergence between work and personal life seems inevitable, even as we fight to keep balance. The security problem is actually much easier than the privacy challenges. Monitoring and other capabilities allow security threats to be mitigated incrementally, but there’s a privacy or trust issue with doing that and I think that’s a more difficult problem for companies and employees to work through.”
Cubic is largely a training company, but it has many other capabilities. Verna explained that the company is working hard on components for what it believes will eventually become part of the next generation training systems for the country’s armed services and partner nations.
Cubic’s work includes live, virtual and constructive training, for force on force and individual training Verna noted, adding that the company is also incorporating leading-edge efforts for the U.S. Navy and others that involve game-based training and intelligent tutoring. According to Verna, Cubic is also applying that experience to workforce development and other challenges in the cyber domain.
“I’m very excited about some of our near-term solutions in the Cyber arena,” he explained.
“You have to be good at competing. Many will be chasing the same target and that’s always the case now. This is a period of hyper-competition.”
Verna focuses primarily on identifying, evaluating and pursuing business opportunities. The company is also working on improvements in data communication on the ISR value chain, he noted. “In collaboration between all of our subsidiaries, we have some pretty compelling capabilities. I continue to be amazed by what is in our cupboard and how it really could propel us into some adjacent markets.”
Considering Cubic’s large defense portfolio, Verna discussed where he sees Cubic in the defense market with respect to federal spending contracts.
“It’s definitely an environment where the tide won’t raise all ships,” he said. “And there are a lot of headwinds for the market in general with budget cuts almost everywhere. This leads to prognostications of how long any company can endure a given environment.
“You have to be good at competing,” he said. “Many will be chasing the same target and that’s always the case now. This is a period of hyper-competition.”
Verna knows that his company really needs to look hard and expand into adjacencies in both the core defense and other federal markets, so Cubic is focusing on doing exactly that.
Half of Cubic’s work is international in scope, which presents an obvious growth strategy, Verna said. He added that in the domestic market, Cubic has a growing presence with special operations and a strategic alignment with many programs that are at least holding their own through the budget cuts.
“We continue to consider the budget in the current out years,” he said, “and that’s a big part of our decisions, however the world is extremely dynamic so agility is critical.”
Verna, who is married with three children, is a native of Philadelphia and resides in New Jersey. He often travels for his job, and noted that if he had to choose a travel destination, it would be Hawaii or Rome, Italy. While there, he said he’d be reading the book, The Son, by Philipp Meyer, which is next on his pleasure-reading list.
He spoke about challenges and what brings him satisfaction professionally.
It’s an enduring and huge challenge to have the right resources, balanced across a live portfolio, to get the work done. Other challenges evolve from that too, he said. Managing resources and having the right talent at the right time is critical, he remarked.
“We have many opportunities that make sense to pursue, but like every company we have finite resources,” he said. “The key remains balancing resources and making incremental progress on objectives. You always have to keep the ball moving down the field.”
He said nothing feels as good as winning business and hearing customers satisfied with the company’s solutions and thereby supporting their missions. Mostly, he said, there’s a professional satisfaction from helping colleagues expand their careers, from building high-performing teams, achieving collective results, and bringing out the best in each person.
“It’s special,” he explained. “I really value that; it gets me going. And it’s really not a coincidence that this activity results in contract wins and delighted clients.”