Chief Officer Awards Finalist David Adams: ‘Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable’

Editor’s note: The winner of the Chief Officer Awards Private Company CFO Award announced June 17 is Bruce Crowell of SOSi.

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.

David Adams, CNSI

David Adams is chief financial officer at CNSI and a finalist in the Private Company CFO Award Category.

What key achievements did you have in 2019?

Joining CNSI was a major step in my career. Having a number of mutual connections with Todd, the CEO, I was excited to become a part of his servant leadership team. I could see — and still see — the immense amount of growth potential for CNSI.

Prior to coming on as CFO, I was the CFO of an Arlington Capital Partners portfolio company, Endeavor Robotics. I helped lead the 2019 sale to FLIR Systems for $385 million.

What has made you most successful in your current role?

People. It may be cliché, but that’s because it’s true. From the leadership team all the way down, everyone is willing to work together, especially during these times of major change. What’s been really encouraging is to see team members who have been here for more than 15 years work open-mindedly with colleagues who may have only been here 15 days. On a daily basis, I witness first-hand knowledge transfer, mentorship and relationship-building regardless of department, tenure or location.

I also see myself thriving in this role, because my colleagues are willing to engage me in conversations and challenges that normally wouldn’t involve a CFO. We think collaboratively through problems holistically and strategically. The feeling of acceptance has created a culture of openness and transparency that is rare to find. It has contributed immensely to my ability to thrive at CNSI.

What are your primary focuses areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?

Transparency and predictability. The more we know, share and forecast, the better we are able to serve our clients. And when we serve our clients, we help some of the most vulnerable populations in the U.S. improve their personal health care outcomes. The solutions we develop help the family in Wyoming enroll in Medicaid. They help the disabled worker receive their compensation faster. They help the veteran pay their bills.

My role as the CFO is to look for ways to improve efficiency, filter down cost savings and secure a financial future for our clients and the Americans they serve.

How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?

People are shaped by their experiences — what works and what doesn’t. To create strong leaders, I curate and leverage their past experiences in order to help the company achieve the best results. When I tap into their best practices, we all become better, we all grow.

I also encourage anyone taking on a leadership role to truly invest the time in energy into their network — both in and outside the company. After a certain point in your career, skills will only get you so far. What takes you to the next level is your ability to create and maintain strong relationships.

Lastly, I embody our CEO’s leadership style, which is that of servant leadership. I look at my work each day and ask myself, “Does this serve our clients? Does this serve our employees?” Those questions help me prioritize my actions, shape my words, and hopefully set a good example for those following me.

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

I am proud that no matter where I go, I foster a collaborative culture. The relationships I build, the people I hire, the environment we work in is that of a team. It’s not my accomplishments I am most proud of. It’s the accomplishments of those whom I have helped in some small (or big) way grow and excel in their own careers.

What is the best career advice you can give someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

They say good things come in threes. So, here goes. First, be confident. Find your voice then use it. Second, state the obvious. What is obvious to you may not be to others. Lastly, get comfortable being uncomfortable. This may mean challenging the status quo. It can be awkward, but it can also move an organization forward.

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