in , ,

Joe Kopfman, EVP of Contracts and Chief Compliance Officer, Discusses His 35 Year Career at American Systems

Joe Kopfman, EVP of Contracts and Chief Compliance Officer, Discusses His 35 Year Career at American Systems - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Joe-Kopfman-AMERICAN SYSTEMS-ExecutiveMosaicJoe Kopfman serves as executive vice president of contracts and administration as well as chief compliance officer at American Systems where he oversees the ethics program, contracts, legal, purchasing, pricing, M&A, security, facilities and general administration support departments within the company.

He has been with the firm since 1978 and has served in a number of leadership positions during that time. 

In his conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Kopfman talks about his appointment as chief compliance officer, how he came to work at American Systems and the companies plans for M&A in the energy and healthcare sectors. 


ExecutiveBiz:  What are some of the areas you’ve primarily been focused on at American Systems since last year?

AmericanSystemsJoe Kopfman:  The top three things I’ve been focused on are Compliance, Integration, and Capture.  Even though I was already Chairman of the Ethics committee, I was appointed Chief Compliance Officer about a year ago. I’ve spent a lot of time on this new role. 

Another thing is Integration. It’s been over a year since the smooth acquisition of the Test and Evaluation business from SAIC.  Even though it is fully integrated here, the contract novations have been a real challenge because the government is just not staffed to process a large volume of contract novations. 

The third thing that has consumed my year is Capture.  Our business has a lot of new challenges like LPTA, increased protests and declining budgets.  So we are working on adding value to our capture plans with a lot more intensity.


ExecutiveBiz:  How did you initially hear about American Systems and what led you to join the company? 

Joe Kopfman:  I worked in the banking industry after I graduated from college. On my first anniversary, I was given my first raise, which was so unbelievably small. My boss, knowing that I was going to quit, gave me a point of contact at American Systems. Back then it was a little company with about a million dollars in annual revenue. They hired me and it has been 35 years since I started working here. Now we’re doing about $350 million a year in revenue, and it is still a fun place to work.


ExecutiveBiz:  What factors of the business do you hone in on and evaluate when looking at a potential M&A opportunity? 

Joe Kopfman:  First of all, we look for a company that’s performing mission‑critical work for the federal government. Mission‑critical work gets funded in good and bad times. We’re not looking simply to buy more revenue.  We’re looking for areas we can grow like key contracting vehicles with well-educated direct labor and decent profit margins. We shy away from an abundance of subcontracted work and we are not seeking to diversify too much. We are currently looking for a company working in the Energy or Healthcare IT space.


ExecutiveBiz:  How do you work to align the company’s ethics programs with all the different stakeholders? 

Joe Kopfman:  It’s all about culture.  Even if you have all the compliant policies or code of business ethics prominently posted on your website, but if you don’t have an ethical culture, the corporation is at risk. Communication is the way to create or change a culture.  Our CEO tours every office in the company twice a year.  He has at least half a dozen slides on ethics in his presentation and does a great job setting the tone at the top.  My job is to take that tone throughout the company.  So I tell real-life stories on ethics to our top 50 leadership team every quarter. It is mandatory for every employee to watch a vignette on ethics, which is released four times a year. Every employee has to read our code of business ethics once a year and ethics flashes via e‑mail every quarter. Ethics can’t be a bolt-on after the fact. It has to be embedded in your culture and it is my goal for employees to feel comfortable questioning anything.


ExecutiveBiz:  How can GovCon firms like American Systems work closer with government agencies to manage budget pressures that agencies are facing? 

Joe Kopfman:  We consider ourselves to be a partner with our government clients. So we try to understand their business issues, their mission and what we can do to help them. We currently run a help desk for one of our government clients. We are trying to integrate the right IT solution with some process improvements so that we can do better service at a much lower cost. Our overall revenue might be reduced but by keeping our customer costs down we stay effective to that customer.  The government, like everybody else, is trying to do more with less. The government has to be open to the new idea of integrating IT and providing better solutions at a lower cost. I’m a big believer in performance‑based contracting.  The government should tell us what they need and not how to do it.


ExecutiveBiz:  Do you have any final thoughts you would like to offer? 

Joe Kopfman:  It’s been a great ride here at American Systems so far.  For 35 years, the company and my job have changed. I just feel very fortunate to work for an employee‑owned company that has the culture that we have. I’d also like to thank our CEO, Bill Hoover, who is retiring, for his top notch leadership over the past nine years, and extend my congratulations to Peter Smith, who will succeed Bill. I have known Peter for more than 30 years, and I look forward to continuing our great relationship.

ExecutiveBiz Logo

Sign Up Now! ExecutiveBiz provides you with Daily Updates and News Briefings about Executive Spotlight


Written by Ross Wilkers

Lockheed Martin to Provide Human Spaceflight Services for Orion Crew Vehicle - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Lockheed Martin to Provide Human Spaceflight Services for Orion Crew Vehicle
Bill Lynn: Gov't, Defense Industry Should Turn to Acquisition Reform, Globalization, Consolidation - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Bill Lynn: Gov’t, Defense Industry Should Turn to Acquisition Reform, Globalization, Consolidation