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When Judy Bjornaas first arrived at ManTech International eight years ago, the company relied on a variety of processes and policies that were widely accepted across its various parts—not because they were efficient or cost-effective, but because they were widely accepted.
Not unlike many companies that have enjoyed a steady diet of success, ManTech had, over its decades (the firm celebrated 50 years in 2018), adopted the old mantra “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” as part of its list of cultural dictums. However, shortly after her arrival, Bjornaas began advancing her own watchwords: “Always question everything—and don’t assume that we have to do something the same way that we’ve done it in the past.”
This new mantra was no doubt a neck-snapper for executives who found comfort in the status quo, and it simultaneously solidified Bjornaas’s credentials as not just a finance leader but also a change agent.
“I realized that I could add a lot of value to the company by sort of pushing things along,” says Bjornaas, who characterized her blunt approach as being almost like that of an inquisitive five-year-old. “I’d ask, ‘But why do we do it this way?,’ and I’d receive an answer to which I would then reply ‘But why?’” –Jack Sweeney jb
Guest: Judy Bjornaas
Company: ManTech International
Headquarters: Herndon, VA
CFOTL: What would be those top-of-mind numbers that you find yourself routinely looking at?
Bjornaas: You know, I think that our backlog and bookings are really the things that I focus on over the longer term—revenue growth metrics. Most of our contracts are between 5 and 10 years in length, so as your backlog grows, this gives you a lot of long-term visibility into what your revenue is going to be in the future. So that one is a big one. The labor market is very tight, so I spend a lot of time looking at how our labor is growing. How many open requisitions do we have, and how fast are we getting people in? The other advantage with government contracting is that typically the new contracts are a consolidation or a re-compete of someone else’s work. So there is usually some level of existing staff that you get to bring in, and then you supplement that for growth. Labor is a key metric that I monitor.
Then, obviously, margins are very top-of-mind. I think that it really boils down to the element of the government regulations. I think that the government really wants to work with the Silicon Valley companies and bring in their technology, but I can tell you that those companies don’t want the Defense Contract Audit Agency coming in and seeing how much money they’re spending on parties and what their executive comp is. So for us it is really much more around how we work with the government and how we set up our rates to be competitive while also being compliant with the regulations. This definitely is a big element of a government contractor CFO’s role. It would not necessarily be something that a commercial company CFO would deal with. jb