Interview: E-gov is evolution in action

Roger Mody founded Signal Corp. of Fairfax, Va., an IT and engineering management company, 15 years ago. Government clients include the military services, Customs Service, General Services Administration, Patent and Trademark Office, Social Security Administration and Transportation Department.

The company's revenues totaled $252 million last year, and Mody said he expects to finish 2002 at $304 million. In 1997, Signal voluntarily graduated early from the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program.

In 1997, Mody received Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year award. Signal has made Washington Techway's Fast 50 list of fast-growing technology companies, Deloitte & Touche's Fast 500 and Inc. magazine's 500 list.

Mody was named to the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority in 1999 and is a member of the Washington Redskins Leadership Council.

GCN associate editor Dipka Bhambhani interviewed Mody by telephone.

What's more


Family: Two sons and a daughter

Car currently driven: Mercedes S500

Last book read: Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch and John A. Byrne

Last movie seen: "We Were Soldiers"

Favorite Web site: yahoo.com

Leisure activities: Golf and travel

Interview highlights:

GCN: Which agencies does Signal Corp. most often work for?

MODY: For the Transportation Department, we were one of the original 13 awardees of an IT omnibus blanket purchasing agreement in 1997. It was a five-year, $1.3 billion BPA, and we were a small business at the time.

That contract just closed out, and we gathered some data recently from Transportation that said we were the No. 1 revenue generator on that vehicle competing against the likes of Computer Sciences Corp., DynCorp, Science Applications International Corp. and some other brand-name technology companies.

We've been heavily involved with the Patent and Trademark Office. We started there seven years ago with a six-person contract working for the Office of System Architecture and Engineering. We currently have 70 technology professionals working at the PTO facility in Arlington, Va.

We've been a General Services Administration schedule contract holder now for five years. If you purged the hardware vendors from the list of the top schedule providers, we would rank in the top 15 under annualized revenue in excess of $45 million a year.

GCN: Do you think the Bush administration's e-government initiatives are a technological revolution?

MODY: I wouldn't say a revolution as much as an evolution. We continue to see emerging technologies that the government is adopting.
Since Sept. 11, for example, the government has become interested in secure wireless communications. That technology has existed for many years. Now, they're vectoring in on how it can be adapted for government purposes.

GCN: During these volatile economic times, what's the key to survival for government technology vendors?

MODY: Look at growth records over the past six or seven years. I think a company needs to be large enough not to present a risk to the government, yet agile enough and maybe small enough to be dynamic in responding to requirements expeditiously.

In the past we might have had a month or two to staff up for jobs. Now, with some of the real-time requirements, you need to staff up in a matter of weeks. So the more nimble and dynamic a company is, the greater success I think it's going to have over the next several years.

You don't want to be so large that the time to process new requirements with new employees impacts your ability to support the government in a real-time capacity. But you also can't be so small that you don't have the resources or the internal infrastructure to get it done.

GCN: What has it been like to leave the 8(a) program?

MODY: I was in business for five years prior to obtaining 8(a) certification in 1992. We were earning revenues in excess of $5 million at that time. We used the program as it was designedÑas a developmental tool, not a crutch.

It's a nine-year program, but after five years I realized that the Small Business Administration was working with limited resources with companies much smaller than Signal.

So we voluntarily left the program. We wanted to prove to our people and to our clients that we could sustain the organization without 8(a). Since 1997, we've tripled our size, all organically.

Doing business with the government over the past five years has been a lot easier than it was prior to that, largely due to procurement streamlining and the efficiencies that the government is realizing.
Agencies should be applauded for being as large as they are and working as expeditiously as they have in the streamlining of procurement.

GSA was the trailblazer for making doing business with the government more commercial. Others saw GSA's successes and have followed suit. All of our clients, Defense or civilian, are doing business quicker, smarter and fiscally more efficiently.

GCN: Where is your company headed?

MODY: I'm a big believer in the old adage that if isn't broke, don't fix it. Three years ago we were in a situation where we could have pulled out a lot of the dot-com revenue that we had and spun it off as a public company. At the eleventh hour, we decided to stay focused on our original mission: to be a provider of technology services and not get caught up in the dot-com hype.

Looking forward, the federal budget is going to increase exponentially over the next five to seven years.

We know it's a growth market. I think it's imperative to stay focused on the principles that got us from Point A to Point B. I don't think we're going to be offering new services per se, but I think you'll see vertical and horizontal growth in the agencies that we're in.

GCN: There's been talk on Capitol Hill about a decrease in government outsourcing. Do you feel any financial threat from that?

MODY: That's not something we spend a lot of time thinking about. They're looking at it hard, but it's going to be difficult to offset the financial economies that the government can realize by continuing to outsource and to increase its outsourcing.

Congressional committees may be looking into it, but there are still day-to-day requirements that need to be filled.

GCN: Have you seen much demand from the military to outsource IT and engineering services to concentrate their personnel in traditional warfighting roles?

MODY: I think we're heading in that direction. Any government agency, especially a Defense agency, has to reprioritize the mission objectives. As their vision becomes clearer, so will the efforts of the contractors supporting them.

GCN: What government trends do you want to capitalize on?

MODY: The secure network environment is one area. We're already involved with many agencies on the integration side of it. What we want to do is expand into the secure side of the networks, wireless or otherwise.

GCN: What is your company doing to support the war against terrorism?

MODY: Signal personnel at Langley Air Force Base, Va., are helping with the daily flight logistics for every Air Force sortie worldwide.
On Sept. 9, we were awarded a task order to support Aerospace Expeditionary Forces. That agency's mission is to logistically track all fighter jets based at Langley. Two days into the job, the war on terrorism began, and we started running staggered shifts, 24 by seven, for about two-and-a-half months straight.

In Norfolk, Va., our personnel are assisting the Navy with the fleet modernization program. We're also assisting the Pentagon renovation effort and are active with the Coast Guard's modernization as well.

GCN: What's your management theory?

MODY: I call it managing by the pyramid approach. We have customer objectives, employee objectives and corporate objectives that must be equally satisfied. If any point of that pyramid becomes skewed, then the approach collapses.

For 15 years, it has protected our clients, our people and our bottom line.

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