ACS is one of the largest providers of managed services for state, county and local governments. And Joe Doherty, executive vice president and group president of the company’s Government Solutions Group, is helping ensure it stays that way. In the following Q&A, Doherty, who was appointed to his position in July, talks about what he’s doing to help his team reach a key goal: to grow its overall portfolio at a double-digit pace, year over year.
Tell us your current position at ACS and why you joined the company.
Joe Doherty: My current position is Executive Vice President and Group President of ACS’ Government Solutions Group. I lead ACS’ four government lines of business that are all focused on helping our clients by providing creative solutions to operational challenges. Our businesses include: Healthcare Solutions, Federal Solutions, Government Constituent Services, and Government Administration and Operations. Through a very capable and proud workforce along with relentless value creation and innovation, ACS is one of the largest providers of managed services for state, county and local governments.
I came to ACS because of the personal and professional opportunity to join a great leadership team and quality company. ACS is definitely on an upward trajectory and has a great pool of talent. I also wanted to get back into helping government on the federal, state and local level as I have a real respect for government leadership.
What will your approximate size be when you get fully integrated in November?
Joe Doherty: My team’s goal is to grow our overall portfolio at a double-digit pace, year over year. Each line of business is in a different place toward achieving the goal. This is natural considering the solutions and services we offer.
Are you in the hundreds of millions or in the billions?
Joe Doherty: ACS is a $6 billion business that is about 60 percent commercial and 40 percent government — that includes my business and ACS’ Transportation Solutions Group, which falls in the government area although it has both government and commercial operations.
What’s your biggest challenge now in your current job?
Joe Doherty: I use the word “opportunity” instead of challenge—and the biggest opportunity is keeping myself and the team focused on our “core thrust” areas. These are areas of our business where we can achieve near-term objectives while setting ourselves up to meet our long-term growth commitment. In jump-starting this activity, we have committed to each other that we are going to manage our business against a three-year business plan, not a quarterly budget. Everything that we are doing— from the talent we are hiring, to the solutions we are investing in or reinventing, to acquisitions we’re considering, to our current and prospective customers— will collectively drive us toward our three year goals.
The next opportunity is making sure that we effectively and consistently communicate across the entire organization. Because ACS is so large and spread out—we do business in every state in the country—we have to make sure leadership is united in our message and that we are change agents laser-focused on being the best operational partner to each and every customer.
Another key opportunity is moving the group into emerging markets; both the adjacent markets from where we are today, and moving forward with our global expansion strategy. We have a great story to tell and credible solutions that can solve business problems in markets outside the U.S. So my areas of concentration are: focus, communications, being a change agent in a leadership-led team and moving into the global, emerging market space.
Talk about what’s going to happen in November in terms of your non-compete — what does ACS want to be known for in the federal space?
Joe Doherty: On November 23rd—at midnight, to be exact—a noncompete agreement ends and ACS is free to re-enter the federal market. ACS wants to be known for having a mature set of solutions grounded in what we do best —results-based business process outsourcing services. Tim Conway, who heads our federal business, calls the solutions our “four aces:” mailroom and administrative operations, electronic payment card services, high-volume transaction processing, and customer care.
Because we will leverage our history of success on the state and local level, we can deliver to the federal government operational reliability and cost savings based upon fixed-price, performance-based contracts.
ACS already has a strong resume in the federal market; our current clients include Department of Education, Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State and the Department of the Treasury. Tim and his team have been working for more than a year now, talking with government agencies about how ACS’ solutions—our “applied innovation”—will save agencies time and money.
Any hot trends you are tracking that will impact your customers over the next year?
Joe Doherty: The BPO piece — Business Process Outsourcing—is key to our success. ACS is the largest provider of BPO services in the government sector, bar none. We can help the federal government in the BPO solution and service area—and are determined to ensure our capabilities are well-known.
We anticipate capitalizing on a potential acquisition or two and partnering with companies whose capabilities complement ours. We have great working relationships with our current partners and will look for others where it makes sense. We are going to work very closely with small minority-owned businesses and take advantage of relationships we’ve formed over the years. We will have a small business advocacy program in my organization to ensure that we’re living up to the promises to both our customers and small business partners.
Any advice you would give a small business wanting to partner with ACS?
Joe Doherty: Meet with us and talk about your capabilities. Also, get to know us and learn what ACS has to offer. Look for either gaps or opportunity for capability enhancements to help us expand our value proposition across our overall service continuum or help us get deeper penetration into the market.
One of the things that’s interesting is that many CEOs in the local area have a Navy background, like you.
How has your Navy background helped you professionally?
Joe Doherty: Coincidentally, many of the principles that Darwin Deason brought to ACS when he founded the company in 1988 are similar to what I learned and practiced in the Navy: client-first (service), hard work, persistence, keeping promises, taking care of each other and finding creative solutions to business (defense) challenges. It all clearly resonates with me and it works for the Navy and ACS.
What’s your biggest priority over the next year?
Joe Doherty: In our day-to-day busy pace, it is challenging to look beyond our individual lines of business. One of the reasons that ACS brought me here is to ensure that we maximize opportunities to leverage synergies across the entire corporation. This is a best practice in the commercial space, and my peers and I are focused on cross-selling all of ACS into our commercial and government businesses. I am also committed to in-depth program and metrics management to ensure my group is equally predictable in our services and financials.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Joe Doherty: Collaborative yet decisive.
What is something most people don’t know about you personally?
Joe Doherty: That my passion for wellness in life is through cycling. My physical fitness outlet is cycling and I challenge myself every time I get on my bike to work harder than I did the last time I rode.
How often do you do that?
Joe Doherty: Typically during the week, before I begin my workday, I find myself “spinning” in my local fitness center, or a hotel if I am travelling. On the weekend, I try to work in a 50-75-100 mile ride, weather and family commitment dependent. ACS has a unique focus on wellness and if I can contribute as a leader to influence fellow employees to challenge themselves through physical fitness, I am glad to do so.
Interview with Joe Doherty was conducted by JD Kathuria
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