By Heather Seftel-Kirk, FedHealthIT.com
Mike Carrier is a leader in corporate development strategy and execution, business development operations, capture, marketing, and client relationship management. He has been a Primary Corporate Executive liaison to the Federal Government and has developed in depth client relationships with Federal and Commercial executives including organizations such as DHS, HHS, and others. He is currently Chairman at Ventech Solutions.
FedHealthIT: What are some lessons you have learned over the years?
Mike Carrier: The first thing I’ve learned is that you have to always be prepared because you never know where your next opportunity will come from. That means attending industry days – whether you’re interested in the specific topic being presented that day or not – because Government officials are busy people and the chance to be at an event with someone you want to meet and will be there is invaluable. It means listening and being open at every meeting, social event, or industry day because you never know what will spark a conversation or where that conversation will lead. BD never sleeps-Mike Carrier @WeAreVentech Click To Tweet
The second thing it’s important to understand is that doing business with the Federal Government is like being in a court of law. All of the relevant suppliers will present their cases and then the jury goes off – behind closed doors – to decide. As a supplier, you have no part in that conversation except what you put on paper and no insight into what’s going on behind the scenes. You can have a spot-on proposal (from your perspective), have done everything right, and not get the contract. Get a debrief when offered, learn from it, and don’t get discouraged. You may never know the exact reason why or what the decision was based on but you have to keep moving forward. Don’t get too low when you lose or too high when you win because in this business you will do both.
FedHealthIT: What do you see as some of the trends coming for 2017?
Mike Carrier: That’s always an interesting question. After a presidential election, things are always going to be different one way or the other. Every four years the wheel spins and the industry has to figure out where it will stop. You can marginalize the amount of guessing that needs to be done by reading and listening, but ultimately you have to be ready to adapt.
I think there are a couple of key areas though that are going to see a lot of growth and focus. The first is cyber and here I’m talking about security and privacy of information. That will be a big one and anyone with capabilities in that area should be ready to respond.
The second area is data analytics. Everyone is using data analytics these days from sports teams to healthcare and law enforcement. Individuals are a function of their actions so if you can track those actions enough, if you can analyze them to get to their source, you capture the ability to work from a predictive environment, rather than one based on speculation.
Another area I think is going to be big is legacy system modernization and migration. When I started working with the Federal Government, we were using systems that had been integrated in World War II or the Korean War. Those same systems were still in place when I retired. For anyone with capabilities here, this is a huge opportunity to do business with government.
FedHealthIT: What is the key to developing strong relationships?
Mike Carrier: First you have to make the connection. I mentioned earlier that assuming every event you attend could be the ‘right place at the right time’ and that is important in this context as well. Knowing who you want to connect with at those events is easy. There was a time you had to pay for lists, now you can just google to find who does what with what agency, and therefore, who you want to be connecting with. The other thing that’s important is to pay attention and to know who you’re meeting at a deeper level. A lot of agencies, or individuals inside agencies, use blogs. Add to that Facebook and Linkedin and you can get a lot of groundwork information about the people you want to be meeting and doing business with.
Once you’ve had the meeting or made the connection, it is so important to follow up. People do business with people they know and like so don’t be the person who makes the one call and then wonders why they never hear from them again. Be the person who stays in touch. Even if that means you have one good contact instead of 15, that one good contact is far more valuable than the 15 who will mean nothing.
When I say ‘people do business with people they know and like’, sometimes that means you need to be open to sharing information. If a contact is looking for someone to provide another product or service and you have a contact you trust, share it. It shows goodwill and puts you on a different level with your customer.
FedHealthIT: How do you decide on a focus strategy for your business and for dealing with clients?
Mike Carrier: That is probably the toughest decision you’ll have to make. The trick is balancing focus with vision. When it comes to your client you need to know their vision and how it relates to your own.
In terms of your own business you need to determine where you are now, figure out where you want to go and then determine how best to build a bridge between the two. Companies need to invest a step or two ahead of where they currently are and often that means investing. Installing a sales or business development team who will hit the ground every morning thinking about how to grow the business. The biggest mistake small businesses make is having the owner do it all because that’s what they think they can afford. You also have to have a back office strategy. Different contracts require different infrastructure. For example cost plus contracts require audit compliant financial systems — recognize that there are products out there that are viewed as benchmarks.
It’s important in the context of focus as well to be able to do what I call a gut check when it comes to core competencies. Having core competencies are all well and good but if there is no market for it you have to be able to adjust, or to abandon ship when it comes to these.
FedHealthIT: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Mike Carrier: We may live in a big city but it’s also a small community. I believe it’s important for people to not be afraid to reach out and for us all to be willing to open up to connecting with people and to lending a hand, giving advice, or sharing a connection where it’s needed.
Ventech Solutions is a 21 year old IT solutions and services firm headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. Their core strengths are: application modernization strategy and deployment; systems operations, support and sustainment; data center operations and support; systems development and integration; software testing and quality management; and data management solutions.