In her conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Hopkins discusses the SPARTA acquisition, the company’s plans to expand in international markets and recent executive appointments in her business unit.
ExecutiveBiz: In your new role as head of Parsons Government Services, what are your long- and short-term goals for the business unit?
Mary Ann Hopkins: We acquired SPARTA to expand our services in the Defense and Intelligence Sectors. SPARTA has foundational expertise in these critical markets and one of our near-term goals is to begin to recognize the many synergies of bringing our two complementary businesses together. Prior to the acquisition, we were a 3,000-plus person organization and SPARTA added another 1,000 colleagues to our business unit. It was a large acquisition and one that is integral to our success going forward.
A second short-term goal is continuing to adjust our sales model to better reflect the Federal Government’s contracting and budgeting environment. That environment is increasingly reliant on multi-award contracts. Contracts are not only being broken up, but smaller opportunities are available in some cases. We have operated within that sales model in some of our legacy businesses for years, but some of our newer business lines are just beginning to see this shift. In the short term we need to make that adjustment throughout the organization in order to grow.
From a long-term perspective, our goals are balanced growth – and when I say balanced growth, I mean a combination of organic growth and growth through acquisition. And in the area of acquisitions, we are continuing to focus on sectors that are priorities for the U.S. Federal Government in Defense, Security and National Intelligence.
A second long-term goal for our business unit is to expand our geographic presence. We support the U.S. Federal Government wherever they may be and wherever they need us. While most of our support, historically, has been within the 50 U.S. states, we’re looking to expand our presence in the Middle East and also as the DOD pivots to Asia.
ExecutiveBiz: You were the global business development manager during the SPARTA acquisition which was a $350 million acquisition. Can you explain your role in that acquisition?
Hopkins: As the global business development lead for PGS, I was responsible for both sales and strategy. And in concert with former PGS president, Todd Wager, who now oversees Parsons’ transportation unit, we developed a strategic plan back in 2009 to grow our organization. One of the areas we felt was critical to our growth was diversifying our services. We are traditionally very strong in the infrastructure and environmental markets, but in order to grow we needed to diversify into defense and intelligence.
My role in the SPARTA acquisition began with the initial strategy development and included identification of acquisition candidates through screening and due diligence, and ultimately closing the deal.
ExecutiveBiz: So you touched on this a bit, but can you explain what your growth strategy is for the business unit considering the current budget landscape and possible sequestration.
Hopkins: The current budget landscape obviously is challenging and I think one of the biggest reasons is that it creates so much uncertainty for our customers in what they’ll be able to fund going forward. But that being said, there continues to be areas of opportunity for Parsons.
We are looking at additional acquisitions in the areas of priority of funding for the Federal Government. We’re focused on companies that complement our previous acquisitions and our core capabilities and that provide reach into customers and services where we’d like to expand. In general, those include the broad markets of defense, intelligence, and security.
Secondly, we want to expand overseas to locations of interest and strengths, not only for the Federal Government, but also within Parsons Corporation. Parsons has long had a strong global presence. As a corporation, we are focused on the Middle East, North Africa, and the northern Mediterranean Sea border counties or MENA+ region – also AustralAsia and Latin America.
Thirdly, we intend to capitalize on our Indefinite Delivery/ Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts where we’re the prime contractor and have strong relationships. As I said earlier, one trend is the exponential increase of multi-award IDIQ contracts. That’s an environment that we’re very used to and, we need to rev-up our sales engine to win task orders within those IDIQ contracts.
ExecutiveBiz: Having held numerous positions at Parsons, how long would you say it takes to get used to a new role such as the one you are in now?
Hopkins: My advantage is that I have been with Parsons my whole career. I’m surrounded by an A-plus team at Parsons in our divisions, in our operations support functions and in business development. That makes getting up to speed so much easier. And I think being in this position, having been in business development for Parsons for the last six years, the learning curve is very short.
ExecutiveBiz: On our website, GovCon Wire, we covered the appointments of Bill Bodie, Biff Lyons, and Kurt Tripp. How was that team of executives decided on and how are those three working to grow government services?
Hopkins: As background, Parsons Government Services is comprised of two divisions – our Infrastructure and Environment division, and our National Security and Defense division. When I was promoted to the President we moved Bill Bodie into the EVP and Global Business Development Manager position from his divisional manager role. Bill had been the division manager for our National Security and Defense division. He was hired into Parsons after a very successful career in both the government and private sectors and he brings a global view to our sales force which is in alignment with our goal of expanding internationally.
Bill’s move created an opportunity at the division manager level for National Security and Defense. That division is comprised of our SPARTA acquisition – and also includes some legacy defense and intelligence capabilities and projects. We promoted Biff Lyons to division manager for National Security and Defense. Biff has the right combination of technical, financial, and people skills to excel in that position and we’re confident he will.
Kurt Tripp was promoted to Defense Sector Manager. Kurt is a career defense professional who previously worked for a large defense-contractor before joining Parsons. We know he will continue to lead a very successful defense sector.
We work very closely as a team to develop and execute our strategy. It’s a collaborative environment and our business unit goals and strategies are permeated down through the organization by the strategic actions developed by each of our divisions and sectors.
(Click Here, to read the executive spotlight of Bill Bodie, EVP and Global Business Development Manager.)
ExecutiveBiz: What agencies or parts of the federal government do you want to grow your footprint in going forward?
Hopkins: All of them. Parsons has been serving the Federal Government since Ralph M. Parsons started the company in 1944. One of the hallmarks of PGS is our support in helping the government solve some of their most complex problems. We don’t stray from that model. We have strong and trusted relationships with many agencies and we will continue to seek to build on those, and offer our services as our capabilities grow organically and through acquisition.
ExecutiveBiz: How are you attempting to grow your international footprint?
Hopkins: I spoke earlier about international as part of our strategic growth initiative. We’re looking to grow our footprint in geographies, such as MENA+ and AustralAsia. These geographies are of great interest to Parsons Corporation. Parsons has been operating in the Middle East since the 1950s and we have more than 2,500 employees in the Middle East right now. We do have large global IDIQ contracts with USAID, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Air Force Civil Engineer Center and the Army Corps of Engineers that provide us an entry into many of these locations.
ExecutiveBiz: What IDIQs are you excited for and ones that you want to gain more task-orders from. Could you talk a bit about some of those?
Hopkins: When we decide to pursue a new contract or a recompete contract, we feel we can provide our government customer the best technical solution and a high-performing execution team. Our teams have supported some customers for decades and are very proud of the work they do to make our country safe.
That excites not only the leadership team at Parsons, but also the people working on these projects. The important work they do is what gets them up in the morning. This includes the clean-up of legacy waste at the nuclear weapons complex; dismantling and destroying chemical weapons stockpiles; securing our borders, providing missile defense systems and engineering services; defending cyberspace; and training our warfighters.
ExecutiveBiz: You have been at Parsons for 23 years. What makes the company unique in the government contracting industry?
Hopkins: I think our longevity makes us unique. We’ve been around since 1944 and the first projects Ralph M. Parsons worked on, were projects serving the U.S. Government.
We also have the ability to take on highly complex projects beyond the scope of many of our competitors. A good example is what we do for chemical demilitarization. There are only a few government contractors that have the know-how to design, prototype, construct, and operate these chem demil plants, and destroy weapons of mass-destruction that have been stockpiled in the U.S. Our uniqueness is our ability to take on highly complex, one-of-a-kind, first-of-a-kind projects for our customers.
ExecutiveBiz: Since you have gone on to these executive roles in the past three years at Parsons, how have you been able to keep a good work-life balance considering your increased responsibility?
Hopkins: Well, if you ask anyone, I have an excellent work-life balance – it’s something I take a lot of pride in. I set aside time every day to get some exercise and fresh air – it’s very important to me. I try to carve out my weekends for myself as best I can and I have been known to take my vacations. I think those are all important things. The ability to recharge your batteries and give your mind a rest from work is vital, so you can come at things with a fresh perspective I totally believe in that, and try to promote work-life balance within my organization as well.