David Hearding, Pinnacle Award finalist: “Life and business development are journeys through deep valleys and mountain peaks”


David Hearding, Systems Planning and Analysis

WashingtonExec’s finalists Pinnacle Award were announced on October 13, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually on December 8.

Next is the finalist for Business Development Director of the Year (Private Company), David Hearding, who is Senior Vice President of Business Development at Systems Planning and Analysis. Here, he talks about the major accomplishments of the past year, what he’s most proud to be a part of in systems planning and analysis, career advice and more.

What key achievements have you had in 2020/2021?

Surprisingly, the COVID years 2020 and 2021 were the best years ever for SPA at all levels, including business development and growth. It was most certainly a company-wide team effort that helped to exceed all previous company benchmarks during the period January 2020 to August 2021, including:

  • 293 bids were submitted with a cumulative SPA value of $ 1.57 billion
  • Book-to-bill ratio of 2.26 over the entire 20-month period (and above 2.0 for 5 consecutive years)
  • Take-out bid and award of what is SPA’s largest contract, a single-award master contract valued at over $ 185 million
  • Addition of 40 new SPA clients
  • Annualized revenue growth rates of over 20% in 2020 and 2021

What made you successful in your current role?

I think a key element that has contributed to the incredible growth of SPA over the past five years has been to create a culture where growth is a company-wide team sport that is reflected in the close collaboration between the units of the SPA line and commercial development. I think the BD team should be ‘helpers’ and ‘agents’ involved in the details from capture to proposal with the line unit that knows the client and will do the job.

What are you most proud to have been a part of in your current organization?

I am very proud to be part of the team that transformed SPA from a business that was not growing to a business that is now growing 20% ​​per year and that has added 90 new clients in the past five years. It is truly a team effort that has made SPA such an exciting and fun place to work.

What are your main areas of interest for the future and why are they so important to the future of the nation?

SPA as a company is very focused on national security. As a nation, we face an increasing number of challenges and serious threats to national security. SPA has the privilege of being a trusted industrial partner supporting many critical national security missions, including strategic deterrence from the sea, the fight against weapons of mass destruction and securing the defense industrial base. Going forward, our focus is on continuing this support and expanding into other mission areas such as hypersonics, missile defense and space.

How are you helping to shape the next generation of government leaders / industry leaders?

One area where I think there is room for improvement from both government and industry leaders is the over-emphasis on process and under-emphasis on strategic thinking. I call the riddle “activity instead of thought”. We often get busy working on our process checklist without thinking critically about whether there is a better way. It is trite to say “work harder, not smarter”, but there is wisdom in that phrase. The world and technology are moving at hypersonic speeds, while government and industry tend to keep doing what we have always done. Spend some time thinking about what might be a “better way”.

What is the key thing you learned from a failure that you had?

Life and business development are journeys that cross deep valleys and mountain peaks. Victories and failures are transitory and not permanent. Both are waypoints in the journey. Stay focused on the trip.

What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?

Strong business development acumen is an experiential skill set. You learn by doing and seeing what works and what doesn’t. There are few or no fixed principles of comics. The more you do, the more you see and experience, and the smarter you get. You can’t have 20 years of experience in one year. Take the time, stay the course, be patient and learn from everything.

Meet the other Pinnacle Awards finalists here.


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