Kay Sears, President of Intelsat General, on the commercial satellite industry

Kay Sears, President of Intelsat General, on the commercial satellite industry - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Kay Sears, President of Intelsat General, on the commercial satellite industry - top government contractors - best government contracting eventIn her role at Intelsat, Kay Sears is president of a wholly-owned subsidiary called Intelsat General.  Intelsat General was formed after the Gulf War when the commercial satellite community rallied to support the military in a substantial way.  “There was a realization that the government sector was a very important customer for satellite communications,“ says Sears.  “Intelsat created a company that would focus on that type of market and sought to align a subsidiary with the unique requirements and processes of the government.“  Today, Sears' business unit represents about 15 percent of Intelsat, has 92 employees, and generates about $360 million per year. More growth is in the works, says Sears. In this exclusive interview with ExecutiveBiz, Sears shares some of those growth plans and what’s next for the commercial satellite industry.

Your customers are military focus “” can you give some examples of your more high profile customers?

Kay Sears:
We serve both the federal sector as well as commercial companies.  On the federal side, we focus primarily on the DOD, State Department, Department of Homeland Security and some of the other civilian agencies.  We also support allied militaries and NATO with some of their satellite requirements.

How will the new administration impact your new business model?

Kay Sears:
So far I am encouraged by what I see in terms of defense policies and appointments from the new administration.  We support operations in the Middle East area and while the focus may shift around a bit, we are not leaving this area for many years.  We are certainly planning for the current usage to continue and to potentially grow as other areas of interest are added.  We believe that even with a troop drawdown, it is likely that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles will increase, which will require substantially more satellite bandwidth.

What is your plan to grow the business unit?

Kay Sears:
We are really striking out and developing strategic partnerships.  A lot of people use that term very loosely. For us it means true partnership, finding companies that complement what we do and leveraging their products to the US government market.  We seek partners that have different types of capacity and capabilities that would be attractive to the US government.  We offer ourselves as a channel to that market; a lot of time that's a very difficult market for some companies to break into, especially those located outside the US.  We have established relationships, established contracting vehicles, security clearances and a structure that is set up to support government contracting.  As we look at growth, we believe these partnerships will provide opportunities to expand our business with our primary customers.

Are there any specific challenges that you face in that strategy?

Kay Sears: There are always challenges.  One challenge is finding a true strategic partner that you don't necessarily compete with but fills a hole that you may have in your own capabilities.  We have been able to find defense companies abroad that really do have interesting products and services that we can offer to the US government.  The onus is then on us to convince these potential partners that we offer a path to market that they cannot easily create themselves.  We have to demonstrate our value and our understanding of the government customer.  We have been successful in doing this by landing business quickly.  Nothing speaks louder than new business.

How do you sell to the government?

Kay Sears: We have direct business with the government, but a lot of our business comes through integrators and small businesses that incorporate our satellite solutions into a larger network or contract that they have.  There are only a few suppliers of global satellite capabilities and so we are a good teaming partner because we bring unique capabilities and not something that can be easily duplicated.  We find particular integrators are very tied into certain agencies and many times it is better to work with them than pursue a direct contract.

What will your business unit look like in two years?

Kay Sears:
I think we are focused on continually improving our customer alignment and our ability to offer products and services that our customers value.  We want to expand our work with strategic partners to develop unique solutions.  We will take the fundamental capacity that we have in the satellite network that we own and build complex and secure solutions around it.  Some of the themes that we are hearing are customers are looking for more turn-key or end-to-end types of services and that security is very important.  I think you will see a gradual change over time where we will invest in those types of capabilities to complement our existing satellite services.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Kay Sears:
My career has evolved from the sales and marketing side of the companies I have worked for, so I'm  very customer-focused.  My leadership style is all about understanding the customer and delivering sound results.  I think my responsibility now as the president of Intelsat General is to take that customer experience that I have and turn it into a strategic vision; something that is compelling and motivating and that my team agrees is the right path for Intelsat General.  This requires collaboration and input from all departments.  As the president I need to be able to articulate that vision very clearly and then empower the people that work for me to go out and accomplish that vision.  That is what I see as my primary role.

What new challenges lay ahead?

Kay Sears: We do have a big challenge ahead of us in terms of working with the US government as a partner.  The commercial satellite industry has been recognized by the government as an important capability that they need but we really haven't established a great dialogue.  As we plan, for example, for new satellite systems we're trying very hard to get that dialogue going with our customers to say, “What is it that you are going to need two or three years from now? Where are you going to be operating?  What kinds of capabilities are you going to need?“  I think one of the challenges that we have right now is building that dialogue and that trust between the commercial satellite industry and the US government.  I see that as a primary role for me as an industry leader and I will work to create that mechanism where there's better planning, there's trust and therefore in two or three years from now we're putting the right capacity in the right place at the right time for our customer base.

What is something most people don't know about you personally?

Kay Sears: I've picked up soccer at a late age and now I'm totally hooked and play multiple times per week.

Interview with Kay Sears was conducted by JD Kathuria

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