Get to Know: Members of Arcfield's Leadership Team Discuss Priorities, People and Growth – WashingtonExec

Members of Arcfield’s leadership team call the company a “60-year startup,” one that’s still growing, building its culture, strengthening its workforce and adding to its capabilities.
So, how do its C-suite executives some who have worked together for years, and some who are new synergize and collaborate under one common strategy and mission? To find out, WashingtonExec caught up Arcfield’s CEO Kevin Kelly, Chief Growth Officer John Avalos, Chief Operating Officer Robert Gallegos and Chief Technology Officer Ted Fidder.
Below, we discuss their roles, priorities, how they help form the company’s overall goals and more.
Editor’s Note: Responses have been edited for clarity.
Kelly: As CEO, the principal role that I carry forward is to develop and implement the company’s strategy. Everything from how we face our government customers and understand their challenges, to how we build the organization around our increasing ability to meet those challenges and try to understand what the future looks like.  
One of the most important questions I ask our customers is: What keeps you up at night? Helping us understand what we need to be investing in the mission, in our people and in technology so that we can be there for them in the long term.
And I’d say second most importantly, is the focus on culture. I’m a big, big believer in company culture ⏤ a culture of innovation, a culture that puts the mission first in everything that we do, and a culture of collaboration, openness and focusing on our ability to impact the mission in a very technology-centric, innovative way.
Gallegos: As a chief operating officer, my responsibility is to take that vision and that strategy, something that Kevin’s very good at, and look at where we are as a company operationally and bridge the gap between those two. It’s very much aligned by our charter, which is “mission first,” closely followed by taking care of our employees.
We believe that we’re going to have a very prosperous and successful business. It’s a recipe that we worked on and used before in previous instantiations of this leadership team, and very confident it’s going to work here at Arcfield as well.
The nice thing about what we’ve got here at Arcfield is a group of people where the vision is in their DNA. Our job is to shape it, direct them and then work with our owners to make sure that we realize this vision. We’re very passionate about the mission of national security and that’s the key ingredient to the success of growing this company.
Avalos: As the chief growth officer, I oversee day-to-day operations of the business development organization, closely working with Robert, Ted and Kevin, in aligning our business development pursuits to the strategy of where we want to go as a company.
Pursuing a profitable business means going up the value chain with our customers’ mission needs, as well as delivering our customers the most innovative technologies and elevating the way we are seen within the community.
As a new company, we’re establishing our brand simultaneously, working with the marketing department, but also working closely with our operations teams and their customers to make sure they understand how we’re there to serve their needs and support taking their mission success to the next level.
Fidder: My major role is looking at the technologies ⏤ not only technologies that we currently are employing ⏤ but technologies we need to be employing in the future. I’ve been doing this job for about 25 years throughout various instantiations, and one of the things that’s really interesting about Arcfield is that it’s a 60-year startup.
So, while we’re just starting up, there’s a lot of people here who have been doing certain roles in the company for a very long time. I can echo strongly what both Kevin and Robert said: People really do matter. So, getting them excited about not only the current mission that they’re doing, but also the future missions, is critical for the success of the company.

Kelly: Understanding what mission challenges our customers believe they are facing. We can all read statements of work. We know what RFPs we responded to. We know what our past performance is, not unlike any other government contractor. We understand the blocking and tackling of normal GovCon engagements.
One of the most important conversations we can have, though, is: What’s keeping you up at night? What can’t you do? How is the mission environment changing? 
A lot of companies are going through transitions, taking companies originally built to address the war on terror ⏤ an asymmetric warfare environment, to one that is much more centered on dealing with nation states or well-organized, well-funded adversaries. The solutions that we bring to market need to be able to address not only the U.S., but also all the allied nation’s defense, the defense of democracy globally and freedom.
Our role from a technology standpoint is to provide those solutions that give our government decision makers, our policy makers and our military, a view over the horizon.  
Gallegos: Probably the most important thing in the learning in the first seven months and a primary objective for the rest of the year is maintain our core business. We’ve got a really strong base of customers, many decades in certain cases, and we must make sure we don’t break anything.  
We really want to reshape this company from being a pure service provider to one that uses technology as the base to deliver those services. Maybe we’ll get more into products and solutions as well, and that’s part of the strategy, but it is also based on the foundation of technology as a competitive advantage for our customers and their respective mission.  
Avalos: We are a company made up of multiple different companies. So, I’m focused on coalescing around a strategy about how we grow the business, where we grow the business and ensuring that we have an adaptable way of doing so that includes the operational team as well as the business development organization.  
I didn’t get here untill the end of March, so the BD team is still forming. As a priority, I’m focused on getting that team built, getting the right processes that are agile and that serves the right needs for the company, getting the framework put in place and getting people rallied around the same objectives. 
Fidder: A lot of us have not been here that long. And so a good piece of it is not only understanding the current technology, but really understanding the people too. Because as I mentioned before, people really do matter, and you need to understand who those innovators in the company are.  
This company is steeped with some very, very experienced people, who I am very excited to work with. It’s important to get them to come to the table and talk to us about their ideas for things that we should be investing in.
My focus in the next few months is looking at those technologies that we need to continue to bring into the company ⏤ whether they’re through acquisition or they’re through investment ⏤ and then building that strategy around them to meet the objectives that Kevin has laid out. 
Kelly: You’ve heard a lot about the employees, the mission, the technology, building the base, the foundation of the company. Our No. 1 priority, something that we measure our effectiveness with across the leadership team and across the entire employee base, is defending that base of business.  
We have a 60-year history. For a startup, that’s a pretty valuable foundation to work upon. We really want to build upon that success, finding ways that we can leverage the good work of the past ⏤ some of the investments in the past in people and facilities and tools and ideas, customer relationships, building trust ⏤ and then leverage that as we attempt to grow the business.  
As the threat environment is changing into the near-peer, well-organized, non-asymmetric type warfare, we’re finding ways to leverage our capabilities that do exist or the ones that we’re investing in, to explore new markets in terms of growth and bringing those solutions to current and future customers. 
For example, we have the standup of the U.S. Space Force Cyber Command growing over the last half decade or more as they seek to prosecute new and evolving target areas. That’s an area where we can add specific expertise.
Our expertise in space is decades-long and the space environment, even beyond the Space Force ⏤ like the ability to do sensing, remote communications, secure communications, processing and space ⏤ those open up whole new growth opportunities for us, not only in our traditional intelligence and DOD customers, but even in the civilian government and potentially even some commercial environments.    
Avalos: The threat environment that we’re ready to address is one that many other companies are also looking at going after. The one thing, I think, that sets us apart is trying to reimagine the way we prosecute those challenges, and not just going after them in the traditional way. To take the expertise and knowledge we have within the current portfolio of business, but to also reimagine the way we support our customers, whether through partnerships, or through the IRAD program, or whether it’s through the way the procurement structure’s put up.
We’re getting ahead of the opportunity, helping the customer understand how they can get a better solution and achieve better outcomes through a dialogue with industry, and helping them understand a better path to achieve their objectives.  
Fidder: Nothing happens by itself. As we look at whether or not we’re making investments into the future, John and I spend a great deal of time together talking about where things need to go from a growth standpoint. Robert and I have worked together in the past and worked together on making sure that those operational issues are addressed.  
We had an innovation program that just kicked off few months ago and we gave a prototype to a customer and the customer came back with: “Yes, that’s possible.” The employees so proud that they were able to get that kind of response from a customer. That makes it so much easier to work as a team because you’re seeing progress being made.
Avalos: When I came into this organization, knowing that some of the leadership team had a lot of history together, that was a bit daunting but also exciting. After being here a couple of months, Kevin’s leadership and the collective team have been great to work with. I think that the culture they’ve established, the people that they are, the leaders that they are ⏤ it makes for a very collaborative organization.
We have a whole slew of executives in this company that bring in a wealth of experience and expertise in their related domains, so I think that that’s been the easy part, and I think it starts from the top.  
As a new company, we’re doing a lot to stand the company up. The way we operate the business to how we prosecute new business, to how we recruit, retain and build culture, those are all being done as we grow and as we move along here. And we’re all able to participate in that. I think there’s a lot more to come that’s going to be exciting for our employees and our customers.    
Gallegos: There’s a certain chemistry that just works. The reason I came back to work was the same reason as Ted: It’s because of the team. Obviously, knowing about the mission, caring about people and being aligned on those cultural values is huge. That’s our great strength in terms of how we work together and quite frankly, how we’re going to make this a successful company going forward.  
Kelly: I love hearing the team talk about how we work together. It’s an awful lot of fun. I believe establishing a culture of trust amongst the leadership team is probably the most important thing, and we rely on that trust. That’s part of our trade every single day.
That trust is established through proving that you can be trusted with difficult situations, but also being able to work in an environment where you can talk openly about what the challenges are before us, where we’re succeeding, and having the leadership team circle around whatever that issue is and offering solutions. It really goes a long way towards establishing trust amongst the team.  
That includes not playing “gotcha.” If there’s any squeaky wheels in the system, we all own them, so we might as well focus our attention on addressing them. And that’s a culture that I like to promote and one that I find that high functioning leadership teams like to operate in. You’ve got to start with a team that is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of competency and experience.  
I’m so proud to work amongst this team that’s got such a diverse background in commercial and software and hardware and government services. People that have served in the military, people that have been on the political side, people that have come from all walks of life, will bring their experiences to the table. And we really benefit from that. That’s something that I think most leadership teams seek to do. In order to retain those people, you’ve got to create that environment. 
One last thing I’ll leave you with is I look for multi-sport athletes in these positions. I look for a security person that can talk to me about motivating personnel, someone in human resources who can think about long-term financial planning and how we’re going to enable the business through the return on invested assets.
I look for those multi-sport athletes who can really add a lot and bring a lot to the table and then give them an important role to make sure that they have an opportunity to deliver. At the end of the day, you have to be passionate about what we do in our mission. 
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