By Andy Reed, ExecutiveBiz, July 25, 2017-ExecutiveBiz: You held several senior positions with Amazon and Fluor and are a retired US Army Major General. How has your background and previous roles prepared you for the challenges you face in your current position?
Kevin Leonard: I served 33 years in the Army. The core values of the Army are identical to the core values of both Amazon, Fluor and now Vectrus: integrity, respect, responsibility. The principles and values that are necessary are the same, whether it is delivering fuel to men and women on the battlefield, or delivering material from an Amazon fulfillment center, or running a forward operating base.
ExecutiveBiz: What leadership techniques from those experiences are you currently using?
Kevin Leonard: I learned to have complete focus on the service line I am running. I also learned the responsibilities that come with leadership, like taking care of your people in a holistic way. While there is a big difference between what you do in the Army, in terms of taking care of your people, and what you do in the civil sector, my experience tells me that everyone wants to be thought of as an individual, and treated equally with regard to pay and benefits. All of us want someone to care about us. That aspect of respect and responsibility, up, down, left and right, when we think about the workplace, has definitely contributed to creating an environment where people want to come to work, where they know they are cared for and appreciated, and we are all striving towards the same goal. People know they are member of a team and that their leadership cares about them.
ExecutiveBiz: With the five months that you have been at Vectrus, have you developed any short- or long-term strategies for facilities and logistics?
Kevin Leonard: I certainly have. Chuck Prow, our chief executive officer, has drafted a strategic plan that is in place. The facility and logistics service line is subordinate to that strategy. In that strategy, there are 14 lines of effort that we are working on, divided into three parts: First, we will enhance the foundation of the work that we are doing; second, we are going to expand our portfolio; and third, we are going to add more value for our clients. In my first five months at Vectrus, I’ve focused a great deal on enhancing program execution, expanding our base and footprint with our clients, and making sure they know what we are capable of doing where we provide support, whether it is Incirlik, Turkey or Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
Integrity, respect, responsibility. The principles and values that are necessary are the same, whether it is delivering fuel to men and women on the battlefield, or delivering material from an Amazon fulfillment center…
ExecutiveBiz: During your time working with the federal government, how have you seen it evolve and it what ways do you think it could become better?
Kevin Leonard: I commanded a special operations support command from 2001 to 2003. In Special Ops we always thought we were just on our own. We’d never see contractors or support on the battlefield. But that changed dramatically from the time we went into Afghanistan and to Operation Iraqi Freedom. We began to see more and more contractors with us, and began to rely on them for things like food, fuel, maintenance support, or basically everything that comes with running a forward operating base. The contracting community stepped up and delivered. Over sixteen years of war or conflict, we’ve seen that role continue to grow.
The confidence level now between the government and the contracting community seems to ebb and flow year over year. One of the things that I hope we can achieve over the next three to four years is to continue to demonstrate to the federal government that we are completely, fully, part of their team. There’s opportunity for a company like Vectrus to demonstrate how capable it is.
ExecutiveBiz: Where do you see the facilities and logistics opportunities within federal government?
Kevin Leonard: The big opportunities where business and industry can demonstrate cost savings and cost avoidance are in smart forward operating bases. In our industry we are accustomed to all kinds of different power generation capabilities with smart, newer emerging technologies that use less energy than previous models. The DoD has been slow to adopt these technologies because of the way that contracts are written.
There is an opportunity here for industry at large, and especially Vectrus, to say, “Wait a minute, here’s what you’ve asked for, but let me show you a smarter way to run this base.” You saw the beginnings of that with what IBM did at Maxwell Air Force Base. Even for things like securing the perimeter, we can help look at how automation supports perimeter security.
Whether we are talking about power generation, perimeter security, biometrics, ammunition management, there are a number of areas where industry has cutting-edge tools that can improve performance for Department of Defense. I didn’t even get into water purification and water management. If you look at what is going on in civilian industry, and compare that to Department of Defense, there is great opportunity to improve the way we think about and manage water as a commodity.
ExecutiveBiz: What tools do you use to help see those smarter solutions that you talked about?
Kevin Leonard: At Vectrus, we have gotten very good at answering the quintessential question in logistics: “Where is my stuff?” We have gotten good at not only answering with “here’s your stuff” but also being able to say, “By the way, our analytics tells us here is the stuff you are going to need” or “here’s a way we can be better at this particular activity.”
It has been very enlightening for our clients when we show them these pictures, and we talk about cost avoidance or cost savings. When you open a discussion with, “Look, your Army ordered ship time at base XYZ is 35 days. If you allow us to do that for you, we can reduce your order ship time to 15 days,” it’s amazing what can happen. What we can offer is almost always dramatically less than the standard Department of Defense order ship time. We have the opportunity to demonstrate that we can be better and faster using commercial best practices, whether it is in supply chain, or pure old logistics performance.
I retired from the Army 5 years ago, and I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with Amazon, Fluor and now Vectrus. Vectrus has been like a homecoming. I’ve landed where I needed to be, with a great team, a great CEO, who has a vision for this company and where it is going. Our future is bright.