Gil Dussek, CEO of Gunnison Consulting Group, had the chance to speak with ExecutiveBiz recently for his first Executive Spotlight interview with the publication to discuss the latest news and initiatives impacting the company and its position within the current federal landscape.
During his Executive Spotlight, Dussek discussed the hurdles of driving long-term and organic growth for Gunnison, the core values of the company’s culture, the challenges of advancing data capabilities as well as addressing IT modernization and infrastructure changes in the sector.
“I’ve often conveyed to our teams that through working shoulder to shoulder with our customers, we can shift the mindset to “doing more, without more” which compels us to find creative ways to drive value creation with a similar amount of funding.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight with Gil Dussek below:
ExecutiveBiz: How would you describe your overall growth strategies for Gunnison? How do you approach acquisitions to accelerate your growth (such as G2SF) while also developing long-term organic growth? How are the two approaches different when you’re trying to grow your business?
Gil Dussek: “Given the substantial addressable market and our capabilities, I would characterize our growth strategy as fairly disciplined. We’re focused on doubling down in the markets we currently serve while identifying a handful of adjacent tier one agencies, matching their mission profiles and needs at the subagency level with solutions we can provide, and further fine-tuning that list.
When I think about the first piece in that strategy and the customers we currently serve, there’s also an imperative that as a recently graduated small business, we find a way to continue to serve our customers in a fashion similar to how we’ve done so in the past, which for the majority of our portfolio is as a prime contractor.
There have been instances where we’ve had a longstanding customer open to the prospect of converting a contract to full and open upon recompete as a mechanism to potentially continue similar levels of experience and subject matter expertise, even doing so by aggregating scope elements across existing contracts. Conversely, there are customers and agencies that despite our long tenure of stellar performance, will continue to be heavily focused on small business and intend to meet or exceed small business utilization requirements, which we understand as well.
This phenomenon has served as a forcing function for us to think long and hard about who the next Gunnison is on an agency-by-agency basis that we can support with the intention of maintaining albeit a smaller footprint in that given agency, but still putting the customer in a position to remain successful in achieving their mission objectives. In some cases, that’s easier than others given the longstanding relationships we’ve developed with various strategic partners along the way. Ideally, all of the above would be achieved solely through organic growth.
There was and continues to be a recognition within our leadership team that inorganic growth can serve as an invaluable catalyst to achieve longer-term objectives, especially in a mid-market space that constantly is seeing new and/or significantly larger players as previous entrants scale up or are absorbed into much larger strategic primes.
With that said, there were certainly benefits to exploring inorganic growth strategies, and when I joined in August 2019, this was something we knew would be part of our evolution, but it was not clear at the time.
As it turned out, the first acquisition occurred a little more than 12 months in, and a second six months after that, both of which were opportunistic and intended to facilitate the transition to a burgeoning middle-market company while resulting in new business opportunities that become exponentially more practicable to pursue that neither company would even dream of considering on its own. Given our successes in this area to date, we imagine that there will be additional inorganic growth in our future.”
ExecutiveBiz: Congrats on the recent ACG Deal Team Award! What would you list as the core values of establishing Gunnison’s company culture and how are recent additions to your senior leadership team driving the best innovative solutions for your customers?
Gil Dussek: “Thanks! Our core values were something we spent a lot of time thinking about as a leadership team, not only to inform the decision making around potential acquisition targets if there was a customer, capability, and cultural fit, but also for the rest of the organization that had an average tenure of 10+ years and was part of Gunnison’s initial growth phase.
What resulted were five cultural values that would help define the company in this next phase of what we often refer to as Gunnison 2.0. The first is unconstrained thinking as we explore innovative ways to deliver mission-enabling solutions to our customers, and especially given current budget pressures, demanding that we think outside of the box in how we do that day in and day out.
Empowered accountability is another where I sometimes joke with the team that as long as it’s not illegal, immoral or unethical, they are empowered to do what they need to do to get us where we need to be. However, we’re going to hold them accountable for certain outcomes along the way. This has been well received thus far in that leaders and individual contributors have the freedom to do what is necessary to perform on their respective programs or teams throughout the organization.
Collaboration is another one where since our start 26 years ago, we’ve prided ourselves on standing shoulder to shoulder with our customers to address their most complicated IT challenges to leverage our experience, subject matter expertise and thought leadership to help them solve tomorrow’s problems today.
The fourth one is around transparency. As the organization continues to grow, I think one aspect of the Gunnison experience that has been highly valued by the longer-tenured folks is the large company impact on our customers but with a small company feel, with open lines of communication at all levels of the organization.
Finally, fun is the final piece of this puzzle. We want to encourage our employees to bring creativity, joy and humor into the virtual or non-virtual workplace where they’re spending the bulk of their time. And as the lines between work and non-work have blurred more than ever, we want to make sure that folks continue to come to work energized and happy to work alongside their customers to achieve a common goal.
With respect to our evolving senior leadership team, we’ve been pretty thoughtful in incrementally piecing together a group that has either lived life on the other side of small business set-aside, had made the transition from small business to full and open, or both, and the leaders who have joined the organization are fully bought into what we’re trying to build as in certain ways Gunnison resembles or mirrors previous successful experiences these executives have had.
When thinking about the combination of these new additions with longtime Gunnison leaders who played a material role in helping Gunnison achieve its initial growth phase, I’m extremely excited about our prospects for 2022 and beyond.”
Visit ExecutiveBiz.com’s Executive Spotlight Page to learn more about the most significant leaders of consequence to the government contracting (GovCon) and federal sectors and their experiences driving growth, new business and capabilities in the fiercely competitive federal landscape.
ExecutiveBiz: With some of the work Gunnison has done around data analytics and other areas of data management with the Census Bureau and other civilian agencies, what can you tell us about your approach to the future of advanced data capabilities to continue to drive big data forward in the federal sector?
Gil Dussek: “Our initial customer was the U.S. Census Bureau back in 1994. We’ve had the good fortune of playing a key role in the last three decennial surveys and as well as the various surveys that occur in between with greater regularity.
Through those experiences, we learned that as a differentiator, being the expert and a backup to the government, understanding the government data, working with their statisticians and establishing models to quickly create data packages that support their targeted environments and audiences, and working with partners like SAS that give us better access and scalability has gone a long way to advance the mission at agencies that have data-intensive needs.
We put a great deal of emphasis on automation and our optimization. Big data applications can be very time and computing-intensive, so we’re constantly on the lookout for ways to keep production code efficient to enable smart and efficient integration of data.
Tools and processes are important, but at the end of the day, being experts on the data we’re being asked to manage will continue to separate those companies that can and will deliver optimal outcomes as big data management and advanced analytics needs continue to proliferate throughout the federal sector and beyond.”
ExecutiveBiz: What are your expectations for Gunnison’s efforts to assist its customers and government agencies with the challenges of IT modernization and infrastructure changes as this year comes to an end and 2022 begins, especially with the new hybrid and telework capabilities?
Gil Dussek: “I’d probably look at this in a couple of different ways: first, how we optimize the manner in which we collaborate with our customers on the contracts we currently hold with the government and how we give them the confidence that we can continue to deliver without them actually seeing our employees each day.
I believe Gunnison has made that transition pretty seamlessly, but noteworthy that it was a huge testament to our employees and our customers and their willingness to lean in while working through this new reality in almost real-time.
We’ve been able to benefit from a number of contracts in our portfolio that had been 100% remote work prior to the pandemic and leveraging lessons learned and built up goodwill that we could share with other customers who were experiencing a lot of this for the first time. I feel that Gunnison as well as others have successfully made that leap where there’s now that level of comfort with all key stakeholders that could never have been envisioned years ago.
Second, I’d look at this through the lens of the solutions that we’re providing to the government and ensuring they truly answer the mail, Even dating back to the sequester of 2013, the conventional wisdom was that we all needed to figure out a way to do “more with less,” which at times resulted in what some would characterize as suboptimal solutions.
I’ve often conveyed to our teams that through working shoulder to shoulder with our customers, we can shift the mindset to “doing more, without more” which compels us to find creative ways to drive value creation with a similar amount of funding.
This hasn’t solely focused on the desired approach in meeting an intended requirement whether through a managed or shared service, but also pushing for more success-based buying behavior from our customers which appropriately shares the risk between the government and contractors.”