Executive Spotlight: AMERICAN SYSTEMS’ Joe Kopfman

Joe Kopfman has been with AMERICAN SYSTEMS almost from the start. If you ask him, he’ll tell you it’s not like working for the same company, rather an ever-evolving one. Since his start, Kopfman has seen AMERICAN SYSTEMS grow from $2 million in annual revenue to over $200 million. Recently Kopfman took a look back at his 30 years with the IT services firm — one of the largest employee-owned companies in the United States — and how he plans to help sustain its relevance under the new administration.

Since you joined AMERICAN SYSTEMS there have been eight presidential elections. How do you prepare for each change?

Joe Kopfman: You need to anticipate where the government will increase spending. For example, AMERICAN SYSTEMS has its roots deeply planted in the Navy Submarine Program. We looked ahead and saw reduced funding for the program. With soaring energy costs, we looked at another challenge for the Navy, which is energy resource optimization and management. Recently we won a contract to design, install, and test advanced metering systems such as like electricity, gas, and water meters so the Navy can record — and reduce — their energy consumption.

How did you position yourself in advance of an Obama administration?

Joe Kopfman: [With] Obama looking to fund infrastructure we’ve positioned ourselves for a piece of that.  We do front-end planning and we do installation of systems that require cleared installers. We are going to continue to cherish our DOD customers but we will be looking at the funding for civilian agencies like HHS where our strengths are also well-suited.

What major acquisition issues do you think the Obama administration is still likely to face?

Joe Kopfman: The Obama administration will inherit the same acquisition issues that the Bush administration had. There will still be a shortage of trained acquisition and contracting professionals in the federal government. There will still be a need to balance reasonable oversight with their streamline acquisition goals. The federal government needs to make acquisition a core competency. They should then seriously commit to training and recruitment and, once they have accomplished that, they can outsource with confidence.

What’s your strategy for the year now upon us?

Joe Kopfman: In this day we all have to do more with less; we are headed into lean times. Our plan is to stay very close to our clients so we can adapt to their budget challenges and upcoming procurement changes.  We are going to monitor the funding closer than ever. We plan to review the status of all of our contracts on a more frequent basis because the margins and the prices are being squeezed and there is little room for error.

Any thoughts on the new Federal Acquisition Regulation Rule that recently went into effect?

Joe Kopfman: I have no issue with the spirit of the rule.  I understand the rule and what the rule is trying to achieve — it makes sense.  Contractors should divulge their violations and their overpayments in a timely manner, and they should create a culture that values that type of behavior.  The problem is with ambiguities contained in the rule; contractors have to determine what constitutes credible evidence in a number of very complex areas. Once companies begin to disclose improper conduct and we observe how the [Office of] Inspector General responds, we will all have a better feel for the impact of this new rule.

What would you like to accomplish over the months ahead?

Joe Kopfman: My dream is to be a tier 1 company.  To reach that goal, there are two things I want to accomplish this year: organic growth and acquired growth.  To accomplish that in this economy will be challenging.  I am excited about the challenge, and look forward to doing my part to help execute our strategic plan.

Any personal goals?

Joe Kopfman: I have three kids and I am half way toward my goal for each of them to graduate from college.  I am really looking forward to accomplishing that goal.

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