Being successful in the intelligence community, federal business space, or any other business market is best achieved by having a well-thought out strategy and careful planning.  If you are running a business, a foundational aspect of what your company brings to this equation is your name and reputation.  Make your corporate identity something that you would want to represent you and what you offer to the business marketplace.

Do you know your Company’s Identity?

What are we known for?  What do we want to be known for?  These are two very important questions that must be answered honestly and with agreement from your corporate leadership.  If we were to ask a home builder how important it is to have a true and straight foundation, he would tell us it’s absolutely critical – the entire structure relies upon it.  So, too, is establishing your identity as a company.  It’s the foundation upon which everything else rests.

If you have not yet established your business and decided on a name, you might want to consider a name that describes what you do.  For example, if your company name is “Hershin, Inc.,” I don’t know if you do cyber, IT services, build houses, or sell tacos.  However, if your name is “Hershin Engineering, LLC,” I at least know something about you – you’re a small to mid-sized business performing engineering work.

And the rules don’t apply just for small companies. It has been interesting over the last few years watching large federal contractors spin off their services components into new companies. In particular, look at the care and planning that went in to choosing a company name that epitomized what the company would be known for.  In an article from July of 2012, The Washington Post detailed the spin-off of Engility from L-3 Communications. In their article they noted that the name Engility was selected because it combined the two words, Engineering and Agility. In a February, 2013 article, The Washington Post had this to say about the SAIC split that carved out Leidos, “The name Leidos was clipped from the word kaleidoscope, which SAIC said would reflect the company’s effort to unite solutions from different angles.” The reason companies will take such care in choosing their name is that they realize that a corporate identity is important in their overall strategy to win work.  It is no less important for any other business pursuing growth in their market space.

The Corporate Identity Matrix

When establishing a corporate identity, your goal is to be recognized by customers, competitors/”competimates”, and potential employees. If upon hearing your company name, they know exactly what you do, you have been successful in establishing your brand. If they also know the image you project, then you have nailed it. Interestingly, ultimate success in company branding is when your name becomes what everyone calls the product or service that you provide. Google, Kleenex, and Xerox are examples of the ultimate level of branding success.

There are three groups of people that you want to know about your company. Ideally, you want them to recognize your name and know something about you. Using Cantada, the small business I work for, I will demonstrate how this works.  You can use a simple matrix like this to help you identify who you are as a company, the image and reputation that you will enforce, and how this will be accomplished.

Customers Competitors and Partners Potential Employees
What We Do Engineering – Embedded, software, hardware

Signal Processing



Downlink Distribution Hardware

DSP signal processing framework

Reverse Engineering


Same Same
What We Are Known For Innovation

Solving hard problems


Smart, high-quality engineers

History of intelligence support and engineering services


Great engineers



Problem solvers

Make those around us better


Interesting work

Caring about staff

Work with the best

Not just a number

Family-like atmosphere

Involved ownership

Professional growth

How Do We Achieve This? Apply a wide range of engineering disciplines to any problem

Hire and retain quality engineers

Identify and suggest new ways to solve problems

Consistent performance

Provide the right personnel


Provide great candidates

Share ideas

Help to succeed


Word of mouth

Establish reputation

Advertising and job posting


Large defense contractors will likely have a fourth group of people to add – the public.  Public sentiment and investor sentiment would likely be tracked and shaped according to a planned image.

What Do We Do?

This will be consistent across the board.  In the minds of customers, competitors, and potential employees, you want your company name to be synonymous with what you do. Competitors will be other companies that you compete with on some programs and partner with on other programs, so they need to know your capabilities, too.  Likewise, potential employees need to know what you do. Ideally, if an embedded engineer is entertaining the idea of changing companies, you want your company to be at the forefront of their thought process.

What Are We Known For?

This is the sentiment in which your company is held. For example, I don’t just want Cantada to be known as an engineering firm, but rather, an engineering firm known for innovation and high-quality engineering.  See the difference?  Even, “really good engineers” would work. This is why it is so important to establish and enforce your company reputation. Your company name and reputation are out there recruiting for you and, hopefully, contributing to your business success.

Customers, Competitors and Potential Employees

Customers look for companies that can help them achieve their mission. They want access to qualified and cleared resources that the contractors will bring. Competitors want teammates that will bring the skills and resources/personnel that will enable them to meet and exceed customer expectations. In this regard, customers and competitors are similar: an interest in the skills and personnel that you bring to the table. Your reputation as a company must also include the types of things that potential employees look for. Interesting work and good pay/benefits are a given, but what else matters to potential employees?  Here is where you can begin to set yourself apart from the average Intelligence Community contracting company. Employees want to know that they are valued, that they are in a place that will allow them to grow professionally, and with leadership that will treat them with fairness and honesty.  As a contractor, you don’t always get that.

Where and How?

This is what you will do to enforce your reputation and offering to your market, partners, and potential employees. Begin with an honest look at where you are now as a company, then identify and take the steps needed to get you where you want to be.  Concentrate on how you want to differentiate your company from what has become a crowded space of defense contractors vying for the same, limited resources (employees) and business opportunities (contracts). Share your vision for your company’s reputation and brand with your staff and give them ideas on how to enforce your company reputation. Listen to and incorporate their ideas as well. There are some really simple things that you can do that will reinforce your company brand and image.

Recognition and Reputation Bring Opportunities

As with your personal reputation, the reputation of your company, along with its identity and branding, are very important. With the right reputation, work can come looking for you instead of you having to spend significant time and resources pursuing the possibility of work. When a really good Intelligence Community engineer gets bored and starts thinking of pursuing a new opportunity, I want them to think to themselves, “I wonder what Cantada has open right now.” The only way for that to happen is for my corporate brand and reputation to be “out there” and positive. Take charge and – like the larger companies among us – carefully plan, shape, and manage your corporate identity. If you can accomplish this, more work and more success will be your reward.

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Todd Keys is a Program Manager at Cantada, Inc. He has been in the intelligence Community for 30 years, as a member of the military (USAF), and as a contractor for top 100, top 10, and small business federal defense contractors. He has held multiple roles, CONUS and OCONUS, ranging from technician to executive, providing site O&M, system administration, engineering, supervision, contract management, and Capture/BD for the DoD and multiple intelligence agencies.