Hans Hollister is the Senior Vice President of Business Development for L-3 Global Security and Engineering Solutions. He is in charge of the entire strategic and tactical business development life cycle and we had the opportunity to learn from him his unique understanding of business development. Hollister offered advice to someone starting off their career in business development and told us of his extensive travel adventures. He also shared with us how he learned hard work at a young age in the way his parents raised him.
ExecutiveBiz: What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in business development? How do you navigate in this current environment?
Hans Hollister: I think one of the key things people have to understand is that business development has changed a lot from what it used to be in this increasingly competitive market. Business Developers need to sit down with customers to understand what the customer wants and ensure that they can deliver that solution at a competitive price. Responsiveness is paramount because customers have many other companies to choose from, and any delay could open the door for a competitor. In addition, the first and second impression one makes in front of a customer will form the basis of the answer to a customer“™s question of “˜how are they going to be able to deliver on my project“™ and whether the customer feels they can trust you. Relationships do carry a lot of importance, but the most important requirement is to deliver the right solution at the right price and being responsive to the customer“™s needs.
ExecutiveBiz: You“™ve been at L-3 for many years now, how have you seen the organization change, and where do you see the company a few years down the road?
Hans Hollister: L-3 was a company founded in 1997 but many of us are products of acquisition. I have been with the company for almost 18 years coming from legacy Titan Corporation and before that, System Resources Corporation. L-3 grew very quickly from $600M in 1997 to more than $15B today with a majority of that growth fueled by acquisition. This led to almost 100 different divisions/companies, each one focused on making their own P&L goals. The company is now evolving to collaborate together and merge similar skill sets to present a more comprehensive offering to the customer. The company is focusing on being able to create solutions versus trying to sell independent products or services. Instead of saying, “I“™m going to bring you this one specific product or I“™m going to do this piece of service,“ we are trying to look across the organization and see how we can leverage the different pieces of L-3 to provide an end-to-end solution for the customer.
“As a business developer, you have to understand what they are looking for, listen, be courteous, don“™t be pushy, and go at their pace” – Hans Hollister
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of your top priorities going forward into 2010? What is keeping you up at night?
Hans Hollister: There are many new changes in the federal Government from the pressure to in-source, conflict of interest, budget constraints, etc. This emphasizes the need to give the customer the best solution on a tighter budget and figure out “˜how am I still going to be able to deliver the solution they are looking for at minimal dollars?“™ There is a dangerous trend in the industry for diving low on cost just to win a contract and then being unable to deliver. We have to ensure that we keep our solid reputation up by delivering quality products and solutions while figuring out how to do it more cost effectively. A company can“™t dive just to win a contract because then they will never be able to deliver, and past performance will haunt you for years out.
ExecutiveBiz: What new or emerging markets will you be pursuing going forward?
Hans Hollister: My division focuses on providing solutions in the security, engineering and management solutions marketplace. For us we see markets such as the Middle East as a growing market with a number of new projects that fit with our core competencies. We have good relationships with key leaders and we can utilize our experience with the US Departments of Defense and Homeland Security for the Ministries of the Interior and Defense in the Middle East. This is a diversification tactic, but also we see that there are a lot of big projects that align with our capabilities.
ExecutiveBiz: I understand that you enjoy traveling. What are some of your favorite travel destinations?
Hans Hollister: I enjoy seeing the clear, turquoise water off the Turkish beaches, the rolling hills of England, the profile of Diamond Head in Honolulu, etc. I have a goal that I“™d like to be able to visit all of the countries of the world. Being as there are over 200 of them it makes it difficult, but I“™ve seen a quarter of them so far. I enjoy experiencing different cultures and learning about each one. It is hard to pick a favorite because they each have something that is special about them. I have not been to a country where I“™ve said, “No, I don“™t like that at all.“
ExecutiveBiz: What is one thing that most people don“™t know about you?
Hans Hollister: One thing that has helped me get to where I am is having an upbringing that focused on the importance of hard work and how that pays off. When I was around 6 years old, my father would pay me a penny for every dandelion that I would pull. If I broke it off and didn“™t pull the root, I wouldn“™t get the penny. What this instilled in me was the need to have pride in your work and you have to do a good job and deliver on what is required otherwise you“™re not going to get compensated. I also worked on my aunt and uncle“™s farm in the summers from age 10 to 17. While most kids my age were going off to baseball and football camp, I was working on the farm throwing around 100-lb feed bags and going to work in the fields. I look back and believe that gave me a strong work ethic, which really helped over the years.
ExecutiveBiz: Tell us about your unique understanding of business development?
Hans Hollister: I believe the main thing is that if you really want to get business from a customer, they have to feel comfortable with you, and they have to see themselves doing business with you. As a business developer, you have to understand what they are looking for, listen, be courteous, don“™t be pushy, and go at their pace. If you come over too hard or try to force someone with a hard sale, I think you might be lucky with a quick sale but you won“™t build the long-term relationship.