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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

GovCon winners feel the squeeze

Some of the best government contractors in the market were on hand last night for the 11th annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards gala.

Produced by the Professional Services Council and the Fairfax County, Va., Chamber of Commerce, the event recognizes some of the best and brightest among small, midsize and large contractors.

Each winner gets a few moments on the stage to thank colleagues, family, employees and customers. There is usually a funny quote or two, and a sentimental statement about the influence of parents, spouses or other mentors. Click here for a list of all the winners.

But this year, an interesting theme emerged from many of the winners, particularly the small and midsize companies.

Executives such as Brad Antle, CEO of Salient Federal Solutions, the winning contractor of the year in the $75 million to $300 million category, talked about how much they want to grow out of that midsize category.

Similar comments came from executives from XLA, contractor of the year in the $25 million to $75 million category and Credence Management Solutions LLC, contractor of the year in the under $25 million category.

Of course, every company wants to grow, but it was the way they talked about getting bigger that struck me. Their desire for growth recognizes a tough reality of today’s market.

With so much uncertainty, delays and budget pressures, small and midsize companies are getting squeezed. Sure, large businesses feel the pressure too, but they have access to resources that most small and midsize companies do not.

The desire to grow out of the small and midsize categories is as much about survival as it is financial gain.

That was the big lesson for me from the GovCon awards this year.

Another highlight was Ernst Volgenau, SRA International’s founder. He received the hall of fame award.

Volgenau is one of the pioneers of the government IT market, and he joined past honorees such as Norm Augustine, Charles Rossotti, Phil Odeen and Jack London.

Always a class act, Volgenau said he was accepting the award “on behalf of the past and present executives leading SRA.”

He pointed out current CEO Bill Ballhaus, who was in attendance, as well as Ted Legasey.

“Ted Legasey joined me as SRA’s second employee,” Volgenau said. “Sara, my wife, wasn’t an employee because I didn’t want to pay her, but she was there too.”

That line drew one of the biggest laughs of the night.

But Volgenau was serious as well when he talked about leading a company with high standards. “Like a lot of companies, we had challenges and we made mistakes, but if you are committed to serving your country, taking care of your employees and practicing high ethical standards, you can succeed,” he said. “A company with high principles can be a success.”

One of the best quotes of the night came from Kymm McCabe, CEO of ASI Government. She was named executive of the year in the less than $75 million category.

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach there is, and there are still going to be people who don’t like peaches,” she said. Her message: Be yourself.

And finally, the annual GovCon awards raises money for a charity. This year, $11,000 was raised via a raffle for Operation Renewed Hope, an organization that provides housing and other support services to homeless veterans.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 08, 2013 at 9:49 AM

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