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The Ermi Group Turns 7!

b2ap3_thumbnail_7-years.jpgOn January 10, 2008, I was having lunch with a former boss doing the networking thing wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my career.  You see, I had just left a corporate gig two months earlier, intentionally took December off to spend with family, celebrate my baby turning one, see her first steps, and recover from a very stressful season.  I had been interviewing for Chief Human Capital Officer positions, contemplating a learning and development focus, and secretly wishing I could be a full-time coach after graduating from the Georgetown Leadership Coaching program in 2006. 

During this lunch my old boss shared he was going to be leaving his current position and moving to a new company and he would want some help with creating a leadership development strategy and would I be interested in consulting for him. 

At that moment, The Ermi Group was born.  I immediately drove to PNC Bank and opened a business checking account.  On the way there I realized I need a company name.  My dad (and hero) started his own firm many moons ago and called himself The Evans Group, so I figured that was good enough for me.   I tend to not overthink these epiphanies because I will just screw it up if I do!  I used this same strategy when it was clear adoption was in my future.  From surrendering to the notion and baby in arms was a swift 7 months.  And only 5 months from when we were official with a home study.   Anyway, I digress…look a bird!

Back to the story.  Seven years ago I took a giant leap of faith and declared I was a leadership development and human capital solutions firm.  I found a web designer (thank you Pinix Design Studio) and by February I had my first client. 

I cannot tell you how blessed and grateful I am for this profession.  I coach about 80% of the time now, and still love the occasional training gig, keynote and facilitation.  I am surrounded by the most amazing coaches in our cadre, and as mentors and friends.  The Georgetown coach community is a plethora of wisdom and generosity.  Crista Leonard, my Business Analyst, reads my mind and helps me in countless ways.  My husband is the most supportive and all I could ask for as he holds down the fort and makes sure the household is running smoothly so I can focus on building the business and serving my clients well. 

I learn, stretch and grow every day.  I wake up each morning loving my job, and able to be a part of my 8 year old girl's daily life.  I think I only missed one major event of hers at school and that was because I had the time wrong on my calendar! 

I never dreamed that being my own boss for seven years was even possible.  My husband’s stroke in 2002 has kept him out of the workforce, so I have been the primary earner since then.  And each year I am able to say I love what I do, and I am keeping my family fed, my oldest daughter recently graduated from college, and my little one is in second grade at The Trinity School of Frederick.  It also helps that my Pastors pray for me and my business on a regular basis!  Thank you Damascus Road Community Church!

b2ap3_thumbnail_shingle.jpgIf you have been thinking about starting your own small business, do it!  Break through the fear, and hang out your shingle. 

Here are a few articles and resources to fuel you!

Entrepreneurship is the New Women's Movement - Forbes

WOSB State 2014

US Chamber Report

SBA - Write a Business Plan

US Women's Chamber of Commerce Certifications

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Public Sector Transitions to Private: Trending

The Ermi Group loves working with our strategic partners, and welcome Evan Scott as this month's guest blogger.

Evan Scott is the CEO and a founding partner of the executive search firm ESGI. The company, based in Alexandria, Virginia specializes in working with private sector companies who sell products, services or consulting to Federal, State and Local Government. The firm assists these clients with recruiting senior level executives for their key positions.  He serves as Chairman for The Membership Committee of The Homeland Security and Business Defense Council, serves on the board of The Washington Chapter-USO and is active at AFCIA, NDIA and Infraguard. Learn more about ESGI at www.esgisearch.com.

Dear Mr/Ms. SES,   GovCon Executive

Your Next Job May NOT Be Out There Waiting For You…

By Evan Scott

People choose to begin or build their careers in the public sector for a variety of reasons – a commitment to a program or series of programs, a desire to serve the public interest, loyalty to a particular government, and even national pride/patriotism for some. Further, a career in the public sector typically carries with it a number of benefits – greater job stability, a more defined path to advancement, exceptional benefits and retirement plans.

However, despite the widely recognized benefits, a growing number of senior public sector executives contact us with questions about careers in the private sector. These individuals tend to feel as though they have worked hard and made their mark at their organization or agency and simply want to pursue a new challenge. Perhaps they have twenty or twenty-five years at a particular agency or military branch and can leave with a pension, but feel they are too young to retire. Others indicate they are tired of the “politics” or frustrated with the inability to move between agencies.  Regardless of the reason, it is an increasingly familiar path and it is a move that often proves rewarding for individuals and organizations alike.

In the private sector, when we work with senior level executives they typically have many years of business experience and we discuss the pros and cons of leaving one company to join another. On the other hand, when we sit down with an officer from the armed forces or executive from DHS the discussion is quite different.

When considering individuals from the military, companies assess the candidate’s ability to move from a command and control structure to an environment that requires them to influence people at all levels in the organization. In business you can’t “command” people to perform and this is where business leadership is critical. We have many examples of senior officers responsible for large commands, and most companies simply do not recognize this as applicable to their business. However, companies do recognize the value of credibility with, and access to public sector decision makers. There are many companies inside and around the beltway who recognize the value in having highly regarded military personnel carrying the corporate logo on their business cards.

Over the last twenty plus years, we have had the privilege of working with hundreds of experienced professionals who have served the public sector with distinction, but have reached the difficult decision to leave and join the private sector. As with any important career move, it is important to plan ahead. The following is our short list of things to consider when developing your own personal transition plan:

    • Take an honest assessment of the type of individual you are and what you enjoy doing. Do you enjoy working with and influencing people? Can you see yourself in a sales role? How well do you perform when it comes to managing and leading teams? Do you enjoy management of others or do you feel more comfortable in an individual contributor’s role? Are you an introvert or extravert? Do you really enjoy business and what issues interest you? Answers to this self-assessment will help decide what functional area will be the best fit for your personality. There are also many psychological tools available to assess your personality and then match your likes and dislikes with the appropriate job and career track.
    • Industry may not fully recognize or understand the value of your experiences in the public sector. I have worked with Generals who have commanded thousands of people yet, in the view of a for-profit venture would not be qualified to lead a 200-person P&L. The measurement criterion for success in the public sector does not easily translate into industry criterion. The reason being there are weekly, monthly and quarterly financial targets that companies must reach to continue to grow. When a company misses their quarterly numbers, heads might roll. I can’t emphasize this point too much. The biggest culture shock you will experience is the drive for revenues each and every quarter. Think of this like a professional sports team. Each team and team member must perform their jobs in order to win. When you do not win team members are traded or let go. There are no long term pensions associated with this event and you will find yourself pursuing another job.

    • Meet with former colleagues who have already made the move to the private sector. Have an open and honest discussion with them about how they were able to make the transition, the challenges they faced, the surprises they encountered, and their recommendations to maximize chances for success. Ask how their public service experience translates into what they are now doing. More often than not, networking will lead to your first private sector position. Don’t be shy and do not only focus on the money. For you to be successful you will need to love what you are doing. This is much more important than the financial rewards that will come as result of success.
    • Understand what titles mean. Business Development means setting a strategy to pursue specific programs your new employer wants to win. These programs must be qualified and your incentives will be tied into your company winning work. Program Management is exactly what it sounds like: responsibility for every detail of a customer program. This requires strong understanding not just of relevant program technologies, but also the affiliated financials. Capture involves taking what the company considers a qualified lead and closing the business. Capture opportunities are typically handed off from the Business Development team. Sales are straightforward. You have a product or service and are given a revenue quota to meet every month.
    • Everything you bring to the private sector must contribute to helping your new employer succeed. Never stray too far away from this reality. It will feel different to you – faster pace, longer hours, greater accountability – and will take some time to come to grips with. It also dictates what and how people around you operate. We like to recommend that you always stay close to the revenue. Even if you are not directly responsible for bring in deals you need to always ask your self: what have I done today to contribute to my employer bring in revenue.
    • When a company hires an employee, regardless of seniority, they are considered a P&L investment. In other words, the company pays your salary; benefits, business expenses etc. and they need to realize a profit at the end of the year. This includes every function and not just sales. Even “general staff “have a P&L associated with them and they are regularly evaluated against their contribution to overall corporate objectives. Think of companies as entities that promote based on achievements more than politics although trust me, there is plenty of politics in the corporate world. You might also use the example of having your own company and hiring people. Every day you will ask yourself what return are you receiving from the investment you are making in each employee. If you feel you are loosing money then you stop investing.
    • Companies will pay to gain access into, and credibility with the agencies with which they want to do business. Take a hard look and be honest with yourself. How will it feel to call upon friends and colleagues and ask them for business? If this causes trepidation in you, then consider other functional areas than BD or sales.
    • Work with someone who can help you put together a professional resume that will resonate with gatekeepers in the private sector. Competition is fierce in the private sector, therefore it is important to market yourself accordingly. Find someone who can translate your public sector accomplishments into terms that recognized and understood by industry. Help executives understand the value your skills and experience bring to them as they seek to accomplish their goals. Avoid acronyms and jargon that are commonplace in the public sector, but essentially foreign to people outside it. Resumes are what we call a “10 second event”. Unless the reader gets it within 10 seconds they will not read on.


By now, it should be clear to you that the private sector environment differs considerably from the public sector. The transition is not always an easy one. However, despite a sluggish global economy, the demand for executives from public service has not slowed. Just remember that with these jobs come new and specific expectations. Be very sure you understand how your new employer will measure your success.

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Generation Jones meets the Millennials

Jonathan Pontell - 2005




Welcome to the first edition of The Ermi Group Blog.  I am new to this great media phenomenon so I will be starting out with a combination of original posts, and also asking some of my amazing friends and colleagues to be guest bloggers!

Ever get exposed to a new concept and then not be able to get enough of it?  That is my new obsession of Generation Jones.  Jonathan Pontell  coined the term and it has been on TV and various news programs, but I apparently missed it, as have most of the “Joneses” I know.  I have heard a few versions of who is included in this new sub-generation.  But it makes perfect sense that the group I belong to has to have it’s own subset.  For years I thought I related to being a Baby Boomer, in fact, I recall proudly categorizing myself in this group of esteemed trailblazers when I was in my late 20s and early 30s.  It seemed to fit, sort of, and I always had a thing for being “the youngest” to achieve something, or receive an award, or be promoted or following in my dad’s footsteps, yet a few years earlier than he achieved milestones.  Then, I was no longer in the “high potential” up and comer group.  The Generation X crowd took over and they had a beat of their own.  They did not seem to want to work as many hours as I was.  They came in later than I did and had a life.  I was a little jealous at the life, but then a little bitter that I was putting in tremendous hours and seemingly being paid the same.  Then that was back in the day that the good ole boys tolerated having women because they had a quota.  Wow, we really have come a long way.  Women in the workforce is a given, but the data seems to support that we still are not paid equally.

I have in recent years shared with my coaching clients that while I worked ridiculous hours and climbed the ladder and won awards, there is not one person in my life that was around when I put in all those hours, ruined my first marriage, and took the verbal abuse of my senior leaders that were bigots and chauvinists.  Yes, we have come a long way.  My two daughters will have it easier potentially, and I had it easier than the women that blazed that trail before me.  Recently my husband purchased Season One of the classic drama thirtysomething.  It debuted in 1987, two years into my professional career.  I remember watching it every Tuesday night at 9 pm (or 10?)  Hope, Michael, Nancy, Elliot, Melissa, Gary and Ellyn were a part of our family.  It was the first show that really represented who we were becoming.

While I was really twentysomething, these were our role models.  The Don Draper of the late 80s.  And interestingly, ad men of 90s vs the MadMen of the 60s.  These two shows have really been weighing on me and my need to write and to describe the journey to ultimately help the Millennials get ready to take on their legacy.  Events and culture shape our lives, and this sub-set born between 1953-1964 had some influences that may mirror the Millennials (Millies-some say Gen Y, but my 18 year old Millie likes Millennials better so that is what I will call her!).  Korea, Kennedy’s, Vietnam, Man on the Moon, TV dinners, and a lot of expectations that we will attend college (if socioeconomically we were fortunate of enough to have this as an option) but once we came of age, the environment was very different.  Now we live a life of abundance and excess.  We are ‘Jonesing” even still.  My husband makes fun of me but I am always dreaming about the future, about home improvements, about vacations, about fun, about hard work, about what’s next.  While I do not think we have to keep up with Joneses because we are the Joneses, we are redefining ourselves, wanting to keep up and connect with the generation being poised to replace us.

People I train in performance management and consult with I hear complaining about how the Millennials are spoiled, they expect rewards and positive feedback all the time, and if they are not satisfied with their growth, they move on.  They do not want or need to pay their dues, which the Jonesers most certainly had to.  But we RAISED these people!  We gave them stickers for going potty, celebrated their every move!  Over-engineered their lives with soccer, basketball, pep squad, piano lessons, AP classes, and lavish birthday parties.  Of course they want to be rewarded.  We did it to them, and now it is hardwired.  They don’t know any other way.  And now we complain about it. We need to get over ourselves and embrace them, throw them a bone of praise when they deserve it and learn from them.  They know technology like no one’s business.  When I was in high school there was one mammoth computer for the entire school, in college there were a few in a separate classroom and we had to sign up to get time with it.  There was no email, there were not even answering machines never mind voicemail and text.  The Millennials have leveraged technology from the get go.  In fact my 4 ½ year old downloaded How to Survive High School and Tetris on my cell phone (before it was ‘Smart”) at 9  months old and actually figured out how to find it!  I didn’t even know I had it until my bill was $40 higher one month!  Now she wizzes through the iPad and programs and downloads her own Netflix movies.  I better learn how to use those parental controls with this one!

So what does all this mean about leadership?  What did Gen Joneses learn that mainline Boomers may not have?

What do Millennials seek that will keep them happy in the workforce?  What will the Feds do when the Boomers “bail out?” Will the Millennials find a career in the Feds satisfying and meaningful?  What does a heart for public service mean in this day and age and era?  What will the legacy be of the Millennials?  What will be their unique brand of leadership?

Some of my peers and older would complain about all the texting and lack of verbal and handwritten communication of this latest generation.  “They won’t even know how to interview or have a conversation.”  I am not sure this is true.  The Millennials I have met and coached are eager, and want to contribute.  Perhaps their written communication skills look a lot different than mine did, I am not sure it really matters as long as the message comes across as intended.  In my early email days, more conflict arose from the written word and our little voices/gremlins inside reading it in the wrong tone.  Maybe some needless conflict would have been avoided with a LOL or J icon.

The days of the “my way or the highway” boss is dwindling.  These Millies watched us take our beatings, get laid off with and without severance, and line up in the unemployment line.  The job market now is not unlike that of the early 80s before those memorable Reagan years of prosperity.  They are not going to take it and we need to just deal with that.  “You’re lucky to have a job” does not resonate with this group.  Their needs are different, they had everything growing up, they lived a life of abundance, and they really are looking for simplicity.

My next post will be more on this topic and what I have learned about leadership!

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