2014 GovCon Award Nominee Bob Donahue, President of By Light Professional IT Services Inc., Talks About Combining Small Business With Military Values

Bob Donahue, By Light Professional IT Services Inc.

Bob Donahue, By Light Professional IT Services Inc.

On Sept. 4, the finalists for this year’s Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards were announced and WashingtonExec is bringing you its annual series with the nominees.

The winners will be unveiled on Nov. 13 at The Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Services Council. With more than 1,000 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.

Our next interview is with By Light Professional IT Services Inc. President Bob Donahue. The company is nominated for “Contractor of the Year” in the $25 million to $75 million category.

WashingtonExec: How would you describe your business strategy over the past 3-5 years, and what is your organization’s plan for growth over the next 3-5 years?

Bob Donahue: Our strategy is to provide the premier engineering services at a competitive rate with delivery on time, within scope and of the highest quality. Past performance success drives the engine for future growth. Whether in software development, satellite services or defense network design, the objective is to fully understand the government requirements and position the company for innovative products and stellar services. Current large prime contracts provide a solid platform for future growth through the VA T4, DISA, CS2 and GSM-ETI contract vehicles.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing highlights the importance of positive thinking and team work despite incredible odds. While there are many great books on leadership and business success, this is perhaps the one most often referenced on being decisive and motivating.

WashingtonExec: How has your business been able to grow as the federal market contracts?

Bob Donahue: The success of the business revolves around the top quality members of the By Light team and their dedication to producing high value solutions. Quality service remains the foundation of the By Light success story.

What is the fastest growing component of your business?

Bob Donahue: Software development remains the fastest growing component during the past three years.

WashingtonExec: What was your organization’s largest accomplishment in the last 12-18 months?

Bob Donahue: Winning a prime position on the GSM-ETI contract to include 5 Task Order Awards in excess of $400 million, a crucial step in our company growth that allows for continued support to our original government organization – DISA.

WashingtonExec: Given the current state of the federal contracting market, how has your organization’s marketing approach to customers, employees and future customers changed?

Bob Donahue: Creating a value proposition for every government customer is crucial. Understanding each organization’s needs and then being ready to fully meet those needs requires extra effort in pursuing the right RFP. Being more selective in work we pursue improves our win ratio.

WashingtonExec: What are the largest challenges that you predict your business will face in the next 5 years?

Bob Donahue: The largest challenges include retaining the high quality of our team as expansion continues and retaining our personalized customer services with a larger workforce. These challenges are further complicated with the move towards low price technically acceptable contracting environment.

WashingtonExec: How does your organization maintain engagement with all levels of employees?

Bob Donahue: There are multiple means for engagement with employees to include: newsletters, messages from the corporate staff, announcements, the company website and vertical updates as required. The president reaches out to leaders and teams at all levels to address any issues requiring direct support or to pass on thanks for jobs well done, new task orders and customer appreciation notes. The evaluation program keeps leaders and workers aligned with objectives and performance assessments throughout the year. The CFO publishes information for fund and account performance periodically.

WashingtonExec: Have millennials entering the workforce changed your corporate policies? If so, how?

Bob Donahue: Millennial workers have not changed the corporate policies. However, the use of social media provides additional means of communication. This sector of our workforce brings new ideas and unbridled enthusiasm to the workplace. There may be better ways to harvest some of this intellectual capital.

WashingtonExec: How is your business involved in the community?

Bob Donahue: By Light participates in a number of civic activities in all office locations from participation in the local professional organizations, civic organizations, special events, sponsorships and volunteer work.

WashingtonExec: What would you say are the top one or two leadership qualities necessary to be a great leader?

Bob Donahue: Clearly vision is the most important quality in creation of a company. However, vision is hard to achieve without having a passion for what you are doing and integrity in all business transactions.

WashingtonExec: If we were to speak directly to your leadership team, what would they say is your management style?

Bob Donahue: Consultative management is encouraged throughout the company, and this style is encouraged at all levels given the abundance of talent in our company.

WashingtonExec: How would your team describe your leadership qualities?

Bob Donahue: I would like to think as a positive and caring member of the team ready to contribute to any ongoing project.

WashingtonExec: What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?

Bob Donahue: After my military career, working in a small business demonstrated a departure from some of the core military values. Starting a business allowed the return to those values honed for a number of years and worked well in the government contractor arena.

WashingtonExec: What is the No. 1 book that you gift to individuals?

Bob Donahue: Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing highlights the importance of positive thinking and team work despite incredible odds. While there are many great books on leadership and business success, this is perhaps the one most often referenced on being decisive and motivating.

WashingtonExec: What advice do you have for aspiring leaders in the government contracting industry?

Bob Donahue: Mentor programs are an excellent method to learn the fundamentals of the industry. Being a good subcontractor is an excellent primer for advancing in the government contractor arena. By Light established roots and initial success in subcontracting.

WashingtonExec: What was your first job?

Bob Donahue: Military service was my first job, and it established strong ethical values with a focus on mission support. Leadership values of taking care of your team members and surrounding yourself with dedicated and talented personnel led to mission success.

WashingtonExec: Overall, how did that experience shape your career?

Bob Donahue: An organization is only as strong as its weakest link. Building a strong team with professionals in any sector will set the stage for excellence and success. In working with individuals or organizations, it is important to deliver on promises. Ethical business practices, care of your team, and recognizing a special talent capability opens doors of opportunity in the business community.

WashingtonExec: What three pieces of advice would you give your kids?

Bob Donahue: First, know you limitations, and do not exceed them. Second, gain a strong education in a field of interest with the intention of becoming an expert. Third, experience working in several different environments to understand the value of being a good worker and adding to the success of others. Learning to be a good team member establishes a foundation for future leadership success.


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