Ask Elizabeth Smith what her greatest leadership challenge is, and she’ll be the first to tell you: the one she’s facing now as the new executive vice president at Perot Systems. It’s also a challenge that Smith’s background has more than equipped her to handle. “It’s requiring me to take all the best practices I've learned and taught over the last seven years from my consulting experience and combine it with my previous experience leading up a federal sales team to really recreate and reposition the sales force here to be much more powerful,” says Smith. Recently, Smith sat down with ExecutiveBiz to talk about her new role and what’s on the agenda for the year ahead.
Your new role is executive vice president at Perot Systems, what is your outlook for 2009?
Elizabeth Smith: I am very excited about our outlook for 2009. We've brought on board a number of new experienced and talented people to both our operations and sales leadership teams, and are really poised for the first time to pull through all of our commercial best practices for use in the federal marketplace. We also have a new president and new administration coming in that is very focused on change. They are facing enormous challenges and I think our background, experience and expertise will be very impactful.
What are your top priorities for the coming year?
Elizabeth Smith: Based on a sales management perspective and in terms of what we want to do for the government, there is both an internal and external focus. Internally, we are really building a very creative, powerful sales organization here that is much more strategic in its thinking and much more focused on the mission of the customer and how we can best use IT to help enable that mission. From an external government and marketplace perspective, we are focused fairly broadly on defense intelligence, homeland security, and healthcare as well as supporting the scientific civilian agencies.
You have over 25 years of experience working with federal and state. What lessons do you carry from those years?
Elizabeth Smith: I would say the biggest thing I've learned is to really understand what the customer's end goal is: What are they trying to achieve from a mission perspective and then how do we “” as contractors, consultants, enablers “” bring the tools, processes and people in to help them achieve that?
Tell us about upcoming trends in healthcare IT in the government.
Elizabeth Smith: We have two very strong capabilities on our commercial healthcare side around clinical transformation as well as systems integration where we can have clinical systems talk to each other. Those are basically the two enablers for healthcare reform across the country. We already do a huge amount of work on the commercial side in the US as well as in other countries. We want to bring those capabilities into the federal marketplace and help the new administration with healthcare reform.
What tools, if any, help you meet the challenges of your new position?
Elizabeth Smith: In terms of tools, I have a broad background that includes everything from strategic consulting, management consulting and IT strategy all the way to systems integration and implementation of infrastructure. That broad range of experience matches up well to what we sell here at Perot Systems Government Services. Also, all the work I have done around assessing business development practices around the companies that work for the federal government and seeing what they do best, and what doesn't work so well, and applying those best practices here is a great tool as well.
Any advice for small business potential partners?
Elizabeth Smith: We are actively looking for qualified small businesses to provide additional support to us in specific technical or functional areas. We are looking for companies that would like to be in a mentor/protÃ©gÃ© relationship. Our focus is not primarily to add small businesses to meet a goal but really to understand what they do, what they want to do and what their real skills are and then try to figure out how they fit into the overall fabric of what it is that we are going to offer.
What excites you most about your new role?
Elizabeth Smith: I've been given a lot of ability to manage and control the future, which includes a lot of latitude to make decisions and recreate the sales organization. That latitude is exciting and a little bit daunting at the same time because there's a lot of responsibility resting on me. At the same time, it gives me the opportunity to take everything I've learned and put it into this organization to make it very, very successful.
What gets you through a challenging day?
Elizabeth Smith: I would say that having hope for the future helps get me through tough days. I think we hear a lot of depressing news everyday about the economy and job losses but I think that we will turn around where we are in this country. I also think that working in the federal market provides stability we can count on.
What is something most people don't know about you personally?
Elizabeth Smith: I'm a horseback rider. I've ridden horses since I was nine years old. I have two horses that when I need rest and downtime, I go and spend time with them. I also live out in the country and I love getting home and seeing all the deer and wildlife.