Advanced Concepts and Technologies International LLC is among the finalists for the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Professional Services Council’s annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards in the Contractor of the Year category for companies between $25 million and $75 million. The winners will be announced at an awards program Nov. 5.
WashingtonExec spoke with CEO Mike Niggel about ACT I’s goals for the coming years, its attention to employee engagement, and advice on leadership.
WashingtonExec: How has your business been able to grow as the federal market contracts?
Niggel: At ACT I, we have a clear focus on our key skill set of total acquisition management, cyber and foreign military sales services to support our Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and Defense Health Agency customers; and we have a management structure based on strong integrated leadership at all levels, to execute our mission and vision.
WashingtonExec: How does your organization encourage employee engagement?
Niggel: We use 20 metrics to manage our firm. Our No. 1 metric is employee satisfaction. Without high employee satisfaction, we cannot achieve our goals. Employee engagement is one factor in achieving high employee satisfaction. We include our management employees on ACT I corporate committees like our 401K management committee, our benefits committee, our philanthropic/charities committee and our social committee. This promotes employee involvement and decentralized decision making throughout the company. We also have a C-suite blog and hotline where our C-suite leaders communicate directly with all employees, and where employees can ask specific questions directly to senior leaders in either an open or private forum.
WashingtonExec: What are the top one or two leadership qualities necessary to be a great leader?
Niggel: Vision, drive and empathy for others. We place a premium on finding leaders with great vision, drive and empathy for others. These are inherent qualities necessary to be a great leader. We can teach employees about the government contracting market, but we can’t teach vision, drive and empathy for others.
WashingtonExec: What advice do you have for aspiring leaders in the government contracting industry?
Niggel: First, I would encourage future leaders to serve in the government contracting industry. We need good leaders in both the government and services industry who are dedicated to “good government.” We want a responsive, efficient and ethical government and government services industry.
Second, I would advise that it will be a slow and challenging path to build a business supporting the U.S. government, which will require you to define your company values and core capabilities, and then focus on them. Do not get distracted pursuing ancillary business that is not within your core competency. Third, you will only win 25 to 35 percent of what you go after even if you are very good, which means you will lose 65 to 75 percent of all your bids. Don’t get discouraged. Use losses to learn how to get better, and keep slugging away at your core targets and goals.
WashingtonExec: How has your organization changed over the past year, and what makes you optimistic about winning GovCon awards in your category this year?
Niggel: We are cautiously optimistic about winning our GovCon category this year. There are five other successful firms selected in the $25 million to $75 million category. That means we have one in six chance of winning. We are thrilled to have been nominated, and we are very optimistic about ACT I’s continued growth potential and what we can do for our employees, customers and community.
ACT I has changed and grown in several ways. We are executing a solid strategic plan called “Vision 2020,” which has a goal to achieve $100 million in sales by the end of 2020. We have restructured the leadership team to execute that vision and plan. Our processes and procedures have been upgraded and will be certified as evidenced by our recent ISO 9001-2015 companywide audit, and we will pass our CMMI Level 3 Services Certification next month. We have put in place an executable plan, exceptional leaders, documented processes and the infrastructure needed to scale our organization and customer support to 10 times where we are today.