ExecutiveBiz sat down with Catapult CEO Randy Slager recently. We discussed the wide array of Catapult’s offerings and how the company is adjusting to new challenges arising from organizational conflicts of interest, in-sourcing, and cybersecurity. Read on to learn how to set yourself apart from the government’s myriad teaming partners and how to stay on top of emerging trends in technology.
ExecutiveBiz: What are Catapult's core competencies?
Randy Slager: Catapult has nine lines of business that provide the full gamut of information technology services. These lines include Enterprise Consolidation Services, Human Capital Outsourcing Solutions, Information Assurance and Cyber Security, Infrastructure Management, Managed Service Desk Solutions, Management Consulting and Program Management Support, System Engineering and Integration, Software Engineering, and Telecommunications. So it's a very full docket of solutions that cover many aspects of IT.
“Organizational conflicts of interest are kind of a pendulum…we should bear in mind that overreaction sometimes ends up creating its own problems.”
– Randy Slager
ExecutiveBiz: How will Catapult keep growing in this difficult economic climate?
Randy Slager: When I worked for the government in the early 1980s, I noted that very few companies really stood out as real partners that were proactive. When I founded Catapult in 1996, it was important to make the company a true partner to our customers, to bring ideas and innovation and to really help customers move to the next level.
One of our differentiators is our focus on quality service. Companies can claim attention to quality, but for us, it isn't just lip service; we have worked very diligently to achieve important industry certifications. “Quality“ implies following industry best practices, and our achievement of ISO 20000:2005, ISO 9001:2000, Six Sigma, and our recent reappraisal at Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Level 3 attest to our commitment to quality. Most of our project managers are PMP (Project Management Professional) certified, which is an important industry certification for individual managers. What we learn and prove by achieving these certifications and milestones is passed right to the customer through outstanding service.
ExecutiveBiz: What will Catapult look like three years from now?
Randy Slager: I would expect in three years we are going to be somewhere approaching about the $250 million level and we will have already moved from small business status into the mid-tier. We will continue to establish ourselves with a number of agencies where we are competitive and where we are lean. I think we have prepared for that next phase in our growth and development up to now. Just over the last year and half, we have made significant in-roads into the defense arena. So the strategic, methodical planning has paid off. We expect it will continue to pay off over the next three years as well.
ExecutiveBiz: Who are some of your biggest clients?
Randy Slager: The General Services Administration (GSA) is the largest, with a $200 million, five-year contract. We are managing their IT infrastructure worldwide. This is a huge enterprise consolidation effort. Part of it is help desk support, which we provide to GSA through our call center operation in Chambersburg, PA, which opened in August of 2009. Additionally, we've made some good moves within the Department of Defense (DOD) over the last few years. One project provides Continuity of Operations (COOP) for the Pentagon. On the civilian side, we are providing a range of varying services to the Department of State, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the Department of Labor. And we have a fantastic project underway implementing wireless networks within the Department of Veterans Affairs. We have a fairly broad mix of clients.
ExecutiveBiz: What do you feel is the best way to stay on top of trends in government computing?
Randy Slager: Part of it is just staying aware of what is happening technologically so we can deliver the newest and most efficient solutions. We work closely with government representatives and researchers so we know what their expectations will be in terms of technology, and what their plans are in terms of implementing it. We get involved in the pilot phase, and then, based on how effective the pilots are, we then come in and expand on the pilot's processes and results.
ExecutiveBiz: Do you think the dialogue about OCI has changed in recent years?
Randy Slager: Organizational conflicts of interest are kind of a pendulum. I think we are scrutinizing much more than we did a couple of years ago, which is probably healthy. It should always be clear as to what the roles are and where a conflict might occur. But we should bear in mind that overreaction sometimes ends up creating its own problems.
ExecutiveBiz: What about fixed price contracts?
Randy Slager: Almost all of our contracts are fixed price or have fixed price components. We've been doing fixed price contracts for the last decade. If the requirements are clearly laid out and both sides understand, then it can be effective. If it's vague, then you end up with misunderstandings and expectations that aren't achieved. We always try to ensure that if we win a contract, then we get in there and sit down with government representatives and make sure that we clearly define whatever wasn't well-defined in the procurement process so everyone understands expectations.
ExecutiveBiz: How does Catapult recruit and retain the very best in talent?
Randy Slager: It is something that you have to keep on top of and then we make sure that we have the right number of interviews and the right people interviewing them. Then we get back to the candidates very quickly. It will disillusion a candidate if you leave them hanging for very long. At new employee orientation, Catapult's President Barry Kane meets new employees and helps them understand the Catapult culture and how we work so they can quickly become a part of our company. Our employees are our main asset, so it's important that our benefits are competitive. We do activities that involve the family, including an annual awards banquet and a summertime picnic. We publish a bi-monthly newsletter to help employees keep abreast of many facets of corporate life. People know what is going on; a lot of it is communication and addressing issues quickly when they arise. Our turnover rate for 2009 was only 11 per cent, which is less than half the industry average. So I think that says a lot about the people we hire.
ExecutiveBiz: Catapult is a member of the Washington Technology Fast 50 and the Deloitte Fast 500. Is there a tip that you can give our readers on how to emulate your rapid growth paradigm?
Randy Slager: Relationships are key. How you treat your partners, how you treat your customers, and just following through on your commitments“”the whole issue of integrity and letting your time be focused on growing the business. Once you've got an agreement with a customer, make sure it is honored and put your energy toward performing well and, in the process, finding new opportunities.
ExecutiveBiz: Are you a sports fan?
Randy Slager: I enjoy football, and have been paying particular attention to the Florida Gators. I have a place in Florida and over the last several years I've started paying attention and now trying to watch every game.