Derek Johnson serves as vice president of business development for Day & Zimmermann“™s government services group. Johnson is a Marine Corps and National Security Agency veteran now responsible for growing the family-owned business“™ support services to its government clients.
Johnson recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about the perks of working for a privately held company, its innate focus on value and how delivering on its commitments will help to maintain Day & Zimmermann“™s government clients.
ExecutiveBiz: When did you first join Day & Zimmermann and what attracted you about the firm?
Derek Johnson: I joined Day & Zimmermann back in 2010. During the recruitment process, I became a believer in D&Z“™s commitment to growth and actually having a plan to get there. We refuse to let ourselves rest on the laurels of past success. Early on I saw a very forward leaning organization.
I was also impressed by D&Z“™s broad capabilities and offerings. Over its history, Day & Zimmermann has been involved in everything from the construction of the Panama Canal and conceptualizing the first ever grocery store, to helping NASA put a man on the moon. It was pretty interesting to see all the things they had done and that they were looking to do for their clients going forward.
I liked the company“™s commitment to its core values of safety, integrity, diversity and success. Day & Zimmermann has 111 years backing those up along with a demonstrated values based leadership, which is something that“™s very important to me and drives our success.
Maybe most importantly, Day & Zimmermann is a family owned business. I come from a similar line as my grandfather started, owned and operated a very successful construction company, and my dad now owns his own business supporting the U.S. government. From my experience, family owned businesses bring with them a strong commitment to ethics and quality because their names are on the line.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you and the senior leadership at the company work to grow Day & Zimmerman’s business and government customer base?
Derek Johnson: It comes down to remaining a customer facing, customer listening organization. It doesn’t matter if it“™s the U.S. Departments of State, Energy, or Defense or our commercial clientele. If we don“™t do everything with our customer“™s eventual success in mind and make it a point to listen to them to understand their direction, their culture, their values, and what really matters to them, then D&Z really has no chance to bring any solutions that are going to make a lasting difference.We want to find ways to move beyond the role of just another faceless vendor and instead become a collaborative, strategic partner in the mission at hand.
Likewise, it“™s equally important that we listen to each other all across the Day & Zimmermann enterprise. I“™m fortunate to work with some very bright people in our government services division and our other three divisions: munitions and emerging technologies, engineering, construction & maintenance, and workforce solutions. We have talented people all across the business who have something to contribute to the ongoing conversation about how we can better serve our customers.
We also have a customer council, which I“™m a part of along with key business development and operational stakeholders. We meet on a regular basis to discuss market trends, various dynamics to our specific customer bases and lessons learned from previous attempts to support those customers. We make it a point to check our egos at the door and just listen to and learn from each other. We“™re committed to learning from our customers and from each other and refining our business practices to bring new solutions and deliver on our promises.
ExecutiveBiz: What specific areas of the company do you expect to see growth in as a result of changes in the market space?
Derek Johnson: Day & Zimmermannay & Zimmermann is involved in quite a few industries, but in terms of the government services industry we support, I think if we can stay true to who we are and continue to provide valued services, there are opportunities for growth, and we“™re seeing that.
We provide support to the intelligence community and its key national security missions. Regardless of changes in the budget environment, those services need to be performed, both domestically and around the world. The same is true with our support to the Department of State. Diplomacy is a never-ending mission. Despite changes in how those services are procured and managed, the services continue to be required and we“™re happy to meet that need.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you leverage your previous private and public sector experience for success in your current position?
Derek Johnson: I“™ve had the privilege to serve both in the United States Marine Corps and also the federal civilian sector in support of our government“™s diplomatic efforts and our national security missions. My experiences more than anything have been humbling.
I remember the daily challenges that we faced when I worked for the NSA. Overcoming the national security challenges was a tireless, sometimes thankless task that required incredible amounts of time spent away from the family; long hours where you“™re juggling a hundred different tasks each more vital than the last.
I think in my current role it can become too easy to think only in terms of wins or losses and revenue goals and strategic growth. I believe that if we stay focused on helping our partners and the government achieve their national security priorities, whether it“™s keeping them safe at work or offering efficiencies in terms of training and logistics, or if I can just make their burden a little lighter by augmenting their staff with some well qualified subject matter experts, then we“™ll have succeeded. All the revenue goals and strategic growth, they“™ll follow accordingly.
ExecutiveBiz: How has your service experience shaped your perspective you use to approach your current position’s tasks?
Derek Johnson: I really love my job and I can honestly say that I“™m having fun. What we“™re trying to do isn“™t easy and some days are certainly a bigger struggle than others, but rarely does a day go by that I don“™t consider the importance of the work that we“™re doing and the fact that we“™re truly making the world a better and safer place.
One thing that I enjoyed during my time in the military, and also here at D&Z is a feeling of camaraderie. This is a family owned business. I grew up with five sisters and one brother. Maybe we fought like siblings would, but at the end of the day, we always came together. I can honestly say that it“™s the same way here.
What we“™re doing really matters and we always pull together as a family to get the job done with a real roll up your sleeves and pitch in mentality. When you have hard working people who honestly care about what they do, then my role becomes about casting a vision, empowering others and making sure that the team has every tool they need to succeed, which is my biggest success, and my passion.
ExecutiveBiz: How did you view and pursue success while serving in with the NSA?
Derek Johnson: I was involved in management activities, procurement activities and in some very strategic inner agency working groups where I was partnering with other entities within the U.S. government. What stood out from my time there was just the commitment that existed to the quality of the product that we produced and the services we provided.
I first started at the NSA as a military assignee through the Marines. It didn“™t matter military or civilian; everybody was passionate about the mission. Quality was just exhibited in everything that we did. I try to bring that same focus here to Day & Zimmermann.
ExecutiveBiz: What strategies comprise a successful method to pursue and develop a company’s business activity?
Derek Johnson: If you can make it a point to be a customer facing and customer listening organization, engaging your clients and always keeping their eventual success in mind, then you“™re probably half way home in terms of the foundation necessary for strategic growth. The other half is about delivering on your promises.
At D&Z, our tagline is “˜We do what we say.“™ It“™s the simplest way we know to convey who we are and what we“™re about. Because we do what we say, our customers trust us to deliver solutions that are going to solve their toughest challenges.
I“™m also a believer in having a disciplined business process. It“™s unrealistic to think that your company can meet every need or solve every problem that your customers might experience. You“™ve got to be disciplined and pursue smart growth, sticking to what you do well, and then doing it better and more efficiently and more reliably than anybody else.