Ten CFOs to Watch in 2010: Tom Weston, QinetiQ North America

Tom WestonPresent: CFO, QinetiQ North America since January 2006

Career highlights: Began career in public accounting; cut his teeth in federal contracting at BTG, where he served for seven years. In 2002, tapped as CFO of Apogen Technologies, later sold to QinetiQ North America.
Personal: For the past 17 fall seasons, Weston has coached youth football without fail. “It’s my way of giving back and I enjoy interacting with the kids,” he says.

2010 Tips:

  • Focus on customers. “To most people, rightly so, this means focus on customers that ultimately pay the invoices. But delivering important management reports accurately and on time or being sure that a project manager’s important vendor is paid timely and in accordance with the terms is also vitally important, especially on the recruiting and retention side.  For the back-office team, those internal folks are our customer.”
  • Ask one question. “’What am I doing to reward and recognize employees?’ We ask ourselves that question every day. I’m on a team that looks at our benefit plans. I’m on the investment committee for our 401(k) plan. We do regular surveys of our workforce to make sure we’re attentive to their needs and demands.”

Full Interview:

ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced since becoming CFO of QinetiQ North America in 2006?

Tom Weston: Some of the biggest challenges have centered on the integration of each company. These were not big acquisitions. We bought lots of companies that ranged in revenue from $10 million to $200 million — those kinds of companies don’t necessarily have the maturity level of a company over $1 billion. Just trying to do the maturing of the companies —things like bringing employee benefit plans together or, something I really enjoyed, branding the company from zero up — has been fun.

ExecutiveBiz: What specific measures have helped mature QinetiQ NA through each acquisition?

Tom Weston: We’ve established consolidated company policies and procedures and a centralized shared services unit. That’s helped mature the company dramatically. We’ve also put a lot of time and effort into migrating HR and back office systems together in concert with the policies and procedures to make the company even more efficient. Streamlined policies that are consistent across the company, plus a more efficient operation, allows you to do more with less. That’s been a good thing — and a pretty big accomplishment of my team.

ExecutiveBiz: What’s your thinking behind “bigger” company policies?

Tom Weston: I’ve been on both sides of the M&A world. I’ve been with companies that have been sold a couple times, and I’ve been on the acquiring side a couple times, too. I was acquired at one point by a company and on day one they came in with this big thick manual, plopped it down on everyone’s desk, and said, ‘This is the way things get done.’ Every time we do an acquisition we try not to plop that big book down on somebody’s desk. Instead, we say, “Let’s figure out what you guys do … maybe there’s something you do that’s better than what we’re doing … let’s work that into the everyday life here.”  That blending of policies has worked out well for us.

ExecutiveBiz: You now have 6,000 employees, with annual revenue over $1 billion. What can we expect from QinetiQ North America in 2010?

Tom Weston: You can expect the company to continue to expand its business in emerging areas: intelligence and cybersecurity. Just a few months ago we acquired a commercial company, Cyveillance.  We did that to enhance our current cyber security and cyber intelligence offerings. As we go forward, that’s an area customers are going to demand.  So, you’ll continue to see QinetiQ North America grow and develop in that pretty important business area.

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