Bill Hoover has always been drawn to supporting the government in its mission-critical services — and while that’s anchored his decades-long career in government contracting, his interest in national matters began long before.
Hoover has been a leader in the information systems and services market sector for more than 30 years. Most recently, he served as the president and CEO of AMERICAN SYSTEMS from 2005 to 2014 before retiring and continuing to serve as non-executive chairman of the board of directors.
His passion for serving the nation, however, runs deep.
Hoover has been infatuated with American history since he was young, and thoroughly enjoyed learning about World War II in school. Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, in the 1950s and early 1960s, Hoover would read books available through the public library system when the class lessons on WWII ran short.
And while he remained interested in WWII history, he became even more taken with the Pacific naval-focused campaigns. He shortly began to focus his attention there, and because he lived a short distance from Annapolis, his parents would take him and his brothers for occasional visits to the U.S. Naval Academy Yard.
“It was fun to see the midshipmen marching in their uniforms, to occasionally be able to visit the ships that would be anchored nearby, and to see the Navy’s ‘modern’ — at that time — jet aircraft that were ‘tethered’ at a couple of locations throughout the Yard,” Hoover recalled.
Also, during this time, the U.S. was engaged in the beginnings of the space race with the USSR.
“President Kennedy was very eloquent about the USA’s objectives and mission, which captured the attention of most Americans, including me, at the time,” Hoover said.
And even though Hoover’s family had moved to New Jersey at the beginning of his sophomore year of high school, he knew what he wanted to do: go to the U.S. Naval Academy, study aerospace engineering, become a Navy pilot, fly F-4s, go to test pilot school and become an astronaut.
Following His Dream
Hoover began working on his dreams — he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering, then served seven years as a commissioned officer in the Navy.
“My initiation into the Navy came about two weeks after I turned 17 at which time I enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves,” Hoover said.
He credits this decision to meeting Tim Cocozza, an alum of Hoover’s high school, who came back to the school during spring break in March 1966. This was during Cocozza’s plebe year at the Naval Academy, and he spoke with juniors considering applying to one of the U.S. service academies.
“He provided his advice that although we needed to go through the traditional ‘political’ appointment process, if we were serious, we would be better served by attempting to gain our appointment through one of the reserve appointments, as well,” Hoover said.
This turned out to be great advice for Hoover and led to his Naval Reserve appointment.
From June 1966 until June 1978, Hoover spent time in the U.S. Naval Reserves (1966-1967), was a midshipman at the Naval Academy (1967-1971) and served as a commissioned officer (1971-1978).
“In retrospect, Tim’s advice was truly critical to my future,” he said.
Although in his original future plan, Hoover didn’t become a Navy pilot — which was also a critical decision for his future.
When he entered the Naval Academy in June 1967, Hoover majored in aerospace engineering and selected Navy Air on service selection night in February 1971. Yet at the time, the Pentagon determined that given the 12- to 18-month delays in initiating Navy flight training classes at Pensacola Naval Air Station, the Navy would instead require all ensigns whose flight school classes were delayed to serve on board Navy surface ships for that period prior to their flight school class initiation.
Because Hoover’s flight class was not due to start until July 1972, he went to his first duty station aboard the USS Everett F. Larson (DD-830) destroyer, which was homeported in Long Beach, California. He was assigned as the assistant navigator and personnel officer.
“As I have told my children, if my first commanding officer and executive officer had been my only CO and XO, I would have gladly departed Larson in June 1972 and gone to Navy flight training, which would have meant that I would never have met Jane, my wife of nearly 48 years and their mother, and they would never have been born,” Hoover said.
About a month after he reported aboard Larson, there was a change of command, and Cmdr. Lee Smith became the new commanding officer. About a month after that, Smith called Hoover to his cabin and asked him why he was interested in going to flight school.
Hoover expressed his career aspirations, but Smith told him that fundamentally, being a naval aviator required man-machine interface abilities, whereas being a naval surface officer required man-sailor interface abilities. Smith said Hoover’s personnel management skills were too good to be wasted in an airplane.
“He concluded our conversation by indicating that he was going to cause me to change my mind,” Hoover said. “Having learned that you never laugh at a senior officer, I said, ‘Yes, Sir,’ bit my lip and departed the meeting.”
Shortly after, Smith promoted Hoover to navigator and personnel officer and qualified him as an officer of the deck underway and as a command duty officer in port. About six months later, Hoover turned down his orders to flight school and planned to be a career surface warfare officer.
Pivoting to a Civilian Career
Though Hoover enjoyed his naval career, he began reconsidering his future during his third deployment when his wife gave birth to their first child, Leslie.
Leslie was born in 1975, about 30 days after the expected due date and at the end of a 60-day underway period for Hoover’s ship. Those last 30 days of this underway period were difficult for Hoover — they were operating in the Gulf of Thailand, which was notorious for its poor high-frequency communications. After finally receiving the long-awaited telegram message notifying Hoover of Jane and Leslie’s health, he’d wait another 75 days or so before returning home to San Diego.
A year later, Hoover was transferred to his fourth duty assignment as an instructor at the Naval Academy and was there for the next 19 months. Now, close to his family, he and his wife also welcomed their second child, Brian.
“Being close to family without the interruptions of routine and regular deployments was the driving force in my decision,” Hoover said of transitioning into civilian life.
He did so with Ford, where he began as an engineer for the company’s light truck engineering division in Michigan. Much different than his previous work, but Hoover said he was enjoying the transition.
However, about a month after his start at Ford, Leslie was diagnosed with a rare and untreatable children’s cancer. She passed away about nine months later on Brian’s first birthday.
“Because Leslie loved Annapolis and we had so many wonderful family memories during our time there, we decided to have Leslie buried in Annapolis,” Hoover said. “Also, this was the time that Jane and I decided that we needed to be closer to Annapolis than Michigan.”
Hoover had a couple of Navy friends who reached out to him about potential opportunities with their companies, and he landed at Advanced Technology in April 1980. This is where Hoover’s 34-year tenure in the government professional services industry began until his retirement from full-time work in 2014.
He attributes this time in his career development to the man who hired him at ATI, Scott Thompson. Hoover worked for Thompson from 1980 until 1990, and he was routinely challenged with new assignments, roles and opportunities.
In 1988, ATI was acquired by Emhart Corp. which had earlier acquired Planning Research Corp. In 1989, Planning Research Corp. and ATI merged and became PRC, Inc., and Emhart was bought by Black and Decker Corp. Hoover left the company 15 months later to work with Bob LaRose’s new startup, but within six months, B&D’s CEO contacted him and asked if he would rejoin PRC as its president and chief operating officer in order to divest the company as quickly as he could.
Hoover agreed, helped re-engineer the company, and successfully divested it in 1996 for about 167% of the desired value.
After the divestiture, Hoover was president and COO of BDMI until its sale in 1998 and moved to WCH Enterprises, a sole proprietorship consulting company, during his 2-year noncompete. He used his experience to consult companies in need of change and called this his Integrated Planning, Execution, Measurement & Management, or IPEM&M System. During this time, Hoover consulted with seven companies, assisting them with their re-engineering initiatives.
In late 2000, he was offered the role of president and CEO of a company in distress, FutureNext Consulting. Hoover used his IPEM&M system and within eight months, fixed the company’s problems and returned it to profitability, eventually selling the company in 2001.
Then, one of the companies to which he consulted, Dynamics Research Corp., offered Hoover the job as president and COO in 2003. He was asked to, yet again, implement the strategy and plan he helped DRC to develop. After two years of commuting from Virginia to Massachusetts, Hoover resigned in 2005.
About two weeks after his resignation conversation with DRC’s CEO, Hoover received a phone call from Don Burklew, a long-time professional friend of his and the chairman of AMERICAN SYSTEMS.
“Don indicated that the company’s President and CEO Elliot Needleman had just passed away unexpectedly and that the company was seeking an individual to fill this position. He asked if I would be interested in this opportunity,” Hoover said.
And that’s how Hoover landed at AMERICAN SYSTEMS in June 2005. Today, he sits on the board and appropriately assists President and CEO Peter Smith and the company in continuing its performance.
Success in Service
As Hoover reflects on his career, he attributes his success in this industry to working for organizations focused on the country’s national priorities.
“As I look back on my career, I would say that I am proud that the teams of which I was a part, and in some cases led, achieved their missions and objectives despite some concerns that this could be accomplished when we began our activities,” Hoover said.
And over the course of his professional life, he’s learned the critical importance of effective leadership.
For Hoover, that means being a team-builder; having a vision for the future; being an effective communicator; having integrity of character; being decisive; having self-confidence; being a prudent risk taker and continuous learner; thriving in a dynamic environment; and having a balanced life while encouraging employees to also balance their lives.
Plus, working for and with leaders like Cocozza, Smith and Thompson, who have an “amazing” impact on one’s life and career, as Hoover said, doesn’t hurt. In fact, he learned many of those effective leadership traits from them.
But during his career, Hoover was also the executive others were able to learn from. Stan Soloway, who is president and CEO of Celero Strategies, LLC, names Hoover one of the most thoughtful and visionary executives he’s worked with.
Hoover and Soloway first met early in Soloway’s tenure at the Professional Services Council about 20 years ago, where Soloway served for 15 years as the president and CEO.
“From that first meeting, it was very apparent that he was a very special person — thoughtful, smart, strategic, engaging, humble and a delight to be around,” Soloway said. “For years, especially during his time at ASC, Bill was a constant source of wisdom and advice as we sought to build PSC.”
Soloway said Hoover is among a small handful of executives he has worked with whom he learned something from every time they talked, and who clearly generated deep affection and respect from all who worked with or for him.
“Indeed, for all of his brains and business acumen, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of him is his decency, his honesty, and his optimism,” Soloway said. “I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with and learn from some extraordinary people. Bill Hoover is right there at the top of that list.”
Hoover will be honored Dec. 8 with a Lifetime Achievement Award at WashingtonExec’s annual Pinnacle Awards, celebrating his 40 years of leadership in the information systems and services market. The event will be held virtually.