Contracts are awarded all the time in government contracting. But one recent win stands out. Recently, Capstone Corporation, an Alexandria, Va.-based firm with over 520 employees, was awarded a large IDIQ vehicle with the U.S. Navy’s Commander Navy Installations Command (CNIC). Of the five companies that received the awards, Capstone was the only business with less than a billion dollars in annual revenue. “We’re particularly proud of the award because we’re a small company relative to those firms [SAIC, Booz Allen Hamilton, Serco, and ITT Corporation],” says Bill Moore, CEO of Capstone. The company’s success hasn’t stopped there. In a year marked by increasingly fierce competition for talent, Capstone successfully recruited and added 130 new employees. Recently, Moore shared the secrets to Capstone’s growth since its graduation from the 8(a) program 10 years ago — and how other small businesses can do the same.
ExecutiveBiz: How, if at all, has insourcing and the competition for talent between industry and government affected you?
Bill Moore: We’ve lost folks, but not as many as we might have. There is a strong retention capability within our company. Years ago before Capstone came out of the 8(a) program we made a conscious decision to build the kind of infrastructure that would help employees understand they were employed by Capstone — and not solely working for the contract. We work to provide our workforce and clients with reasons to stay with Capstone. Our motto is, “Working for Your Success.” We say at Capstone if our engagement with a client hasn’t resulted in them being successful then we haven’t been successful either. Clients don’t tend to fix things that aren’t broken or change companies that successfully support their mission success. As well, we work to create a climate where employees feel that they have some security and opportunity for success within our company.
ExecutiveBiz: You’ve credited your management hierarchy with successful recruitment and retention. Tell us about that hierarchy.
Bill Moore: We try to stay lean and competitive. Underneath me is an executive vice president/COO. Under him are two business unit vice presidents. Under them are five directors, then task leads and program managers. So you can reach employees without going through too many levels of management. Our managers are close to our clients and our workforce. That proximity helps us to respond quickly to client requirements, see and recognize the contributions our people make to the client’s success and helps our people to see they have career paths up the ladder. Recognition and response are important parts of performance and retention.
ExecutiveBiz: You’ve partnered with some big names — Booz Allen and Northrop Grumman, among others. What advice can you offer other small businesses for successful partnering with large integrators?
Bill Moore: Be a partner. Do your part efficiently and be low maintenance. Our infrastructure is mature. As a partner, we execute and communicate from a base of experience and understand the prime’s responsibilities. There are three sectors in our service model: operations, growth, and support. The operations folks are client facing and provide direct contract support. The growth people make sure we have opportunities in our pipeline and the right processes to win bids. The support people ensure that we keep our commitments to our employees and teammates. Many of our managers have been in our company over five years. They are mature in their expertise areas and they understand how their role fits into the company moving forward.
ExecutiveBiz: What advice can you offer other small businesses in government contracting in 2010?
Bill Moore: I don’t know if I’m the one to provide advice. However, you need to love what you do because it will be difficult to build a small business in the current climate. If you love what you do and are willing to sacrifice you can build a good business. It’s also important to have the attitude of a student. Be willing to learn. Be willing to listen. Know that you don’t know everything and you will need help, from people and organizations. The marketplace is always changing and you’ve got to be able to change with it.
ExecutiveBiz: In your own business what do you love the most?
Bill Moore: The fact we’ve been able to create opportunity for our people and success for our clients. We created a culture where people could grow professionally and personally. It was a lot easier to do when you have 10 or 15 people and we all could meet in the same office. With 500 people, it takes a little more work. I frequently say to my managers we have to get the same results even though we will need to use different mechanisms. That’s really a driver at Capstone, continuing to get the results that have made us successful
ExecutiveBiz: What books, if any, help your managers generate greater results?
Bill Moore: Jim Collins’ recent books, How the Mighty Fail, which talks about the large public, successful companies who’ve had difficulties because of mistakes they’ve made. He does a good job pointing out how that can occur. I’ve had managers read Good To Great in the past and that helped to establish a common organizational base for the company. Even though we’re not publicly-held there are lessons to be learned, particularly about not getting too comfortable
ExecutiveBiz: This past year cemented Capstone’s groundwork. What can we expect from you now in 2010?
Bill Moore: We will continue to provide situational awareness, military operations support, mission support services, planning, and exercise support. We think these types of services and senior level expertise will be needed more than ever in the near term. You can expect us to be very competitive from cost and performance perspectives, and challenge for a bigger portion of the pie.
ExecutiveBiz: Beyond the halls of Capstone, do you have any personal goals for 2010?
Bill Moore: To recapture some musical ability that I had. I was a guitarist for a number of years prior to starting the company … I put that away but I have a desire to pick it up again now. I’ll let you all know in a couple of years how that’s coming.