Chief Officer Awards Finalist Chris Blahm: ‘It’s OK to Fail as Long as You Learn From It’

Editor’s note: The winner of the Chief Officer Awards Private Company Chief Growth Officer Award announced June 17 is Mike King of Peraton.

On June 17, WashingtonExec will be virtually celebrating the most impactful and innovative C-suite executives in government and industry. These chief officers work in technology, security, data, operations, finance, business and more, excelling on both sides of the government contracting sector. Our team of judges have chosen the finalists for the inaugural Chief Officer Awards, so before we announce the winners during the event, we wanted to get to know the finalists a bit better. This Q&A series highlights their careers, successes, proud professional moments and notable risks.

Chris Blahm, E3/Sentinel

Chris Blahm, E3/Sentinel

Chris Blahm is chief growth officer at E3/Sentinel and a finalist in the Private Company Chief Growth Officer Award Category.

What key achievements did you have in 2019? 

As the CGO for E3/Sentinel, 2019 achievements included doubling the amount of TCV closed from the previous year, building an unrestricted pipeline to more than $3 billion in opportunity supporting Defense Department, intelligence community, homeland and civilian markets. We established a solutions team focused on advanced analytics, automation and innovation (with charter to drive incremental solution capabilities to existing clients and to build demonstrable capabilities for net-new opportunities), established working campaigns within the company to expand capabilities into CWMD, space, digital platforms and tradecraft transformation, closed two major acquisitions (Data Works and Operational Intelligence) adding significant capability to the foundation of E3/Sentinel.

What has made you successful in your current role? 

The most successful trait of being the CGO at E3/Sentinel is my ability to enable. And by that, I mean throughout the many functions of my role, whether it’s internal growth through new business wins, corporate development through strategic M&A, advancing the capabilities of the organization through integrated solutions, advancing tradecraft or advancing the careers and growth of the talent around us. All these factors shape who we are and what we want to be known for as a company and a team.

What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?

Simply put and appropriate that I am most proud of the overall growth of the company. This includes the many different aspects that we encounter every day — business development, industry partnerships, M&A strategy, talent and professional development growth, integrated solution and capability growth.

The foundation of our company is built on speed to impact and speed to mission. Since November 2018, we have acquired four (The Sentinel Co., E3 Federal Solutions, Data Works, Operational Intelligence) businesses and fully integrated those companies into our platform, expanding our capabilities and customer footprint while also growing organically at more than 20% a year.

What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?   

That it is OK to fail and do so a number of times, as long as you learn from it and are better the next time around. Failure is going to happen in every business and in every position, especially with the speed and purposeful urgency we create for ourselves — the “moment” for us as individuals and as members of teams is the how you recover and move forward toward success

What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken? 

Leaving the friendly confines of Washington State and driving across the country in 1999 without a job to experience something new. Luckily, I quickly found my way into government contracting and discovered a passion to support our military and national intelligence objectives and have been hooked ever since!

Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?  

As I look back over my career, it’s amazing to me how many risks I’ve taken over the years. From driving across the country in 1999 to experience something new, to taking on new and expanding roles in organizations, or leaving the comfort and safety of a position to take a chance with a new company that was just getting started.

While all of these are risks, they are all calculated risks with a huge potential for success and career growth and the ability to acquire new skills and competencies.

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