The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced March 25, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person May 11 at the The Ritz-Carlton in McLean, Virginia.
Next is Chief Financial Officer (Private Company, Annual Revenue >$250M) finalist Jeremy Koczan, who’s CFO for SMX. Here, he talks recent key achievements, turning points in his career, career advice and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2021/2022?
In 2021, SMX acquired and integrated two new companies in Datastrong and C2S Consulting Group in order to expand into new clients, capabilities and markets with a focus on cloud solutions, data management, priority law enforcement and the Intelligence Community.
We won numerous prime positions on new contract vehicles including the $100 billion ASTRO procurement with GSA FEDSIM and successfully defended a $1 billion recompete in our MARLINS program with U.S. Southern Command.
SMX also organically grew the business year over year, captured a book-to-bill of 1.6X+ and expanded margins double-digits across the board. Lastly, we completed four simultaneous Deltek Costpoint conversions and added a host of top talent across the finance community to be well positioned to support future growth.
What has made you successful in your current role?
For me, it all starts with surrounding yourself with a great team who is passionate about driving growth and facilitating change across a high-paced and dynamic environment. That includes at the staff levels, middle management, the executive level as well as the sponsor and board levels as it takes a collective and united approach to position the company for long-term success. Great people lead to exceptional results and partnership across all levels of the organization is crucial.
Lastly, I strongly believe you have to approach senior leadership roles with what I call the “4 P’s:” Polished, Polite, Professional and Productive. This allows for development of the unified culture necessary to achieve alignment and focus to deliver positive outcomes across a broad spectrum of initiatives.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I’ve had many inflection points in my career, but the biggest shift for me was when I left Fortune 500-sized companies and stepped into my first private-equity-backed CFO role in 2016. It was a somewhat difficult decision, leaving a great large company (with a pension!) for the middle market private-equity world, but it was a risk well worth taking. I had a supportive board, a great executive team, and a hard-working finance team all of whom helped me through those early days of being a “sitting CFO” for the first time.
I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to learn, grow and drive results with them. That first CFO role was a game changer and positioned me well for success in a business as vast and complex as SMX. Today, I leverage all of the skills I’ve acquired across nearly 20 jobs throughout my professional career to help drive success at SMX in support of our clients, employees and shareholders.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
Those who know me well hear me often say that I’ve been the benefactor of a host of top-notch mentors throughout my career. As such, I also spend a lot of time mentoring the next generation of finance professionals to give back in a hopefully similar and impactful manner.
In 2021, I took this passion a step further by becoming a founding board member, presenter and leadership coach for a registered nonprofit organization named CFO Rising. Its mission is to provide future CFOs and other senior financial leaders with the knowledge, relationships and peer group they need to help them attain career success across the GovCon industry.
I’m very passionate about where we’re headed with CFO Rising as we’re helping shape the career journeys of 30+ future CFOs each year, which ultimately has the capability to change the industry from a financial leadership perspective.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
A great friend, mentor and colleague once said to me, “Jeremy, try not to be the ‘CF-NO’, try to find a way to say yes.” This was exceptional advice for a rising CFO. The best and most effective CFOs I’ve met find ways to support the business, partner with the CEO, be a resource to the executive team, and drive results to the shareholders by working creatively to find solutions that support growth and operational excellence.
Saying “no” is easy. Using one’s passion, experience and expertise to develop exceptional solutions to complex business problems is much more challenging. So, finding a way to say “yes” is an important skill in the CFO tool set and one that can be a defining shift in thinking and performance levels.