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INTER-OP.NET, founded by Bruce Hacker

Bruce Hacker

President & CEO

Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor

CEOCFO Magazine

Published – March 2, 2020

CEOCFO: Mr. Hacker, what is the focus at INTER-OP?

Mr. Hacker: We are an information technology company. We specialize in providing IT support solutions and professional support services to the federal and commercial clients.

CEOCFO: What have you learned about some of the challenges working with the government?

Mr. Hacker: I have found over the years that success in this space is largely dependent upon relationships with other businesses and a track record with the agencies that you are looking to do business with. In our particular space the ability to put together a team or be invited to be a part of a team and being able to fill gaps where necessary for a total solution is critical. Relationships are key, as is the case with most service businesses. The other key factor is the ability to identify, recruit and hire the right people to provide the necessary services is what, at the end of the day, will tend to keep customers and clients wanting to come back to you.

CEOCFO: How in today’s environment, with more jobs and less people and how do you attract staff at INTER-OP?  What do you look for in your people?

Mr. Hacker: In our market, trying to find people that have the appropriate training, education and certifications is especially is critical. It is not nearly as difficult to find people with the right level of education in training as it has been in past times but on top of that trying to find people with the required IT certifications can be very difficult. Our approach is to try to do anything we can to put ourselves in a position to be able to offer very competitive salaries and offer a benefits package that is on par with if not better than what is being offered by most similarly sized companies.

CEOCFO: What types of projects do you typically take on; what is the range of services you provide both for the government and commercial?

Mr. Hacker: On the commercial side we got our start doing software development for associations and nonprofit organizations and we did that for probably our first three to five years of existence. We were doing web based application development for these organizations and had a system that would make it easier for small-staffed organizations to be able to do things like manage and update their website, manage and update member information to accept payments online and all that sort of thing.

That is how we got our start and then over time we were able to slowly get involved more on the support services side, offering services to federal agencies, so when it comes to that type of work, we are doing things like offering or providing people that can work onsite and do things like provide systems administration services, network administration, we do help-desk support, content management, so a number of different areas that all fall under the IT support umbrella.

CEOCFO: Do you look for a particular mix between government and commercial or is a project a project? Mr. Hacker: We originally got our start doing work exclusively on the commercial side and over time we were able to do a little bit of work on the federal side but our experience was that it can be very difficult especially for smaller companies to be able to effectively do both. When you get involved on the federal side it has a way of changing the way that you may have originally structured certain portions of your business (ie. accounting system, facility management etc…).

The same is true as you have some success on the federal side and you look to go after new opportunities, you may find that there is going to be a need for us for example to have a clearance and that can be a very long process to get to the point where your company has gone through all the necessary steps and gotten a facility clearance. I guess my point is that it does have a way of really monopolizing or taking a large chuck of your time so for that reason over the years we went from the bulk of our work being on the commercial side to the point where the bulk of our work is on the federal side.

CEOCFO: Are there particular agencies you prefer as clients?

Mr. Hacker: I come from a military background and am a graduate of the Naval Academy. My background is supply and logistics in the navy. I think because of that and just my background and experience and early in my career I actually was still in college, my interest and major at the time was computer science so that is where I focus and where I have always had an interest. For me, it just seemed like a natural fit to opportunities with the Department of Defense that were IT related. We also do some work for the Department of Homeland Security.

CEOCFO: What have you taken from your military background, what to do and what not to do in business?

Mr. Hacker: One of the big things that I have taken from my military training and upbringing is the importance of process and people. It is just the importance of setting a standard, holding yourself to it, and then coaching your people up and holding them to that, which over the long-haul can make all the difference in the world.

CEOCFO: We came upon INTER-OP through your recognition in the Vet 100. Would you tell us about that?

Mr. Hacker: It was an honor and was something that was a surprise to us. We were have actually been recognized the last two years by Inc. Magazine for making the Inc. 5000, which is the 5000 fastest-growing companies in the nation. I think from that, we were picked up and got some recognition by the Vet 100. It was an honor and a surprise and I am humbled and honored by the recognition.  

CEOCFO: When you are working with the government they are often budget constrained and maybe even technology constrained. How do you work within the contract when you may know there is a better or faster way?  How do you marry the best you can do with what you are required to do in the process?

Mr. Hacker: We face those same sorts of constraints believe it or not when working on the commercial side as well. Every client is different so as a small business you just have to do everything you can to understand the basic needs of the client as best as you possibly can, and to try to offer the best solution possible. Every client is different and you will encounter those on the government side as well as the commercial side that have a set established process and way of doing things.

Even though you may see opportunities to change the process or do things a little better, at the end of the day what we try to do is work with all of our folks and managers to do what they can to bring those options to the table, as best possible explain them to our client as clearly as possible but at the end of the day it is the client who is in charge. We are going to do everything we can to support them in the way that they decide is best. We just have to be comfortable in knowing the lay of the land as some of those constraints start to play out.

CEOCFO: What if anything has changed in your business approach or technology approach over time?

Mr. Hacker: Technology is always changing so we work hard to try to keep up with the trends and the way that different technologies are taking us. In terms of the business approach early on as many small businesses, we were just in a situation where I had to do everything that I could to get the business off the ground and slowly grow our customer base on my own. That can be effective to a certain point but at a certain point the ability to establish strategic partnerships, working relationships with companies that have a similar business model and culture has been critical for us. We have gone from early on an approach where we were not working with any other companies, everything was us, all of the marketing was basically me attending tradeshows and making phone calls, setting up one-on-one meetings, to now an approach where it is more strategic relationships and have propelled our growth.

CEOCFO: Why choose INTER-OP?

Mr. Hacker: There is a tremendous amount of competition out here. I think that what makes us different is the fact that we go above and beyond to really understand the needs of our customers, to know them as an organization and in some cases as individuals as best as we possibly can to understand their pain points and to bring the best solution as we possibly can to the table and hopefully explain it in a way that it makes sense to them. Once we are able to get our foot in the door, then it is all about execution which is usually all about just providing the best people that we possibly can that are highly motivated and willing to go above and beyond to provide exceptional service to our customers. That is what we try to do and that is why I would encourage people to consider looking at INTER-OP.

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“One of the big things that I have taken from my military training and upbringing is the importance of process and people. It is just the importance of setting a standard, holding yourself to it, and then coaching your people up and holding them to that, which over the long-haul can make all the difference in the world.”- Bruce Hacker