OGSystems, Mature Tech Innovator of the Year Nomiee
Omar Balkissoon, CEO & Co-founder
What does innovation mean to you?
Traditionally defined, innovation is any new technology, idea, process, or method. In a technological and social environment lauding creativity and market disruption, this definition constitutes a primary driver of high-risk, capital intensive business models with a small probability of achieving a return on investment. Innovation is too often driven by ideas that are only loosely related to real market challenges. Put simply, innovation, for its own sake, can be a recipe for expensive failure.
At OGSystems, we believe that innovation tightly couples clearly defined problems and customer voice with iteratively developed, tested, and refined solutions. We define innovation as any new technology, idea, process, or method which fundamentally improves an individual’s or organization’s mission impact by reducing costs, increasing efficiency, or enhancing mission capabilities. Critically, we believe that these fundamental improvements must also be sufficient in scale to justify their investment costs.
Just because you’re used to doing something a certain way, doesn’t mean that is the right way. OGS inspires people to think about the problem every day. If you can improve a half a percent each day, think about how that impact changes in a year. Innovation isn’t always coming up with the next 100-million-dollar idea — it is an attitude.
What makes your company/organization innovative?
At OGSystems, innovation is in our DNA – it is a part of why Garrett Pagon and I founded OGSystems. Innovation is a driver, providing purpose for our team, beyond just a paycheck – it inspires and pushes people to be curious. We operate on the principle that when people are passionate and believe in why they are doing something, they are committed and productive. For us that purpose is impacting national security through innovation. This is beyond paper and some website text, this ethos extends through all levels of our company, not just our most senior leadership. On Day One of company orientation, even the most junior staff officer is inspired to figure out how to make an impact, upgrade a process, and Own the Outcome.
OGSystems provides an ecosystem to fail well and fast; it’s a core tenant of our definition of innovation, without this attitude it can’t be realized. We aim to inspire confidence in our team to take calculated risks, learn from them, and do things outside of their comfort zone – if you’re standing still you’re not learning and effectively becoming obsolete by the day. Leadership must provide that platform and back them up. We’ve learned from our experiments and they have brought us to where we are.
What or who are some innovative companies or people that inspire you and your team?
Look at what Elon Musk has done with his companies. Take for example the team at SpaceX, they know they are there to put people on Mars, that is why they show up every day challenging themselves to this end state. Musk can take the lessons learned from Space X and leverage the efficiencies they have established to launch rockets into space and apply those efficiencies to his production with Telsa. They are utilizing the creativity, competition and progression between the companies to achieve their goals as a collective inspired organization.
I am inspired by competition. How are our partners and compete-mates innovating, what can we learn from their successes and failures? This drives us to do things better, smarter, and faster – simply put, we are an organization of learn. We are driven by our customers and their mission to protect this country – I try to imagine daily how we can provide solutions to change the face of challenging problems plaguing national security, this is the ultimate inspiration to innovate.
Aside from outside inspiration, Garrett and I are both incredibly inspired by every single person here at OGSystems every single day – the sheer power and energy from our organization is motivating and viral. They inspire us to empower our people so that they can empower our customers.
What about Greater Washington has positioned us as an innovative region?
Where else on the planet can one find a nexus of mission and tech enablers that is core to what OGSystems stands for? The Greater Washington region brings together the creativity and drive of the West Coast with the mission of our government. The pipelines provided though the exceptional universities combined with the opportunities for investment capital provides a unique recipe for innovation and success for something that matters.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming leaders striving to be innovative in today’s business environment?
Never allow yourself to miss an opportunity that will leave you looking back with regret. Take every opportunity to enhance your network, learning from other leaders and peers. These are moments to define yourself so that when you see a window to grow, you can say “yes” to that opportunity and utilize your network for success.
By Fred Diamond, IES Executive Director
The IES mentor program has been one of those experiments that surprised me, because our members – those new to the sales profession and those who are quite seasoned – took advantage of it faster than I could imagine. It’s been such a success that the program has grown way beyond our original expectations. As such, I wonder if you’ve had success using a mentor specifically to help you as a sales professional?
Sometimes I’m wrong; I admit it. For example, I used to be a late night person who wrote and sent emails, drafted proposals, and created presentations until 2am. Two years ago, a mentor advised me to shift to being an early morning riser incorporating morning rituals. I was skeptical but now I regularly get up around 5am, start my day more energized and refreshed and am much more productive.
For another example, I never really appreciated why so many people got so excited about grilling and eating outside, until a mentor introduced me to the Weber chimney. Now, grilling is a joy. I was wrong and I admit it.
IES MEMBERS UNDERSTOOD THE VALUE OF SALES MENTORING BEFORE I DID
When an adviser recommended that the Institute for Excellence in Sales should launch a mentor-protégé program for members, I was skeptical. I wasn’t convinced that anyone would be interested in participating. I did not see the value in sales mentoring at the time for the following reasons.
I was wrong. And surprised. But, again, I can admit when I’m wrong.
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED ONCE WE LAUNCHED THE PROGRAM
One of our members, Philip Martin, put together a strong program with a refined set of expectations for mentors and protégés. We extended this benefit to all IES members from the start of their membership, making participation in the mentor program an option. Dozens of applications came in from experienced professionals who would be high quality mentors. Very quickly, many members signed up to be matched with a mentor.
Since many of the mentoring interactions are done via Skype or on the phone, we’ve been able to connect with new member candidates around the world, some as far away as the Philippines.
I started looking at sales mentoring in a new light. Realizing I might have been wrong, I pulled together a list of the people who had played a high-value mentoring role for me and the count was way over a dozen, just in the past five years! I have not been shy in asking for guidance from them, so why did I think others would not be interested in getting similar value?
My list of mentors included my boss of many years ago while I was at Compaq. Gary Newgaard helps reduce what I thought to be complex to simple and still makes time for me twenty years hence.
Another mentor over the past five years is CEO and Board Advisor Art Medici who helped me figure out how to strategically communicate the value of the IES to senior executives.
Two other high-value mentors on my list are Larry Rosenfeld and Julie Murphy of Sage Communications, who have provided valuable guidance on our communications strategies. Even though Julie is much younger than I am, I was able to learn from her because she has a wonderful grasp on business communications. And there were dozens of others I can tell you about if you’d like.
WHAT’S NECESSARY FOR A GREAT SALES MENTOR PROGRAM
Recently, Soraya Tarrant, a very talented business development leader with an exceptional career in international telecom, and executive Coach assumed leadership for the Sales Mentor program. I asked her what value she saw in it.
“Extensive research shows a high correlation between Mentor programs and individual success and career growth,” she said. “And the great thing is the value in the program will be seen not just by the protégé but by the mentor as well.”
She said many sales reps in the program have already benefited from the insight and wisdom the veteran sales professionals offer in the prescribed one-on-one sessions. As part of their IES member benefits and at no additional cost, IES mentors will conduct up to six one-on-one sessions with their Protégé over a six-month period.
The value the mentor can receive includes:
Here are some questions protégés can ask their sales mentors:
Although the program has been a big success, we had learned some lessons along the way.
I’m interested if you have any similar experiences from a sales mentor in your career. What were you looking to get and did you get it?
Or, have you mentored any younger sales professionals? If so, were your expectations met? If not, what are some things that protégés or other mentors need to know to be successful?