Beth Hardison is senior vice president of business development of USIS. Here's her take on today's business development environment for government contractors:
ExecutiveBiz: What have you found to be a competitive strength in hiring the best people?
Beth Hardison: Part of the answer lies in our incentive programs. USIS, as a company, is focused top to bottom “” and sideways “” on growth. Toward that end, our approach and commitment is very different from the competition. We don't focus on cost-containment, for example. Our approach is all about making the investments to grow. We have a solid set of incentive programs that recognize performance in selling and in committing to the discipline that must be maintained throughout the capture process.
ExecutiveBiz: What's your approach to maintaining a rigorous set of gates throughout the proposal process?
Beth Hardison: From a strategic standpoint, the process shouldn't run you, the strategy should run your process. To paraphrase Wayne Gretsky: “You have to skate to where the puck will be, not where it is right now. “ You have to think outside your fiscal year. In our case, we're thinking about 2012 and beyond. That strategic view makes its way into our thinking and, by extension, our relationships on the Hill, as well as with our industry partners. So, we're not just picking up the phone and saying, “Hey, there's an RFP out, we need a partner.“ We're thinking 12-18 months out about getting signed teaming agreements. The process drives our decision-making to get the bid strategy completed and vetted early. This way, we can focus our efforts to have external conversations with our government customers and other interested parties, reaching decision-makers that are interested in ways USIS can help government make better, efficient decisions.
ExecutiveBiz: How is the insourcing discussion affecting your business development efforts?
Beth Hardison: In some cases I don't see the government undertaking a thorough review of the efficiencies of an operation before a decision to insource is made; it's more of a gut reaction. The reality is that no matter how things resolve themselves on the insourcing question, if you're a government contractor you have to focus on getting better every single day or you will end up losing your work to any of a variety of competitors.“ Our particular business model is a focused on efficiency and on delivering faster, better, cheaper, high customer touch services of value to the government.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you forecast when issues like inherently governmental remain up in the air?
Beth Hardison: We have no alternative but to continue to do what we do best “” and that is to focus on efficiency. In the end, I have to believe that, with some helpful and informative coaching and presenting the right platform for decisions, the real issue will come down to: “How can the American people get the absolute best set of services from of our federal government?“
ExecutiveBiz: What's the most important tip you can impart on successful business development, especially in these challenging economic times?
Beth Hardison: No company stands on its own; you can't deliver it all yourself. You have to be able to team with others to build an integrated, discriminating set of services. That's why communicating with your industry peer group, who are sometimes your competitors, is of paramount importance. You're not going to be able to plug-in quickly to potential teammates to find the next best value for the government. It's absolutely imperative that you connect with your potential partner frequently and deeply so you don't have to reintroduce your value among your peers when you really need to be creating solutions. You need to have a baseline understanding of who your peer group is, and who your potential teammates might be at any given moment.
ExecutiveBiz: What remains the most fulfilling part of your work since beginning your new role in 2008?
Beth Hardison: Having found a company that does think in my terms about growth is exceptionally refreshing. Certainly winning new business is also something that is personally rewarding. That's why I'm in this business, I'm trying to bring new thinking to government service delivery and being a catalyst for that kind of positive change is very fulfilling.