Learning from people
- By Michael Hardy
- May 10, 2004
When Anteon International Corp. president and chief executive officer Joseph Kampf looks back over his career, the highlights are some of the people he has worked with, and the lessons he learned from each of them.
"All people in all industries who have succeeded have something in their background that's unique," he said. "For me, I have a long trail of assignments with unique individuals."
Kampf's trail started in the early 1970s when he joined Universe Tankships Co. as a senior analyst. Daniel Ludwig, who was the wealthiest man in the United States, owned the company.
Kampf undertook several projects early on but gradually worked more on planning for a forest products company that would be based in Brazil's Amazon Rainforest. Ultimately, he went to work for that subsidiary.
From Ludwig, who had started with tanker ships and developed a diverse company with holdings ranging from industrial products to luxury hotels, Kampf learned how to size up opportunities, he said.
"I got very good at reading people and knowing how to motivate people," he said.
Although the job didn't pay a great deal, Kampf stayed with it. "I worked 18 or 20 hours a day, I did this for eight or nine years, and Ludwig reaped all the benefits," he said. "But I knew then what my goal was, and I was more than willing to pay my dues and bank the experience."
In 1980, Kampf became chief financial officer at Adena Corp., an oil and gas exploration company based in New York. He formed a partnership with Joseph D'Andrea, an investment banker at Lazard Freres and Co. D'Andrea served as chairman and CEO at Adena. They sold the company in 1985 when oil prices dropped from $44 a barrel to $14.
Kampf learned to set his sights high from D'Andrea. "He was a very successful investor," Kampf said. "He was extremely tough, so he set very lofty objectives."
In 1986, Kampf joined Penn Central Corp. as chief financial and administrative officer. Penn Central, made up of a family of professional services firms, brought him to a headquarters in Alexandria, Va., where Kampf worked for CEO Gil Decker. Decker is now an executive vice president for Walt Disney Imagineering.
Kampf left Penn Central in 1993, and in 1995 bought a professional services firm called Ogden Professional Services Corp., which became Anteon. He has led the company to grow from $100 million in annual revenues to more than $1 billion. He is trying to develop a higher profile for the firm.
One way Kampf builds success is by treating others in the company as valued contributors, said Seymour Moskowitz, Anteon's executive vice president of technology. He's worked with Kampf for 18 years.
"He's a very social guy," Moskowitz said. "He likes to have the senior corporate management bond together. He creates social activities, a dinner occasionally, he has offsite meetings. He's very sensitive to people's thoughts and impressions. He doesn't close them out. He seeks them out."
The Joseph Kampf file
Title: President and chief executive officer of Anteon International Corp.
Education: Bachelor of arts in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1966.
Family: Married, two children. No grandchildren yet, but he is hopeful.
Quote: "When I was in school, I only wanted to be a CEO. I think it's not
dissimilar to the thoughts young athletes have. They all want to be a pro, and they work and work and work at that."