WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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Dirty Harry and the government contractor

I had lunch earlier this week with the senior management team of Indus Corp. ? founder and Chief Executive Officer Shiv Krishnan, Vice Chairman Carleton Jones and Chief Operating Officer Mark Gray.

It was a casual lunch. No notebooks or tape recorders. My associate editor David Hubler was along as well. We were catching up on the market and Indus' place in it.

One thing they emphasized was that they are not for sale. Krishnan couldn't have said it stronger. That was the rumor when Jones came on board several months ago. He's the former Sysorex and Vanstar executive, who most recently was CEO of Multimax Inc., which Harris Corp. acquired last year.

Krishnan definitely wanted to put to rest the rumor that Jones joined the company to help sell it. The opposite is true. Jones and Gray, who was an executive at Anteon International Corp., are there to help get Indus from the $100 million level to the $300 million and beyond level.

To do that, the company needed the right people who know how to build the infrastructure to pursue and win contracts and then deliver on them.

As we talked about the challenges faced by small and mid-sized companies, my mind went back to two famous quotes.

Socrates, who said: "Know Thyself."

And in Magnum Force, Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry utters the immortal line: "A man's got to know his limitations."

As different as the sources are, these two quotes deliver a similar message and it is one the executives from Indus know well.

"On any given day, I know we can beat a team from any other large company," Krishnan said. But the difficulty comes in having the ability to beat that larger company day in and day out, everyday. That is a bar that is nearly impossible for a small or mid-sized company to cross.

The key to success then is knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are so you know how to best deploy your limited resources. Gray said a company needs to carefully pick which contracts and task orders to pursue because they know they can't chase everything.

If, as Socrates and Dirty Harry said, you don't know your company and its limitations, then you risk throwing good money away and wasting resources. You'll end up making bad choices ? choices that can saddle you with a record for poor performance and a damaged reputation.

I guess every company needs to have a little bit of Dirty Harry and Socrates in their corporate DNA.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jul 24, 2008 at 9:55 AM

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