Ever since Dr. William “Bill” Vantine took the helm of Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. in 2016, the business has seen substantial organic growth, a re-energized workforce and a strengthened commitment to the national security mission — just in time for the company’s 50th anniversary year.
Vantine was chosen to lead SPA as part of its 2016 acquisition by CM Equity Partners. As president and CEO, he helped develop and execute a 5-year plan built around people development and retention; quality; IT and security; scalability needs; growth; contract portfolio diversification; and finances.
The result: In five years, SPA improved its already industry-leading high-quality standards, organically tripled its revenue, doubled its EBITDA margin, increased its stock price by 2,000%, diversified its portfolio with more than 90 new clients, expanded its Australian business and more.
So how was this done? The answer is simple:
“We empowered our leadership team, establish measurable objectives, focused on our customers, and worked as one team,” Vantine says.
Putting People First
SPA does, and always has done, important work for important missions. The national security business is what motivates its workforce.
“We’re interested in the hardest, most challenging operations research and decision analysis challenges that our customers are dealing with, and how can we provide objective evidence-based analysis to support the decision-makers?” Vantine says.
The company’s employees are the core of its success, so it was critical when Vantine joined to be transparent and communicative, and to provide an environment full of opportunities and mentorship.
In fact, Vantine diversified the workforce and began merit-based promotions. Several younger personnel moved into senior leadership positions, and women were rightfully elevated to senior roles to lead the growing organization.
He stressed empowerment
“We aligned responsibilities, accountabilities and authorities,” Vantine says. “Aligning those three becomes really important because previously people were being responsible or accountable for things, but they didn’t have the authorities to make the decisions.”
Rather than funneling decisions to single leadership, where they were ultimately getting clogged, SPA’s 5-year strategic plan focused on empowering the leadership team with authority over its respective business units.
Then Vantine established measurable metrics
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” he says. SPA began measuring employee satisfaction, turnover, quality of work products, customer satisfaction and more.
“If we take care of the people, do really great work for our customers, and continue to improved our internal processes, we will be profitable and we will grow,” Vantine says. “I always believe you put the financials at the end instead of the beginning, because that drives behavior. I wanted to drive the behavior of, we care about our people and customers. We want to retain our people, we want to grow them, and we want them to know there’s a home with us.”
Focusing on people, metrics, mentorship and quality work were critical components of SPA’s new leadership strategy and overall growth.
Diversifying SPA’s Customer Set
At the time Vantine took over, SPA was a 45-year-old company with a largely naval customer base. In fact, a single client represented almost 40% of the company’s revenue. The company’s brand and work were reputable, so Vantine thought, why couldn’t SPA expand its offerings to other customers who had the same need for high-end, objective-based decision analysis?
Plus, Vantine has a unique professional perspective having both worked with federal customers and having been the federal customer. He has experience with all aspects of the business, from the financials to business development, contracts and growth.
Before joining SPA, he was the president and CEO of Los Alamos Technical Associates, an engineering and technology firm supporting the Energy Department and defense clients. Before that, he was the long-time president and chief operating officer of ARES Corp., where he helped the company grow significantly. Vantine actually began his career at NASA, where he held several program management positions.
“It helps to be on both sides,” he says. “You get an appreciation for what the customers need, how they see the world and what they worry about.”
Based on years of experience, he knew that if SPA provided quality work for the Navy, it could expand that work while doing the same for other defense and federal agencies.
And that’s what Vantine helped SPA accomplish in five years. It gained over 90 new clients, achieved a 99% recompete win rate and earned a 49% new business prime contract win rate by dollar value.
An Even Brighter Future
In 2021, Arlington Capital Partners bought SPA and merged the company with another firm it bought at the same time, MCR — and a firm SPA later acquired, Arena Technologies.
“Now, these three great companies have come together to form a much bigger company with SPA,” Vantine says. “These two additional firms brought entry into important new customers and added some important capabilities so we are very excited about the future.”
For example, SPA’s international business is growing quickly with a focus on objective evidence-based decisions. The company already supports customer all over the U.S. and allied nations.
Vantine says SPA is expected to organically grow 20% in 2022 before acquisitions. With an infusion of fresh capital, a stronger focus on people and customers, and a successful five years under its belts, SPA continues its emergence from the mid-sized tier.
Plus, Vantine will continue leading with the sentiment that drove those successful years and helped maintain a reputation for excellence.
“I didn’t need to be the smartest guy in the room,” Vantine says. “I just need to set the direction and ensure we stay focused on doing the highest quality work for our customers and taking care of our people.”
“We’re poised for a continued success,” he adds. “We have made a lot of strategic hires, and I think the next 50 years will be even brighter.”
Vantine is a recipient of WashingtonExec’s 2021 Pinnacle Award for the DOD Industry Executive of the Year, Private Company category.