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25 years at the helm: John C. Lee of Lee Technologies

25 years at the helm: John C. Lee of Lee Technologies - top government contractors - best government contracting event

images1.jpgJohn is the second most common first name among American males. Lee is the 24th most common last name among Americans (Lustig, sadly, did not crack the top 1,000). And, as you can imagine, there are thousands of John Lee's in the U.S., and several multiples more than that throughout the world. In fact, a quick Google search finds individuals of that name here in D.C. with occupations ranging from massage therapist to human resources manager to teacher. As prevalent as it may be, mention the name within the Greater Washington business and technology communities and only one person comes to mind. And that person is, well, John Lee.

2008 marks a notable 25th anniversary. Yes, it was back in 1982 when McDonald’s launched “The McRib” a sandwich that instantly confounded millions of Americans who tried to understand the culinary schematics of a boneless rib slab. But thankfully (for all of you), that is not the anniversary I am going to focus on here.

When the calendar turns to 2008 it will be 25 years since John C. Lee, IV founded Lee Technologies ““ the company he still leads today as Chairman and CEO. During this time Mr. Lee has helped to steer the firm to consistent growth as a leading provider of solutions that enable commercial enterprises and government agencies to mitigate risk to their physical infrastructures. And while many know Lee for his founding role at the company, far more have met, heard or seen him in one of his many leadership roles with a host of local organizations.

Given his current position as Chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) and as his company approaches 25 years in business, I thought it would be an opportune time to chat with Mr. Lee about how the region has evolved as a business and technology hub, and where trend lines point going forward.

EB: What are the biggest differences related to the business and technology climate Lee Technologies faces today as opposed to 25 years ago?
JL: Back then of course the area was very dependent on government and to some extent real estate; technology as we currently know it didn't exist. Our clients back then were almost exclusively government and financial services. Today you have a fairly healthy balance.

EB: How is the region faring as a launching platform for promising new ventures?
JL: Well that's certainly another big change for the region over the last several years. Back when private equity firms didn't exist, there wasn't an influx of money available as you see today and most companies were self-funded. Today, the area does an exceptional job as an incubator for new business ventures. That means more opportunities for young entrepreneurs to succeed.

EB: As Chairman of the NVTC, how do you view the organization's role as it relates to helping these young companies succeed?
JL: Everyone involved in the NVTC has played a part in establishing it as the premier networking organization in the area; 70% of members are part of companies with 20 employees or less. Part of our mission is to help these smaller companies get introductions to larger companies.

EB: And what about larger companies who are NVTC members?
JL: They are great about understanding their responsibility, (as it relates to helping the smaller members) and the interest for them on the membership side is staying on top of public policy issues that impact them at a state level.

EB: As you see it, what is the single greatest business challenge facing Federal government agencies?
JL: People. Because unemployment in this region is so low and the level of competition is so high for talented employees, Agencies face a real challenge here. You see this playing out with the continued rise in technical outsourcing that the Federal government looks to. At the same time, I think (local) companies are doing a much better job focusing on leadership training, and this is certainly an area we are focused on at Lee as well.

EB: About one year ago George Newstrom, who served as Secretary of Technology for the State of Virginia and held several leadership positions with EDS, was brought on board as President and COO. What made him such a good fit?
JL: First, George's personality gelled very well with my own. Second, he held strong experience running a larger company than where we are today; important as we grow. And it has worked very well so far as George likes working with the employees and vice versa.

EB: When you are not in the office, how do you prefer to spend your time?
JL: Family and exercise. I try and spend 1 ½ hours a day working out six days a week, and spending as much time with my family as possible.

Whenever I speak with local executives and leaders, I’m always interested in learning what issues and initiatives – outside of the unquestionable dedication to their businesses – motivate them. Good leaders have a keen sense not only of the major issues of the day, but the ones bubbling beneath the surface that will reveal themselves in the next few years. These leaders identify those issues and then dedicate themselves to solving them.

Throughout the discussion, Mr. Lee emphasized the value he places on education and youth mentoring – and the vital role both can play in fostering regional growth and strength going forward. This commitment plays out in both his business and personal activities. In addition to his role as NVTC Chairman, Lee serves on the Board of Directors for the Information Technology Investment Board (ITIB), Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area and Middleburg Financial Corporation. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Equal Footing Foundation, Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, Notre Dame Academy (2004-2007) and his Alma mater Randolph-Macon College.
Brian Lustig is co-founder of Lustig Communications, a Rockville, MD-based communications firm that works with growing technology and government IT firms. Lustig is also a contributor to local business and industry publications.

Lee Technologies, a company mentioned in this blog entry, is a Lustig Communications client.

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