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The Top GovCon Executive Recruiters: Rob McHale, Korn/Ferry International

ExecutiveBiz spoke to senior leaders at some of government contracting's most powerful firms to find out whom they turn to when they need an executive position filled, and compiled the 10 recruiters you need to know.

To get a sense of their positions on government contracting, we asked the recruiters for their take on the current state of the industry and where they see it going in the future.
What is your take on the current state of the government-contracting field?
The Top GovCon Executive Recruiters: Rob McHale, Korn/Ferry International - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Rob McHale

“Obviously, the next two-three years will be a challenging period in the government-contracting community.  Government spending is clearly under pressure and pronouncements from the current administration regarding insourcing and defense consolidation does not promote a positive outlook.  In addition, the major aerospace primes are facing a period of uncertainty given the slowdown in major platform initiatives.  There is still a lot of money with the private equity firms, and I believe we will see further roll-ups and acquisitions from that quarter.  From a human capital perspective, many of the successful government-contracting leaders are approaching retirement and we will see a change in the look and feel of the leadership teams over the next 24 months.  The question will be ‘is there a next generation of leaders to take their place or will we see current executives staying in their post longer and delaying retirement?'”

Do you have any predictions for the future of the business?

“We are still fighting the global war on terrorism and enormous challenges are faced by the nation and the federal government will still represent billions in spending and one thing is sure, they will still need government contractors to allow them to achieve their mission. New large-scale transformative procurements will be few and far between, the norm for the next few years will be fierce competition around re-competes.  Government contractors will need to be more agile and creative than ever to develop compelling and differentiated win themes and strategies to ensure that they maintain minimum growth rates.  Another likely consequence will be continued consolidation as companies seek to gain market share through acquisition versus organic growth.  Cybersecurity, cloud computing, healthcare records consolidation will continue to be areas of growth.  The defense and intelligence markets will probably not exhibit the growth of prior years, but will still remain key customers for the government-contracting community.  Finally, the last 30 years has shown the pendulum swings with demands to limit the role of government contractors.  However, every time it becomes rapidly clear that with outsourcing government functions to the private sector ensures best-in-class performance with corresponding cost savings. In two-three years time, my sense is that we will be back in that more positive environment.”

What sets your practice apart in the field?

“With today’s technology and research tools, all executive search firms have access to the names and identities of leadership talent within the target market.  What separates Korn/Ferry (KFI) and the members of our Government Services Practice would be the depth of our relationships and our access to key government-contracting leadership.  I personally have been active in the government-contracting marketplace for over 15 years and there is no substitute for building long-term relationships.  These relationships enable KFI to get the attention of key executives when needed. Access is key. We also have a great track record of successfully executing searches. Finally, the KFI brand is also very powerful and we have made significant investments in developing and implementing research based and statistically validated tools designed to ensure culture, values, and personality fit with client organizations.”

Are there any recommendations you can make to executives looking to enhance their personal brand?

“Government executives brand themselves in several ways.  First and foremost is by successfully growing their respective businesses/business units. Nothing develops a reputation like being successful and taking away business from your peers.  By definition, all of the successful government-contracting leaders that I have met are ambitious, learning agile, smart and self-aware. The quickest way for them to build an enduring brand is to create a successful business.  Other surefire positive branding actions include successfully orchestrating a ‘turn-around’ and then creating a liquidity event.  In a similar vein, orchestrating major M&A transactions also creates tremendous buzz in the marketplace and is guaranteed to get the executive’s name in the limelight. Related to the above comments is also an executive’s role in negotiating, teaming and competing for large-scale, high-visibility government contracts. The manner in which an executive negotiates these deals is material to their reputation in the marketplace particularly among their peers. In my opinion, other activities such as leadership roles in government associations, networking groups and conferences and in the press also build executive presence and image, however these activities if not backed up by business results are not as effective in the long term.”

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