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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Advice: Don't overlook boring business opportunities

John Hillen offered some simple but direct advice Tuesday night to companies looking for growth opportunities in the federal market.

It’s an old Army Cavalry expression: Go where the enemy ain’t.

Hillen was part of our Contractor & Cocktails panel addressing the impact of the mid-term elections. He spoke along with Professional Services Council President Stan Soloway and Jason Kaufman, a principal at the Chertoff Group.

The conversation drifted toward opportunities and priorities for executives over the coming months, and Kaufman voiced some caution about the typical hot lanes of opportunity: cyber, cloud, mobile, health care and data analytics.

Yes, the government is spending here and there are plenty of companies that are doing well in those areas, but there are also are plenty not doing so well, Kaufman said.

It’s crowded and very competitive, he said.

That’s when Hillen spoke up with the quote often attributed to Confederate Civil War General Jeb Stuart, a renowned cavalry man.

Hillen spoke about how he is working with a group that pairs CEOs and former CEOs, such as himself, with professional athletes.

“So many of them want to open a nightclub or a restaurant,” Hillen said.

They want prestige and glamour, “but what they should open is a laundromat,” he said.

It’s lower risk, and it throws off a lot of cash, Hillen said.

The equivalent in the government market is areas such as base operations support and training, Hillen said.

“They are very successful and produce a lot of cash,” Kaufman added.

The lesson is that there may be hot, sexy segments of the market, but they also bring more competition, require more investment and are riskier.

Don’t overlook the less popular – and less crowded -- parts of the market if you are looking for growth.

In other words – boring and cash are very attractive attributes.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 19, 2014 at 6:17 AM


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