(Editors note: Rich Sawchak was recently appointed chief financial officer for Novetta Solutions. See GovCon Wire’s story on that appointment here).
As Schafer Corp.’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, Sawchak oversaw the company’s finance, controllership, human resources and compliance areas.
He joined the government contracting and engineering firm from Paradigm Solutions less than a year ago, where he served as CFO and senior vice president.
He recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about his new position, the elements of success to develop governance, maintain contracts and where the company expects to see short and long-term growth in years to come.
ExecutiveBiz: What are your strategies to achieve success in areas of finance, contracts, planning, and governance for the company?
Rich Sawchak: All those areas are equally important and crucial to enabling the business to move forward. They take different amounts of time and resources to accomplish. Governance includes the controllership and accounting organization and tends to be more people intensive. The planning and finance organizations tend to be smaller teams, but more analytical and forward-looking. Contracts is in the middle of those two organizations and tends to have a mid-sized number of people but very focused from a skill set perspective.
Strategy starts from my perspective with solid and well thought out policies and procedures. This allows us as a management team and an organization to set the right tone at the top for the team and the culture of the company to adhere to. I really believe in empowering my leadership team in each of those areas to be able to make decisions in the constraints of those policies and procedures to get things done. We want to enable the business to move forward as quickly and as efficiently as we can.
Although each of those is a bit different as well the responsibilities I have for human resources and some of our internal information technology, the overall objectives are still the same. The aim is to look at their internal and external customers and to be able to enable our internal and external customers to get their jobs done effectively and to make sure that we're pushing the company forward to growth and better profitability.
ExecutiveBiz: Does the way you approach your tasks for each Schafer subsidiary and business area differ greatly?
Rich Sawchak: My strategy somewhat differs. It's less about the legal delineation between companies or subsidiaries and more about the mission of our employees and our customers in those areas of business. It differs to some extent with regard to our IT services business versus our engineering services business where in one case we focus predominately on government customers and the other we focus on commercial oriented organizations outside of the federal government. In the software development group within the IT organization there's a different focus and methodology. There are different controls we put in place, different ways that we interact and different ways that we drive growth in that part of the business.
Schafer's history and the bulk of the business is engineering oriented. However, in 2010 we acquired a company called Asynchrony Software Solutions, an IT and software company.
ExecutiveBiz: In what business areas does Schafer expect growth and how does it intend to sustain that growth?
Rich Sawchak: We have opportunity for growth in all of the areas of our business. The area where in the near-term we have a much larger opportunity for very fast growth is in our agile software development group that's focused on mobile application development following our 2010 acquisition. That group has been growing leaps and bounds because of their diverse customer set and because the marketplace for mobile applications is a very sizable growing area. We provide mobile software to both public and private sector customers currently and intend to continue to do both.
That's not to say that we don't have opportunities for growth in engineering areas within the federal government customer set. On the federal government side, they tend to be more elongated procurement cycles and there's a different way of doing business that doesn't turn as quickly even though the opportunities can be more sizable and can be more stable once you get into them. Our ability to sustain that growth differs in both of those areas.
As we broaden the number of companies that we're doing business with on the commercial software development side, we're able to sustain growth because we diversify the customer set. We get into more mobile applications and building a larger product toolset, giving us a bigger offering to provide to those customers and sustain that growth over the long-term. On the engineering side, we're looking at the trends in federal government spending. We're looking at the procurements that are coming out and we're getting on procurements where we see growth and long-term contracting ability to give us visibility into a longer-term backlog to provide that sustained growth.
ExecutiveBiz: What priorities do you consider when completing contracts administration and supply chain management?
Rich Sawchak: I think in both of those areas, it's a balancing of enabling the business to move quickly and efficiently to get under contract and administering the contracts. Dealing with the contracts while providing a reasonable risk management construct, too, so that we can ensure that no single decision or no aggregation of decisions could put the company at significant risk.
ExecutiveBiz: How important is pricing and financing process in contracts for the provider and client in this budgetary climate?
Rich Sawchak: Strategic pricing considerations are probably the highest priority right now simply because of the budgetary climate that we're in and because of there being so much focus by the customer on ensuring that they get the right product or service at the right value proposition. We spend a great deal of time looking at our pricing to ensure that it's as competitive as it can be and that we're providing the greatest value proposition we can for our customer.
Financing is a little bit different. At least for our business, it's a little less of a concern. We focus more on keeping an extremely close eye on our cash management and our working capital needs so that we can ensure that we can deliver exceptional work to our customers. We've got a corporate structure in place and a capital structure in place and that enables us to do business with all of the customers that we bring onboard. We focus on the customers themselves from a pricing perspective and have already set up the financing agreements to make sure that we can enable the business.
ExecutiveBiz: How has life been since you joined Schafer?
Rich Sawchak: It's interesting. I've been at Schafer for about six months now. Prior to this I was with Paradigm Solutions for just about six years until we were sold to CACI International. Paradigm, a cybersecurity company, was smaller and less diversified geographically than Schafer. Schafer has an engineering and IT mix with commercial and government customers making for a more complex business model.
It's been very exciting to jump back into a new business and to acclimate to the culture of the business, the work areas that we're involved in and to be able to deal with new challenges within the business of trying to grow and make Schafer more profitable over the long-term.
We've been very much involved in looking at our portfolio and our strategy as a company and trying to figure out the most effective ways for us to accelerate growth and drive profitability for our private equity owners. After just about six months now, I actually know my way around the hallways and know a little bit more about our business, our employees and our customers.