Executive Spotlight: Michael Polmar, GCO of Bart & Associates
Michael Polmar, chief growth officer for Bart & Associates, recently participated in an Executive Spotlight interview with the Potomac Officers Club to talk about building a successful company culture, achieving professional growth and reshaping the GovCon market to facilitate better public-private engagement. Polmar — whose GovCon career has spanned companies like ManTech, SAIC and AT&T — was appointed B&A CGO in April 2022.
With emerging technology influencing the federal government and industry more by the day, what are some of the challenges on the business side of innovation that are not always discussed as often as they should be?
“One of the key challenges for injecting innovation into any effort from a business perspective is determining the value of that innovation to the client. It is critical that industry understands the value that U.S. government decision makers assign for specific innovations. This is not always apparent in the procurement process, nor through the contract lifecycle. There are often disconnects, which make it more difficult for the government customer to take full advantage of innovations being offered by industry. Consistent and detailed communications between government decision makers and industry, especially new market entrants, will help ensure that industry fully understands where clients want innovation and how they value it.”
How would you describe your management style and core values towards building a winning culture?
“Working as a technology service provider, our primary deliverable to clients is highly-skilled, client-focused professionals. If skilled professionals are what you provide, your management style and core values must reflect this. Ensuring that a firm recruits, trains and retains the best people has more to do with values, culture and management style than anything else. This is especially true now, when creating culture is more complicated in a virtual or hybrid world. Over 20 years ago, I was fortunate to serve in my first vice president role, and from that point forward, focusing on people has been at the core of my management style. Building a culture around people doesn’t mean everyone gets a trophy, but it does mean management can provide opportunity for growth and satisfaction while still driving results for clients and shareholders, all in an effort to build a great workplace.”
How would you advise someone entering our industry to build their resume and advance their careers to be in the best position in the years to come?
“From a mentoring perspective, I always go back to what are the individual’s interests and what do they want to accomplish. Traditionally, someone new to the U.S. government contracting market will gravitate toward program work or business operations (finance, HR, contracts, etc.). I think it is equally important for young professionals to experience working for a large systems integrator and a smaller, more focused firm. In our market, it is important to understand how each type of company operates and to build one’s professional network across both segments. I also recommend that as a professional progresses in their career, that they pursue a wide variety of experiences including being a team leader and an individual contributor at all levels of responsibility.”
If you were given free rein to enact changes in the federal landscape, what are the first three changes you would implement and why?
“This is a great question, and I know most of my colleagues have strong opinions of what needs to change in our market. The first three changes I would implement are:
- Expand Budget Cycle: Modify the single-year budget cycle to a two- or three-year cycle. There are specific areas, inclusive of commercial services and advanced technology, in which having a one-year budget cycle significantly reduces the odds of successful outcomes at the favorable price for the U.S. government.
- Create a Mid-Market SBA Category: Modify the small business program to incentivize smaller mid-tier firms. Too many small businesses graduate and then struggle to make it in the mid-market. One option would be to create a smaller mid-market category with some level of reduced preferential treatment. There are currently not enough small mid-market firms in the U.S. government ecosystem, and the lack of these firms has led to a polarized market with most of the service providers either under the small business thresholds or above the $250 million+ revenue threshold.
- Improve Procurement Interactions: Improve government and industry interaction regarding procurements. When the U.S. government determines a procurement will be a best value decision, many in industry still do not know what the client values most despite the verbiage in section M. The scorecard system is a good approach for large IDIQ vehicles, but for task orders and stand-alone contracts, a more detailed description of how the client will truly evaluate the proposals, followed by in-person or virtual discussions is critical.”
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