Aeyon President and CEO Sunny Singh is looking to drive mission impact. The best way for the government to do that, he says, is through automation.
We caught up with Singh to talk about the challenges the federal government faces today and how GovCons like Aeyon are helping move the needle.
What’s holding the government back these days?
The No. 1 thing that we’re seeing is budgetary challenges. The government is being required to do more, but with less. They need to be able to do more with the technology, but the budgets are shrinking or being allocated other places.
How does Aeyon help? What differentiates your firm in this space?
A lot of GovCon firms have had to evolve to become “digital modernization” firms. That’s what government is shifting towards. For us, digital modernization is really automation or Robotic Process Automation. When we think of bringing efficiency to our clients, that’s what we see ourselves as doing, leading the charge in the automation of government.
That automation could be in any traditional capability. We’re out there supporting our employees who are data scientists, analysts and automation specialists, working on opportunities in data analytics, financial management and other key Aeyon areas of capability. We’re able to utilize automation in a traditional capacity to help our clients be much more efficient and free up resources to be directed toward more valued-added activities.
But people worry that automation will put them out of a job…
We absolutely understand the concern. Change is always met with resistance. Our pitch isn’t that we’re trying to eliminate jobs; we’re trying to get people to be able to do their jobs in a more efficient manner.
The whole point is that people aren’t able to do their jobs as efficiently or effectively as they otherwise could be able to do, given the capabilities that are available, because the budgets are really tight and the government has so much on their plate that they need to get it all done with minimal resources. Automating redundant processes will allow the analyst to go back to being an analyst, or the data scientist to go back to being a data scientist ⏤ to actually do the job that they’ve been hired to do, versus the repetitive lesser value activities that they’re being tasked with currently.
What business challenges do you face?
It’s making sure that we are a good home for our employees ⏤ making sure that we’re able to pay competitive salaries, that we’re evaluating our benefits. It’s about being the best employer that we possibly can be and providing challenges and career growth to enhance our retention capability.
We have a presence outside of the continental U.S. supporting our customers on U.S. soil as well as in several foreign countries. How do we incorporate and continually support the strength of our culture among our people who are so geographically spread out?
We get feedback from our employees about the processes that we have and the cultural elements that we have and we try our very best to continually enforce the key tenets that make our culture what it is.
We have an employee-led social committee that plans virtual events every month and encourages participation regardless of where the event participants are located. We also have an employee-led volunteering committee that supports our communities through hundreds of hours per year of company-paid volunteer time.
Giving back to the communities in which we live and work is something that we take great pride in, and we want to make sure that we’re doing that, and that our employees are not only a part of it but lead our efforts with the social and volunteer committees.
What’s your growth strategy?
We’ve grown pretty significantly over the two years since we formed Aeyon: We’re up to about 65 new and different wins over the past two years. We’re demonstrating that we’re a premier automation firm for the federal government, and we’re winning business by layering automation into essentially any capability and need of our government.
We have a center of excellence around that, and that’s where we really see the differentiator. We want it to be a true, measurable, results-driven center of excellence, something that’s adding value to our clients. Whatever capability our subject matter experts are supporting, they can reach back to the center of excellence, where we have about 20 highly skilled technologists whose job is to support the subject matter experts on the ground. We’ve infused the value of our center of excellence across the capabilities and customer base of Aeyon and with our new contract win rate the payoff is clear.
Tell us a bit about your unusual career trajectory.
I realized at a very early age that I really wanted to be an entrepreneur. My first “business” was when I was in sixth grade selling sports cards to people in my neighborhood. My thought, even at that early age, was that by surrounding myself with the right people, regardless of the type of business, I could build a good business.
When I turned 20, I applied this thinking and acquired a moving company doing $100,000 in annual sales. I didn’t know anything about the moving industry, but I was able to acquire a truck and grow that business very significantly, eventually landing a prime contract with the Defense Department to move military personnel domestically and internationally.
I realized through the experience of my moving business that going into an industry that I did not know anything about allowed me to really think outside the box, take some chances and be more innovative, an experience which I still draw upon.
I sold the moving business to a Fortune 500 company in December 2015 and went to work as an executive for them, for about three years, learning the ins and outs of the corporate world and navigating its numerous challenges. After that, I figured: Let’s take that thought process and the lessons learned from owning a business in an industry that I was not familiar with and apply it elsewhere.
I identified a need in the government contracting services industry for a mid-size business to provide clients with a new and innovative approach to solving their long-standing challenges and enhance their efforts to build greater efficiency through contractor solutions.
What makes this work satisfying for you?
I’m here as a refugee from Punjab, India. In 1984, there were very bad religious riots and a lot of turmoil there, a lot of chaos for almost 10 years. That’s when my dad was fortunate enough to be able to move here.
There are very few places in the world where a son of a cab driver can own a very large business such as Aeyon. The U.S. is probably the only place in the world like that. I truly do feel like we live in the greatest country in the world, and I’m happy to be able to help support the government, which has given me everything. I really take pride in helping the government to improve and get better.