By Heather Seftel-Kirk, FedHealthIT Contributing Author
Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with Jared Shepard, President and CEO of Intelligent Waves (IW) LLC, a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), about lessons learned and his expectations looking forward.
Jared spent more than 46 months deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a technical advisor to DoD. He used his priorities of mission and service, and his focus on tactical, technical and strategic initiatives as the basis for Intelligent Waves, which he founded in 2006. He continues to apply these same skills today. According to the company’s website, “IW has expanded its support from the DoD into the VA, and enhanced its offerings from IT Services to include Value Added Reseller (VAR), and Operations and Intelligence support.” In addition to Intelligent Waves, Jared found a way to give back, as the founder of Warriors Ethos, a veteran transition focused non-profit.
How has your company evolved over time?
IW started out as a “Mission First” focused company, where people and expertise were priority. As a business that was established and grew alongside the warfighter in the most difficult battlefields in the world, we wanted to ensure we could help innovate and employ modern and emerging technology while remaining responsible, efficient, and accountable to the customer.
We quickly became known as one of the best tactical IT companies around. We were proud of that, but being just tactical was limiting in scope, so we decided to explore how we could bring lessons from the tactical environment into the strategic problem set. Because we wanted to stay true to who we are, we pursued our support of the “mission” by following the Veteran into Healthcare, focused on bringing our vast technical experiences into Veterans Affairs.
What are some of the lessons you have learned?
We saw very quickly that there is a lot of stigma over being SDVOSB, what it is, and its value. [Being an SDVOSB] isn’t just a meal ticket, it requires a proficiency, a unique approach, and the capability of bringing value to the table. This can mean carving a niche, bringing experience, building a team of people and knowledge that a prime you want to support doesn’t have or lacks full understanding of to enhance their potential to win work, or succeed at the task. Ultimately, we’re making a difference for Veterans, but how do we get there?
What is the real role of the business owner?
When you own a business, you need to understand pretty quickly that the business isn’t who you are, but who your team is. It is important to make deliberate decisions to bring in the right kind of people – people who can help the organization grow and thrive, people who bring value, rather than simply people you believe you can trust . Keep your business and friendships black and white—while they can coexist, they must have a clear line of separation.
When you focus on this – building the right team, and then taking care of the people you bring on, everything else can be built from there. People spend too much time worrying about bottom lines and so on; put your mission first. Second are your people who will deliver that mission. If you do those two things, then everything else tends to fall into place.
It’s also important to keep people focused on their key roles—this includes me! Some people say that every member of the team should be involved in business development, but I think that can compromise the trust the client has in us when they’re getting hit with that at every turn. Let BD people focus on that and everyone else focus on their part of the mission and the customer. The best BD in the world is a job well done.
What do you anticipate for the months ahead?
I think we can all admit there have been challenges with the current political climate. I believe there is money that has been identified and that money will have to be spent; and, at some point there will need to be a resolution on how to get that money out. There are additional funding efforts in Congress and Senate as we speak. The result will be similar to a firehose, with money pouring out quickly and in large volume. Every agency has executive positions listed as vacant and many are part of the acquisitions chain. This has created a lot of dams in the chain, but that money has to start moving.
What do you anticipate in terms of technology?
I expect in terms of technology that we’re going to see a greater focus on cybersecurity, that it will become less a feature and more a mandatory function. I also believe that as we become more proficient with respect to IoT, which we’re seeing emerging across the market, more agencies will be adopting policies and plans to embrace the opportunity.
Tell us more about Warriors Ethos
As a Veteran, a business owner, and as an American, I pledged to find a way to give back to those who serve our country. There are many great non-profit organizations out there, and what we felt when we started this was, we want to help transition Veterans, in whatever way possible.
Transitioning is scary and intimidating; there is no one agency that truly effectively addresses this. If you doubt the challenges, you have only to look at the rates of divorce, homelessness, and suicide. We hear about this daily, but what we often overlook are the positive numbers: like, with less than two percent of our population being Veterans, we still own almost 10 percent of all business in America. That is a sound investment!
Bottom line: Warriors Ethos is about focusing on a Veteran’s next step; on new, successful careers for Veterans and their families. We’re focused on career planning, professional development, and placement. We hope to change the way Veterans transition. If we can help them move beyond jobs, to finding new careers, then we’ll consider that a successful effort.
Intelligent Waves provides IT networking and services design, execution and sustainment. The company’s capabilities include full spectrum technologies and services support for a deployed environment; operations and intelligence analytics; cyber analytics and threat intelligence; knowledge management; vendor technologies integration and full cycle support; and advanced storage solutions.
Warriors Ethos is focused on giving back and paying it forward for Veterans through support for their transition to civilian life. Focused on opportunities that will generate successful career options for Veterans and their families, the organization is focused on changing the way Veterans transition.