ExecutiveBiz had recently spoke with Leslie Steele, CEO of InterImage. She told us about the impact of InterImage’s recent 8(a) certification by the Small Business Administration, the special challenges of a small business contracting with the federal government, and the management style that has led her company to success.
ExecutiveBiz: How was InterImage founded?
Leslie Steele: The company was founded by my husband who had been in the patent research industry for many years and had followed the internet since it was a DARPA Project. He believed that there was a real future in that so he convinced me to work with him to start a company working with internet technology.
“Recruiting is a constant challenge that most of us in this industry face. We are all competing for the best and the brightest of the talent out there.”
-Leslie Steele of InterImage
ExecutiveBiz: What are InterImage’s core competencies?
Leslie Steele: We provide lifecycle software development services and management consulting in process improvement. What we talk about is how we offer our customers a collaborative, process-based approach to solution development. We take a holistic view of business and focus on crafting solutions that harness the power promised by modern technologies particularly when combined with transformation in business processes and infrastructure.
ExecutiveBiz: What is your ratio of government to commercial clients?
Leslie Steele: The vast majority of our work is government so for all practical purposes we are a government contractor. We occasionally do a little bit of commercial work but it’s a very small portion of our work.
ExecutiveBiz: Who are some of your biggest clients?
Leslie Steele: About half of our work is in the DOD space and we do work for both the Navy and Army. They are significant clients for us. We also do quite a bit of work for the Department of Justice and the rest of our work is scattered around various civilian agencies both larger ones like Treasury and small ones like the Federal Trade Commission.
ExecutiveBiz: How has competitive in-sourcing affected your business?
Leslie Steele: So far it has not impacted us directly however it certainly is impacting the industry and it is something that I am watching and monitoring to see to what extent it will impact us going forward.
ExecutiveBiz: How has the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) certification affected InterImage?
Leslie Steele: Changes in the program a few years ago actually made it possible for InterImage to apply for 8(a) certification. There have been and there will continue to be changes in the 8(a) program, some of which do concern me. However, my real concerns are less specific to the 8(a) program but rather center on definitions of small business and what happens as a business grows – we are definitely monitoring that.
ExecutiveBiz: How will InterImage keep growing in this difficult economic climate?
Leslie Steele: We have been growing and will continue to grow by focusing on our core competencies. I talked about business process improvement and business process management. I see that as an area of growth in the public sector. Certainly with new budgetary pressures, federal agencies need to find ways to do more with new technologies and less resources. That’s good for us. It is a core area where we excel, so we see a lot of opportunity for continued growth.
ExecutiveBiz: What will InterImage look like three years from now?
Leslie Steele: I would say that we will look very similar in terms of our core competencies in the work that we are doing but we will be much larger and in a broader array of agencies than we are in today.
ExecutiveBiz: How would you describe your management style?
Leslie Steele: I challenge my team to take on more responsibilities and authority and I give them a lot of leeway to make decisions but I believe it is important to make decisions quickly and move on. If something is stagnating I will push hard for a decision to be made and then move on to the next issue. I believe in ensuring that my words and my actions are consistent. I think it is important that people know that they can trust me and count on me to follow through and be supportive of joint actions that are taken.
ExecutiveBiz: What is your biggest challenge in business today?
Leslie Steele: Recruiting is a constant challenge that most of us in this industry face. We are all competing for the best and the brightest of the talent out there. As a small company InterImage also has significant resource constraints so we need to make very careful decisions on what opportunities we will pursue. Sometimes in the government market those can be difficult decisions to make because there are multiple paths to take and sometimes those paths can end in frustrating dead ends, for example, when procurements that have been planned and underway are cancelled. It’s critical for us to make very careful decisions about the opportunities we pursue because we have limited resources.
ExecutiveBiz: What is something most people don’t know about you?
Leslie Steele: I have a passion for sailing and I have a desire to sail around the world.