Q&A with 2016 GovCon Award Finalist Kim Hayes, CEO and Co-Founder of The Ambit Group

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Kim Hayes, The Ambit Group

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 Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Professional Services Council have unveiled the finalists for the 14th Annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards, the premier awards event for the Washington area government contracting community. The winners will be named at a Nov. 1 gala dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner.

WashingtonExec talked with one of the finalists, Kim Hayes, CEO and co-founder of The Ambit Group, to get her take on leadership, among other issues.

WashingtonExec: What is your organization’s plan for growth over the next three to five years?

Kim Hayes: Ambit will grow in our core markets: homeland defense, regulatory and government to citizen, through delivery of agile IT and operational management, organizational modernization and transformation and strategic communications.

We’re aligned to deliver the support for the next generation of government. We’ll also grow by mentoring and helping others build their businesses and deliver great support to the government. This growth will be fueled through our innovative Ambit Platform, a small business incubator focused on enabling entrepreneurs to access the coaching, shared services and mentoring needed to scale their businesses. We feel an ethical responsibility for sharing what we’ve learned through Ambit’s growth with other entrepreneurs.

WashingtonExec: What are the fastest-growing components of your business?

Kim Hayes: Ambit’s 13-year history of growth has been fueled by continually advancing our methodologies and delivering services that drive mission. We’ve developed deep expertise in the homeland defense and public safety, regulatory and government to citizen markets.

In recent years, we’ve advanced our service delivery to provide the agile management and transformational support that is required to rapidly advance federal programs in a dynamic environment. In the next three to five years, those services will be in great demand to help the government drive mission progress, manage costs and remain agile. We’ll remain focused on driving cost recovery. Thus far, we’ve enabled recovery of over $110 million in federal operational costs.

WashingtonExec: Do you see large M&A transactions continuing into the future?

Kim Hayes: Federal M&A activities are a direct reflection of the push to strengthen capabilities and expand customer footprint—we’re all struggling to bring the best solutions and brightest talent to our federal clients.

What’s been most surprising in 2016 is the growing number of small acquisitions and mergers of historically small to mid-tier firms. This activity changes the face of competition for the $50 million-$150 million firms and pushes us to choose to buy or be bought.

We’re focusing on Ambit’s Platform Incubator program as a means to expand partnerships, drive innovation and create small business partners who will be with us today and into the future. Maintaining a focus on high-quality delivery and innovative solutions as a mid-tier requires us to seek new channels. The Ambit Platform enables us to create those channels and ensure that our clients receive high-quality support.

WashingtonExec: What differentiates you from the competition?

Kim Hayes: Ambit is driven by its core values. Yes, profit is a performance metric, but it’s not our key metric. Even in the LPTA environment, we’ve managed to drive innovation, cost avoidance and to create an environment of continuous learning and investment in our employees.

Our cultural commitment to excellence and improvement of service to the citizen guides our investment decisions. Our customers benefit from these investments. On average, Ambit’s employees receive five times the industry average in training hours. We deliver with better educated teams who are ready to meet the challenge of our changing technology environment.

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

Kim Hayes: Great leaders are clear on their core values. My role models were great leaders because of how they chose to lead and the impact they left behind. The two traits I feel are necessary are a willingness to take risk and a dedication to servant leadership.

I was taught early to embrace embrace risk and to see failure as opportunity to learn. My decisions are guided by continual evaluation of risk to reward. When we fail, we do so quickly. Most importantly, we learn and advance. Without risk, there is little opportunity to drive change.

Servant leadership is a commitment to the people who make our organizations great. My job, every day, is to make the work of my team easier to accomplish. When risks are high and the pressure is on, it’s my job to be in the fray, helping move obstacles and making the tough decisions. No leader succeeds without the respect and dedication of your people. I always believe we are measured by the little things—the ones that no one sees yet leave an impact.

Related: The Ambit Group Ranked No. 39 by Washington Post’s Top Workplaces 2016

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