10 Questions for Array Information Technology CFO Bob Deegan
-- Name: Bob Deegan, senior vice president and CFO
-- Age: 51
-- Time with company: 5 years in February
-- Education: Bachelor of Science in accounting from Mount St. Mary's College (now Mount St. Mary's University) in Emmitsburg, Maryland; CPA
-- Company headquarters: Greenbelt, Maryland
-- Revenue: About US$50 million
-- Number of countries: U.S. -- besides the headquarters office, the company has satellite offices in Virginia, Ohio, Florida and Alabama
-- Number of employees total: 170
-- Number of employees the CFO oversees: 9
-- CFO's areas of responsibility: All day-to-day accounting, finance, human resources and contracts, including internal and external financial reporting, budgeting, project costing for bids/proposals, corporate taxation, insurance risk management, financing and banking relationships, personnel and human resources, and compliance reporting
-- About the company: Array Information Technology specializes in IT products and services for the U.S. security, defense and scientific sectors, including application management and enterprise support, infrastructure management, science and technology, and mission support.
1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?
I did the normal route. I went two years at a regional CPA firm in Baltimore, Maryland. I quickly realized that was not for me. I decided I wanted to work [in finance focused on] now and the future, rather than what happened last year. From there, I moved to a large, regional food distributor. I worked there four years and they were bought by a large food distributor, Kraft Food Services, and that taught me that I didn't want to work for a large company. So I decided to go to a smaller government contractor. I was recommended for a job that was close to home and decided to take a stab at it.
2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?
Three main people helped focus me. One was the owner of the food distributor, I. Feldman Co., they're based outside of Washington, D.C. The guy who owned it was Rick Feldman. My boss was a guy named Bill Ratcliffe. Those guys taught me a lot. At a reasonably large company, the owner of the company and the boss got down to the details and really concentrated on that, and on taking care of the employees. I always took it to heart to take care of the employees.
Then the next person I was with for 10 years and that was the owner of Multimax, named Dr. Winston Chan. Winston was very smart, a very entrepreneurial guy, with a Ph.D. in physics. He had a vision and how to go with it. He was down-to-earth and one of the nicest guys I've ever known.
All three of them had the philosophy that you take care of your employees and they'll take care of you, so I keep that philosophy going.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?
I more relate to my industry as a federal government contractor for the last 20-plus years. Our biggest challenge is what the government is doing or will be doing in these tough economic times, and the resolution process. Even though contracts might be awarded, they can be pulled back. So how do you manage that, deal with growth, and the continuity of maintaining the business? Even if you do win the contracts, you have to be able to continually act on the contracts, and then the government could change course and not renew your contracts. In the last four or five years [those challenges] have definitely been more pronounced, there's no doubt about it.
4. What is a good day at work like for you?
A good day for work is when I wake up above ground. But for work purposes, a good day for me would be when I get to finish what I scheduled myself to do rather than have to be a fireman and put out the hot topics or problems of the day. You manage by problem solving -- sometimes we're reactionary rather than acting to prevent that. We've been in reactionary management here more lately versus active management, just because things pop up, unplanned.
5. How would you characterize your management style?
I would say that people know what they're getting from me. I'm not a micromanager, but I want to be informed. I think one thing Bill Ratcliffe taught me was a one-minute management philosophy. He'd pop in to see what was going on. I have an open-door policy. I'm an honest person. I do what I say, you get what I say you'll get.
6. What strengths and qualities do you look for in job candidates?
The main thing is that I look for team players and people with good personalities. We're a service center and our service center is our employees. We need people who can interact with multiple types of personalities. I need a team player who is able to do multiple jobs. I cross-train so that all of my people can do multiple jobs. I'm the son of a coach and I have played team sports myself, so I look for team players, as well as employees who have excellent time management skills.
7. What are some of your favorite interview questions or techniques to elicit information to determine whether a candidate will be successful at your company? What sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?
There are four questions I always ask at these interviews. What do the candidates like at their current position and what do they dislike at their current position? That will flush out any red flags. The other ones are what are their better qualities or attributes and then the other side is what are the least desirable qualities or attributes that someone would say about them? If someone says they have problems with time management or meeting deadlines -- in finance you are a deadline-driven organization -- I quickly tell them that they are not the right candidate for me.
8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief finance positions?
The biggest thing is that even though I am responsible for all the HR and HR functions of the company, I've also tended to jump into other areas -- for instance, proposals and bid development. I'm responsible for doing all of the price proposals and contracts on that side of the company. A lot of time you don't see someone in my position doing that sort of work. I guess I'm good at it, and I like doing it.
9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?
I used to be a coach. I coached my daughters' soccer and lacrosse teams. I haven't gone back into coaching yet -- they're in college, so I go to watch their games. But now mainly if I'm not on the soccer field, I go for a bike ride, weather permitting.
10. If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?
If money wasn't a concern, I'd be a college soccer coach somewhere. My dad has been doing that for 55 years now. I always liked his lifestyle -- I would love to be doing what he's doing.