It's been a particularly challenging year for industry, with many companies growing at single digit rates. High Performance Technologies, Inc., wasn't one of them. Based in Reston, Va., the science and technology firm finished 2008 at $72 million; it'll finish this year 20 percent higher than that. Helping to keep the midsize company on an upward tick is Scott Miller. “This is a really exciting time,“ says Miller, who became COO a little over a year ago. “We're going to hit $100 million in the next year.“ Here Miller offers an inside look at the solid processes he's put in place so HPTi can continue to compete with the best of them. Read full interview here.
YEAR AT A GLANCE:
- Secured several significant wins, including computational science programs for the DoD, the Army Research Labs, and NOAA; a secure software solution for the Treasury's Financial Management Service, and systems engineering and program management for Veterans Affairs.
- Oversaw HPTi's certification as CMMI Level 3. “For a company of our size to be CMMI Level 3 gives our customers confidence that we can take on larger and more complex engagements,“ says Miller.
- Won the Virginia Senate Productivity and Quality Assurance Award (medallion level), the highest level of recognition from the state program. The evaluation criteria included processes for leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; human resource focus; process management; and results.
- Won the 2009 American Business Ethics Award being the only mid-sized company in the country to receive this honor.
“We regularly beat larger firms. It's challenging and actually kind of fun.“
“” Scott Miller, COO, HPTi
ExecutiveBiz: Many midsized companies are seeing increased competition from larger firms. Have you found this to be an issue?
Scott Miller: It hasn't been for us. As we've gotten to our current size, we've been able to position ourselves for several multi-million-dollar-a year opportunities. That positioning has allowed us to be as competitive as anyone else. We regularly compete with and beat larger firms. This past year we garnered several significant wins, and, in every case, we were competing with large multi-billion dollar firms. It's challenging and actually kind of fun.
ExecutiveBiz: What ingredients make up your winning strategy?
Scott Miller: One dimension is focus. We don't do all things for all people. We are as expert as any in high performance computing, computational science, and many aspects of systems and software engineering. If we stay focused on those things, we can be as competitive as anyone. We also make sure we're not competing for something where large work forces are involved. If the customer needs hundreds of people to do something, then, sure, it'll be a challenge for us to win. As long as we stay focused on the things we're really good at “” and make sure the size is appropriate “” we can compete with anybody.
ExecutiveBiz: What new markets have you been pursuing this year?
Scott Miller: Clearly an area today that's an important topic for our nation is climate change. So we're focused on applying computational science, which is modeling and simulation of physical phenomenon. We have expertise in developing software and algorithms, as well as how to model physical processes and applying that to climate change. Healthcare is a growing area as well. Our business there is helping evaluate and understand the impact of new technology, how to better manage development programs, and how to implement more effective systems engineering and systems architecture.
ExecutiveBiz: To what extent are you seeing growing competition with government for talent?
Scott Miller: The interesting dynamic right now is clients are asking us to help them figure out ways to recruit talent “” this is the kind of conversation we never had as recently as a few years ago. While we remain an employer of choice, sometimes government does end up recruiting our people. Rather than getting into a battle over this, we're looking for new ways to partner with government that continue to help both parties be successful. And a key to that is acknowledging the elephant in the room upfront. If you say to your government client, “Let's talk about what may happen six months from now “¦ two years from now “¦ and what those opportunities look like.“ Conversations like that can only happen when trust is built up over time.
ExecutiveBiz: How are you navigating another industry challenge: organizational conflict of interest?
Scott Miller: With the changes being talked about in government, we're going through a lot of internal discussions over OCI, particularly with our project managers. As a simple example, let's say one of our employees is asked by the government to review a pre-RFP package. Clearly once we do that, our company can't bid on that RFP. The question we're asking is: If we, as a company, are doing systems engineering or program analysis , how do we create firewalls around that? How do we protect ourselves to do the kind of business we want?
ExecutiveBiz: How are you getting at answers to the OCI question?
Scott Miller: Through a combination of training our people to be alert to what they're being asked to do, plus having conversations upfront with clients about what may or may not be appropriate for us to do from an OCI perspective. Also making sure the contracts we sign are clear about work scope.
ExecutiveBiz: What's been your central focus over the past year as COO?
Scott Miller: Here's what I've been focused on: my personal commitment to the welfare of HPTi aligned with the CEO's [Tim Keenan's] long-term vision for the company. We have a strong CEO, with a strong vision. My focus is on executing on that vision by being an agent of change“¦stimulating an evolution of our culture to prepare us for the next step change to $500 million.
ExecutiveBiz: With one year under your belt, what's next?
Scott Miller: We have a couple initiatives to build on our current achievements. We've just embarked on the next level of certification [beyond CMMI Level 3] so we can take on even larger projects. And, now that we've won the Senate Productivity Award, we're embarking on winning the Baldridge Award, a national level award given to large companies for the quality of their work. Beyond that, we will continue to position ourselves as an “employer of choice.“ We have the best people, we're doing the most exciting work. People seek us out rather than us having to recruit them. That's the vision “” whether we ever get there isn't as important as the journey. The vision is to be the place where people want to be.