Paul Leslie is the CEO of Dovel Technologies (Dovel) and just this month he was named Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. Leslie, who has been involved with the Community Foundation for the last six years, understands the importance of giving back to the community which has supported his entrepreneurial success over the years.
WashingtonExec interviewed Leslie about his new role with the Community Foundation, and also discussed how he sees growth within the GovCon market, as well as his plans for the future growth of Dovel Technologies.
Leadership of the Community Foundation
The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia is a grant-making and endowment-building organization. Working with donors from across the region, their research on key issues and their philanthropic investment inspires the Northern Virginia community to become more engaged in helping meet the most critical needs of the region. The Community Foundation serves the entire region, including Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties and the Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.
As Chair, Leslie makes a commitment to all stakeholders to operate with the guiding principle of doing what is best for the organization and the community.
“My job as Chair is relatively simple – focus on Board leadership, good governance, and strategic direction. We have an incredible team of individuals that make up the Board membership.” Leslie states “They represent the broad population of our region and provide terrific insight and leadership from industry, our regional communities, as well as individual donors to the Foundation.”
He also offers a great amount of credit for the Community Foundation’s success to the outstanding staff. Commenting on his reasons for joining the Board in the first place, Leslie explained:
“The reason I am part of this organization is due to the outstanding job this staff does every day. The team, under the leadership of Community Foundation President Eileen Ellsworth, drives the execution of our strategy – and they do it with incredible passion, high energy, and a driving commitment to do what’s right for our community.”
Besides providing management to over 140 donor advised funds, the Community Foundation is also very involved in developing regional research reports and manages a number of giving circles that have a positive impact within the community. Leslie talks about these initiatives and their success across the Northern Virginia region. “I am very proud that a number of years ago we kicked off and supported the development of research reports. The analysis and data collected has had a beneficial impact in quantifying and qualifying critical needs.” Leslie continued, “The first research report was a Portrait of Children in Northern Virginia. This report highlighted demographic, economic, and social trends that impact children and youth in Northern Virginia. Following that publication, we researched and provided a Portrait of our Aging Population, and a report on the support of Military Veterans and their Families.” Leslie added that the Foundation will continue to provide support to important research projects on issues that affect the region.
Additionally, the Community Foundation manages a number of giving circles: The Future Fund, The Business Women’s Giving Circle, The Innovation Fund, and the Loudoun Impact Fund. These circles bring like-minded donors together to support causes they care about. Each year, members pool contributions and engage in grant cycles to support local schools and nonprofit organizations while networking and socializing with their peers.
2015 Sweet Home Virginia Gala
The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s annual Sweet Home Virginia Gala raises critical funds to support its work in the region. Approximately 600 business leaders, local donors, philanthropists, and community organizers participate in the gala, which includes a live and silent auction. This year’s gala will be held at the Sheraton Tysons Hotel on October 9th, 2015. A pillar of this event is the presentation of the Community Leadership Award for outstanding service and commitment to Northern Virginia.
“This year’s Community Leadership honor will go to Jim Wordsworth of J.R.’s Goodtimes, Inc.” According to Leslie, “Jim’s charitable and civic involvement in Northern Virginia has set a very high standard. We are thrilled to recognize Jim’s outstanding commitment to the region.” Leslie stresses that “Wordsworth clearly exceeds the criteria and sets the bar for all future recipients to come.”
The Sweet Home Virginia Gala is coming up in a few months and it is shaping up to keep its reputation as the premier local community fundraising event of the year in Northern Virginia, with a cocktail reception and silent auction, followed by a live auction and award presentation. Dress is Black Tie Attire.
Support from local companies enables the Community Foundation to have a broad impact in the community. Sponsorships are available from $750 to $15,000 and include visibility throughout the year and at the Gala, and tickets to the event. Individual tickets are $300. Information is available at www.cfnova.org/gala.
Guiding Dovel Technologies
The last twelve months have been a time of change for Dovel Technologies. After guiding the company through the impacts of sequestration and completion of the acquisition of RNSolutions, which more than doubled the size of the company, serial entrepreneur Leslie now categorizes his organization as a mid-tier services provider.
With this recent transition comes a new set of challenges – the changes have broadened available markets while opening Dovel to some of the industry’s biggest competitors. According to Leslie:
“the new market dynamics associated with growing out of the small business category increases the pressure on Dovel to grow as aggressively as possible. Our goal is to grow to $150 to $200 million as quickly as possible in order to take advantage of the benefits of size including a deeper bench of capabilities, stronger infrastructure and additional investment to support the pursuit of new business.”
Although most of Dovel’s projected growth is organic, Leslie always keeps a focus on acquisitions. Each acquisition further solidifies Dovel’s large company status. The overall goal for Dovel right now is to move on from its small business approach to the GovCon market as quickly as possible.
There has been a push for agencies to put greater emphasis on meeting community quotas, such as focusing on opportunities for small business concerns including those led by service-disabled veterans or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. A lot of support is provided to small business and Dovel benefited from several of these programs prior to the acquisition of RNSolutions.
Leslie’s current challenge is one faced by all successful small businesses. With size comes changes in tactics; breaking through the small business ceiling requires a new strategy. According to Leslie, “the biggest issue Dovel is faced with is how to maintain the contracts and work that we are currently performing. Every growing small business eventually needs to either convert their work to full and open contracts or join with other small businesses to maintain the relationships and opportunities that they worked so hard to build.” This challenge is the driving force behind Leslie’s approach. Leslie offered, “Aggressive pursuit of new opportunities along with strategic partnering and continued focus on acquisition will facilitate keeping our current contracts while having a larger work force which enables Dovel to seek out full and open contracts.”
The Road Forward
In addition to setting the growth strategy at Dovel, Leslie is also busy defining the goals for his tenure at the Community Foundation. Regarding his two-year term as chair of the Board, Leslie discussed the areas of his focus.
“It is important for us to remain aligned to our mission to grow philanthropy as a path to help build and improve our community. We can be successful in awarding grants and scholarships, but we can do so much more if we engage in cross-sector collaboration.” Leslie continued. “Partnering with other foundations, charitable organizations, and corporate giving teams has the potential to strategically expand the use and impact of our precious local resources.”