Nick Wakeman

Legends share their insights

Some of the perks of this job, maybe the top perks, are the people you get to meet and the stories you get to hear.

It was a casual conversation several months ago that sparked this issue’s cover story. An executive told me he regretted selling his company. In fact, he didn’t want to, but the price was too good and he had investors to consider.

That topic of conversation only lasted a minute, but it lingered in my mind and led me to assign a story to Richard Walker to talk to a variety of retired or former CEOs about some watershed decisions.

The result is the cover story and the experiences these five executives relate are not all about regrets because some tough or risky decisions turn out better than you could have expected.

That’s the experience of Joseph Kampf, who was ready to sell his company but pulled it off the market after the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead he went on to lead Anteon International Corp. for several more years and saw its growth skyrocket.

I found it interesting that personnel decisions were a common theme for some of the executives, but it really emphasizes that in a services business, people can make all the difference between a successful operation and one that struggles.

Executives in this market make important decisions every day, and often the hoped-for outcome isn’t the one they get. But our plan with this cover story is to bring some lessons learned from a group of executives who have seen good times and bad and survived and thrived.

Another story in this issue along that same vein is our Q&A with Robert Beyster, founder of Science Applications International Corp. A real legend of the industry, Beyster led SAIC from its inception in 1969 until his retirement in 2004 when the company had $6.4 billion in annual revenue.

Beyster is being inducted into the hall of fame as part of the Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards program, which is produced by the Fairfax, Va., Chamber of Commerce, the Professional Services Council, and Washington Technology.

In our interview, he talked about the founding of SAIC and how it grew. He also shares some of his philosophy about employee ownership.

Again, there are plenty of lessons learned in his article.

As we put this issue to bed, the news broke that Donna Morea was retiring. So don’t be surprised if you see her grace these pages in an upcoming issue sharing her lessons learned from a 31-year career in government contracting. She is another legend in the making.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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