ManTech's new COO names his three keys to growth

Lawrence Prior to ManTech because of the company's aggressive nature and its track record of growth.

Just weeks into his new job as chief operating officer and president of ManTech International Corp., Lawrence Prior is focused on growth, people and execution.

If he does those three things correctly, the expectation is that ManTech should more than double to $5 billion in annual revenue in the next several years, he said. Prior, who left Science Applications International Corp. in early June to join ManTech, spoke with Editor Nick Wakeman about his goals.

WT: Why come to ManTech?

Prior: I love the aggressiveness and courage of the company. [The] Sarbanes-Oxley [law] has really neutered the risk tolerance of so many boards of directors. Clearly, George [Pedersen, ManTech chairman and chief executive officer] doesn’t suffer from that. He has great financial controls but still knows how to adapt to the market. He knows how to lever up to acquire a company and then he has marvelous daily cash discipline to work the debt down.

WT: What critical skills do you bring to the job?

Prior: I’m obsessed with execution. So I bring a lot of energy and intensity to execution.

The second skill that a lot of folks won’t recognize out of the gate is I love everything around talent management. I love to recruit talent, to grow it and to develop it. What I found is that if you can recruit talent and execute that is a formula for growth.

WT: It is a big company. How will you find those hidden jewels of talent?

Prior: In my first two weeks, I went out and met with each of the business unit presidents and their teams. We did topline reviews — tell me about your markets, tell me about your pipeline, let’s talk about capabilities and offerings, what is the competition doing, what are our partners doing. When you do those kind of reviews, you get to meet a couple hundred people very quickly. I’ll follow up with financial and operations reviews and reviews of cash and talent. I’ll do that on a seasonal basis.

WT: What do you see as your impact during the next three years?

Prior: You’ll see us taking on campaigns outside of our current customer set. It parallels where I think our customers will be in three years. For example, think of the evolution of national strategy to a thing called “smart power.” It is not just the application of military force, it is also diplomacy and information and everything around development — where [the] State [Department], the Agency for International Development, intelligence agencies and the Defense Department all have to work together not just to achieve security but to stabilize and develop.

Cyber is another great entrée for us wherever we go, not just DOD but the Homeland Security Department and every other agency. 

WT: What are the critical challenges facing today’s market?

Prior: Iraq is beginning to draw down, and Afghanistan is beginning to ramp up. For everyone in national security, it is a critical moment.

There also is the stress and the debate in Congress. What is the right resource allocation between national security and all the other descretionary accounts, and what kind of stress will that put on us? You need to be cost competitive and focus ruthlessly on core missions. You need to be careful with diversification and not trip.

It is an inflection point for all of us, not just ManTech.

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