Lani Hay knows military technology. Joining the U.S. Navy at 17, she served as an intelligence officer and naval aviation observer. Her experience in integrating new technologies ranges from reconnaissance to tactical intelligence, making her a hot commodity for businesses looking to develop their own technologies.
Hay launched Lanmark Technology Inc. in 2003, turning what was a one-woman consulting business into a now 200-employee, multimillion-dollar company that provides services and systems to support the federal government.
Smart Business sat down with Hay, president and CEO of the Vienna, Va.-based business, at the 2011 Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum to discuss how she generates ideas for technological innovation at LMT.
Q: How do you stay motivated to come up with new ideas?
I would describe myself as a solution architect. … My intelligence background has provided a lot of training and thoughts about how to go about starting my company because I’m a trained analyst, and so I look at things, I look at problems, and I find solutions for them.
I can’t solve problems where there isn’t funding for me to do so, and so I definitely keep track of what the (government) budget trends are, what bills are getting passed, what agencies are getting funded and what programs are getting funded.
There are always efficiencies that you can find. There’s always ways that you can help the government run better, because it ultimately saves taxpayers’ dollars, which helps everyone.
A lot of the projects that we work on support the Department of Defense, meaning that we provide solutions for our deployed service members that ultimately save their lives. So when you look at the bigger picture of the national security interest that we support and how it ultimately ends up effecting the lives of our military members, those are really important problems that I do want to help solve, that I want to help find a better solution for — the efficiencies to get equipment or new technologies.
Q: How do you turn an idea into something tangible?
I like to surround myself with diverse people and diverse viewpoints. When I think of issues that I want to find the solution for, the best idea might not come from me. Sometimes it comes out of the group of people that I’ve surrounded to help me think about the problem, and we end up coming up with the solution by building off of each other’s ideas and suggestions. It’s always a collaborative effort in helping to tackle some of the issues that I want to find answers to.
Q: How do you ensure those people you surround yourself with embody the culture you want at LMT?
It’s about the founder really understanding who they are as a person, and being able to articulate what that environment is and what it’s going to be like working within the company. A small business, a fast-growth business, has a culture that is completely unto itself; it’s different than any large bureaucratic organization. I always make sure that I’m crystal clear when I communicate that to new candidates — if you’re looking for something stable and stagnant, need not apply.
The leadership in the company are former military, and so a lot of the values are intrinsic to our military regarding character: integrity, public service and leadership are the type of people that we attract and that do apply. It’s people who like working in a dynamic environment where you have opportunity to do a whole vast array of things within your professional career.
How to reach: Lanmark Technology Inc., (571) 766-2200 or www.LMT-INC.com