Jack Mutarelli

Position: Senior executive vice president and chief financial officer of Calibre Systems, an Alexandria employee-owned management consulting and technology services company.

Jack Mutarelli’s career began when he enlisted in the Army. Twenty-eight years later, he retired and joined the private sector as a senior analyst at Calibre Systems. He has been at the company for 20 years serving as a principal, director and chief operating officer. Mutarelli has switched to lead the company’s financial operations as he plans for retirement in the next few years.

What were some key strategies you employed to grow the company?

We focused on corporate structure, we converted from a C corporation to an S corporate structure, and we completed the employee stock ownership plan. That was most critical. The other things was that I was always involved in business development and customer relations, even though I had a corporate job and most people in corporate jobs don’t leave their office. When I came to the company, I went straight out to the Defense Department, which was a comfort zone for me. It was something I knew.

How did converting the company to an ESOP contribute to the company’s success?

Every employee realizes that whatever you do affects the company. We own the company. It’s like the being an owner versus a renter. When you rent a car, do you wash it before you turn it back in? When you own it, you probably wash it. There’s a difference in how you treat the things you use. I saw the company grow. I saw the people contribute significantly. I saw people retire. And the people retiring knew that when they retired, this was part of the retirement plan.

How did your military career make you a better business leader?

Values. Values of ethics and work ethic. It also created in me a culture of giving. In the military, you never had a 40-hour-a-week job. In business, you don’t have a 40-hour-a-week job, either. Also recognizing that you don’t always have all the right answers. Who you surround yourself with is really your strength.

Any favorite memories from your military experience?

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was stationed in Europe and I was involved with architecting the withdrawal from Europe, the downsizing and restructuring as we were seeking the peace dividend, and how could we do that orderly. Being part of that was very rewarding.

How have you grown most as a leader since your early days?

The first time I led people was when I was a second lieutenant in the Army. What’s been the same is that I’ve recognized that I’m responsible for everything that my people do and the way they do it. And also recognizing that I can’t do everything by myself. What’s different is that I am learning from experience what works and doesn’t work.

What have you learned about what works and doesn’t work as a leader?

You’ve heard of the phrase “Trust but verify”? Also, there’s always going to be people who work very hard. Everyone has a value, and it’s best to get people focused on what they are best at, sooner rather than later.

How do you do that?

Know the employee. What’s their education background, work background, likes, dislikes and what do they think they’re good at? Put together that mosaic of a person, then you put that together with the mosaic of the organization.

What are your favorite business books?

Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.” It’s all about hands off. Let the market economy grow.

— Interview with Vanessa Small