Behind the career: Cindy Shephard

December 1, 2013

Position: Chief operating officer of Cadmus Group, a consulting firm with offices in Bethesda and Arlington.

Cindy Shephard grew up watching her father run his own printing business. She would work there during the summers in high school and learned the importance of quality service, which stuck with her throughout her career. Shephard began her career at the public accounting firm that would become KPMG. She eventually moved to an environmental consulting start-up called Marasco Newton Group, which grew from 10 people to 400. When that company was acquired by SRA International, Shephard spent 11 years there in a variety of financial and operational roles before moving to Cadmus, where she will now head up operations.

What was your proudest accomplishment during your time at SRA International?

It was participating in the acquisition. I brought employees together and took lessons learned from those acquisitions and applied them to future ones to make the transition easier for the employees. Most people don’t like change. But change is not always bad.

How did you help staff navigate through the change?

It’s really about early on listening to the employee. We held town hall meetings. We educated the employees on their benefits, the differences between the two companies, new ways that we had operate to be successful, and why some of those processes and procedures are important for a large company that might not have been important in a small company. A really positive thing we did was have a human resource representative on site, from the new company, who was there to help answer questions and help shepherd employees as they learned new ways of operating.

Sounds like over-communicating was key.

Absolutely. I don’t know that you can ever have over-communication. But you want to keep the focus on the customer and the mission, and not allow the employees and program managers to become too internally focused.

What do you mean “internally focused?”

That happens if you don’t provide the resources and the tools for the employees to learn how to function in a new organization. They don’t know how to do things. They’re constantly trying to figure out how to fill out a time card or open up a new billet for a position. If you provide those tools and help walk them through the changes in the organization early on openly and honestly, it’s more routine. It’s also important to communicate that their job is to keep their eye on the customer to make sure we don’t have any gaps in delivery. You want to be on time, on budget and continuing to meet the terms and conditions of your agreement with the customer.

What advice from a mentor has stuck with you?

One of the founders at Marasco Newton Group, who has since passed away, was a mentor of mine. He taught me that mistakes happen, but most things can be corrected and resolved. You have to have the ability to stay calm, step back and take a common sense approach. That meant the world to me. He also very much promoted the importance of understanding the mission of the company and your customers. Everything we do in operations in support of our program managers makes a difference in our delivery as a firm.

What is the best business book you’ve read?

“Good to Great” by Jim Collins .

— Interview with Vanessa Small

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