New to the Defense Community

Entering the defense community can be challenging, specifically without any prior military experience. The greatest challenge to the civilian is the military “lingo” used in almost every conversation.

In my case, I entered the defense acquisition arena with military lingo on steroids. In order to better understand this line of business, I had to implement three powerful strategies taken from the Principles of War. Objective, Offensive and Mass are the three (out of eleven) principles that I chose for my strategy.

Objective – “Direct all efforts to a clearly defined, decisive, and obtainable goal.”

            My goal is to obtain the knowledge and network that is necessary to operate proficiently in the defense acquisition community. I need to admit, I did not set my goal in the beginning and this brought about confusion as to what was what. An objective needs to bring clarity and set a path of growth.

Offensive – “Seize the initiative in a decisive manner.”

            The offensive takes the objective and puts it to work. My offensive is scheduled as site visits of manufacturers, I attend a weekly Friday breakfast with experienced defense workers, and trade shows such the annual Michigan Defense Exposition. Another approach is to take online courses like DAU. The offensive should be action taken to achieve your goal.

Mass – “Concentrate your combat power at a time when it matters most.”

            This is where it can be tricky. You use mass when on the offensive and while defending the objective. Listen intentionally when an experienced veteran is speaking. Read military and business articles and take notes. I must use my concentration as my mass during any offensive. Perhaps the greatest mass is to ask questions. This provides clarity for the big picture objective.

            I hope this is an encouragement to anyone who is jumping into the defense world with no prior experience. I have to use these principles every day if I am to become useful to my company and to others. To get past the confusion, set your objective, and conquer the world.

Extending the Legacy

From one of our favorite teaming partners…  

Extending the Legacy 

“A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.”

                                                                                  Proverbs 13:22

 As all of you are aware, Vyper has developed a unique vehicle, using not only COTS, but new technologies, and when blended together becomes a superior vehicle for military, search and rescue, law enforcement and commercial use. This light weight, agile vehicle will set the new standard in these applications for efficiency and mobility.

As a team core member, I am proud to have you join us in this expansive role to produce and distribute such a unique vehicle throughout the world. In addition, we are continuously bringing advanced technology to the forefront with our vehicle. We are moving away from outdated technology, of which prior vehicles, when introduced by other companies, are ten years behind the times. Even though politics may play a role in the old way of doing things, it also has to do with the way lethargic companies tend to think and how they pursue profits.

Yes, I am politically incorrect, and we will experience resistance, however, let me make a point: LEGACY is what each of us are building. A legacy we may pass down to our children, grandchildren and generations to come. Building on that legacy we can be proud that we have served our country in a lasting way with opportunities forged by our core team.

Pushing forward through trials requires focus on Him. Reflection is an opportunity to see the blessings of that experience: stand strong. 

Thank you for your support, advice and expertise.

 Nicholas J. Chapman, CEO
Vyper Adamas, Inc.

Four Questions to Consider in a Performance Evaluation

A good performance evaluation focuses on the one thing the rater cannot skew, him/herself. Instead of judging the inner workings of another, the rater can focus on their own perceptions. The rater can ask him/herself:

1. “Do I turn to this team member when I want extraordinary results?”

2. “Do I choose to work with this team member as much as I possibly can?”

3. “Would I promote this person today if I could?”

4. “Do I think this person has a performance problem that needs to be addressed immediately?”

The #1 Way to Improve Employee Performance

Coaching. Coaching should happen immediately after an event or task when it comes to performance evaluation, and then weekly or biweekly during ongoing tasks. This eliminates recall bias. The rater, or in this case, coach, only has to remember the events in the near past. The focus of coaching should be on the future and not an evaluation of the past. The strengths of the employee should be at the forefront of the coaching. An effective coach can find five things that work, five strengths to be celebrated and further developed. For every five strengths, the coach should choose one “high priority interrupt” (Buckingham, 2019). A high priority interrupt is the single most important obstacle to performance that the employee should address.

Buckingham, M., & Goodall, A. (2019). Nine lies about work: A freethinking leaders guide to the real world. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Three Factors that Comprise a Performance Evaluation

There are three factors the comprise a performance evaluation.

1. Performance of the rater

If the rater does not perform well in their job it can lead to trust issues with the rated. There needs to be accountability with the rater and ownership of their job. If they cannot perform the functions of their job, the rater will not have the credibility necessary to rate the rated.

 2. Bias of recall

Bias of recall leads to data insufficiency. The premise is that raters don’t interact with the rated enough to evaluate the skills and attributes of the rated person. Raters are focused on their own work and don’t pay attention closely or continually over the rating period to compile accurate data. Bias of recall specifically points to the problem that the rater cannot remember the behavior of the rated past the prior few days or week.

3. Rater bias

Research agrees that rater bias, otherwise known as idiosyncratic rater effect, is the most significant factor in a performance review. This built-in, inescapable bias affects every rater whether they realize it or not. The idiosyncratic pattern of rating is skewed left or right, clustered or spread out. This bias has nothing to with gender, race, or age and applies to both the rater and the rated. Of note, the more complex the rating scale in a performance evaluation, the more magnified the idiosyncratic rater pattern manifests.

The performance evaluation is not a new idea. Performance evaluations are often used in their respective organizations for promotion, bonuses, and administrative actions.

3 Newcomer Tips for Traveling the Defense Acquisition Industry

A strange language, a new culture, and a unique landscape best describes what one would experience if traveling to a distant country. Traveling to new places and experiencing different cultures can be an enlightening adventure, but it will come with certain difficulties. Defense acquisitions can be the same as traveling to a new place. Known as the world’s most difficult and complex acquisition system, the U.S. defense acquisition operation is much like visiting an unknown country. I have the privilege of exploring this new country, and it’s an experience that I cannot forget.

My first encounter in defense acquisitions was eye opening. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and it came with a ton of questions. First, what even is defense acquisitions? Up to this point, I have had zero contact with the defense world in any respect. Imagine being dropped off in a country that doesn’t speak your language, that was my first encounter. I was hired as a program analyst for a defense contracting company, and thankfully, my boss knew my ignorance and guided me into Defense Acquisition University classes and office explanations. This significantly reduced the culture shock and confusion. Slowly, I began to learn this new language and understand the culture of defense and industry. Almost one year has passed since I began this journey, and trust me, I’m nowhere close to being an expert. Defense acquisitions can be daunting for the beginner; fortunately, I had help with my understanding of the system. The first help was a mentor who was knowledgeable of the system. Someone who can spend one-on-one time with you and explain the little details will be an asset to one’s journey. The second help is Defense Acquisition University (DAU) classes. DAU offers online courses that takes one through the entire process of defense acquisitions. This is crucial and necessary to understand and to move forward in a defense career. Lastly, a group of experienced people that one can network and share information. I’m lucky to be able to attend a Friday breakfast group that deals with defense works in their separate businesses and lives. I usually sit back and listen to the wisdom of years of experience and advice.

Defense acquisitions can be overwhelming as a newcomer. If one has the resources and the help, it can be conquered. Utilize these three tips to gain priceless wisdom of what to do and what not to do while traveling the defense world.

1. Find a mentor to guide you one-on-one, this makes the learning process much easier.

2. Take DAU online courses, for many companies it is a requirement, and it gives you a leg up on the competition.

3. Build relationships with those who have endured the learning and have been successful in the industry.

Matthew Nini Sheppard.jpg

By: Matthew Sheppard

​The Fallacy of “Low Hanging Fruit”

We were in discussions with a prospective client about supporting their efforts within the DoD space, and one of the directors made a comment about “low hanging fruit.” He proceeded to say that they weren’t interested in taking years to build opportunities or relationships and want the low hanging fruit that will provide quick revenue streams for their product lines.  There are multiple issues with this scenario that need to be addressed.  

1. No such thing as “Low Hanging Fruit”: The Urban Dictionary provides a great definition of targets or goals which are easily achievable and which do not require a lot of effort.  OTAs are the closest thing to low hanging fruit that I know of and they still take a lot up front work to get to the winner’s circle. Typically, it will take two years or more before you break into a serious contract.  

2. Defense Is Unlike Other Industries: The amount of information required to understand the defense industry is a barrier to entry for most businesses.  Sometimes it takes years to break in and then you are still bogged down with cyber, reporting, and other regulatory requirements.

3. Education and Understanding: There are multiple ways to attack this, but it all takes time, effort, and money.  For most small businesses, there isn’t enough of this to go around. Three potential courses of action (COAs).

a. COA 1 - Do It on Your Own – Find your local PTAC and get signed up for classes.  
b. COA 2 - Hired Gun – Hire a part-time consultant to help.  
c. COA 3 - Capital Investment – Hire a great BD professional who knows the business.

4. Skin in The Game:  Are you willing to put some skin in the game?  This gives your potential customers confidence in your ability to withstand the peaks and valleys that come in the defense business.  

Are you willing to take the time to build meaningful relationships and learn the business?  Are you willing to spend the money in education and resources to learn the business?  Are you willing to risk everything to enter the Defense Industry?  

At the end of the day you must ask yourself – “What are you willing to do to get to where you want in the Defense Industry?”  

Do Unto Others…Even in Business

The other day I contacted a customer for late payment on a Net 30 contract.  She informed me that the definition of Net 30 is payment in 28-34 days.  I seriously doubt my vendors would agree.  I do understand the billing cycle is set to a specific interval.  We do that, too, but we ensure that a bill due on or after 30 days gets paid at the earlier billing cycle.  After my initial surprise, I decided that they can do business however they want.  They are an organization that runs on a process that their leaders are satisfied with.  I also decided after that call, that my organization will not run like that.  My company has grown into an entity; we are long past a freelance business.  But, I, and the people I choose to join my organization can still choose to follow a standard that each and every one of us should set for ourselves.  Treat others, even in business, the way you want to be treated.  

So often I hear, “This person did it to me, so I can do it someone else.”  It’s a sad state of our culture that we look for an excuse to behave badly.  How about, “This person did it to me, and it caused damage.  I choose NOT to do it to anyone else.”?  Let your freedom allow you to choose what is right and noble. Don’t let it be an excuse to cause more harm.   

Written By: Katie Bigelow

How to Greet a Woman in Business Situations

I honestly don’t know the “proper” thing to do in this situation, but here is my perspective.  Your greeting should not take on a gender spin, ever.  If you would shake a man’s hand, you should shake a woman’s hand.  If you want to hug the man, then I suppose you can offer a hug to the woman, too.  

Please consider carefully here.  Choose a universal greeting that you are comfortable offering anyone. And I mean anyone, regardless of gender, hygiene habits, etc.  If your chosen greeting is as intimate as a hug, then be prepared to offer it to everyone equally not just people with fluffy lady parts.  

As an added note, please don’t involve the use of your lips in any greeting with anyone who is not your spouse. Your victims will appreciate you keeping your lips to yourself and so will their husbands. 

Written By: Katie Bigelow

Lasting Lesson from an OPD Session

Sitting with the officers of a high-powered Field Artillery unit, we thought we were the best thing since sliced bread.  The Battalion Commander proceeded to ask each of us what we considered a successful career within our given profession.  Our answers were most likely typical responses from young company grade officers; Battalion Command is what flowed around the circle.  Each of us thought this was the pinnacle of a successful career.  He proceeded to take the wind out of our sails and provide a lesson that has stuck for years.  He took about 20 minutes to teach us about professionalism through learning.  As he put it, becoming a “student” of your profession is more important than any other trait, and that will make you successful.  How does one become a “student” of any profession?  

1. Education
2. Training
3. Seek out a Mentor
4. Mentorship
5. Relationships
6. Networks

Master these items above, and success will happen. 

Written By: Mark Bigelow

How the Money Flows – A Simplified Look from My Foxhole

Now that we have an approved Budget; what’s next?  When will we see new start contracts for a given year?  

1. President’s Budget
2. Congressional Approved
3. Appropriations – HASC + SASC approval
4. Signed into Law
5. OSD - Office of the Secretary of Defense
6. Service Branch
7. Major Commands
8. Subordinate Commands
9. Program Executive Office or Tiered Command
10. Program Office
11. Product Office

The total process takes months to complete.  Being that we are at #3 today, it will still take upwards of 60 days or more to trickle down the line to #10.  

Yes, we can get into an entirely different discussion on how the services and program offices request funding but that’s too over-the-top for the typical industry partner.  This is a very simplified look from my understanding of the process on how the money flows. 

Written By: Mark Bigelow