Position: President and chief operating officer of Booz Allen Hamilton, a McLean company that provides management consulting, technology and engineering services to the federal government.

Horacio Rozanski came to the United States after social discord in his native country, Argentina. Rozanski attended the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. He eventually landed an internship at Booz Allen Hamilton, which led to a job in the company’s Cleveland office. Twenty-one years later, Rozanski is now a corporate leader.

What attracted you to consulting?

When I was interning at Booz Allen while in business school, I was assigned to help a person who was a very successful sales person at a window company, who had decided to go off on his own. There was a lot he knew. But there was some things he didn’t know. For example, how to figure out if you can actually make money selling windows and doors, and how much are your expenses given your revenues. I really felt that by the end of that, I made a difference. The guy had a much better sense of what it took for him to survive in that business. He finally understood how much he had to sell, which is a lot more than what he thought. He started investing more in personnel. When we started working together, he was starting to go out of business and didn’t know it. And by the time we finished, he had a plan that he was executing. I learned more about windows and doors than I felt that there was to learn. You become so much more educated on a subject. I also liked the fact that it was project-based. There was a beginning and end. You were not stuck in one place. I knew I wanted to continue this kind of work.

What made you successful with

I actually really care about clients’ needs and goals. I never sold work that I didn’t think we could do well. I always take a long view of the client relationship. When you’re sitting in the cafeteria meeting with someone, you’re not trying to look for something to sell them. You’re just trying to understand who they are and what they do and what keeps them up at night. If you’re focused on your client, and you can show that, the rest takes care of itself. You have to really be inquisitive and ask the tough questions. Be willing to deal with the reality of the answer after you get to the tough question. More often than not, you’re not going to like the answer — or the client isn’t. If you’re not willing to face that completely, then reality has a way of sneaking up on you.

How have you grown most as a leader?

I was very much about the answer, the content, the now, solving the problem, the decision itself. I think that’s been tempered by a real understanding that, at the end of the day, it’s all about people. The only way you build an organization and create something lasting is if you develop not just the answer and strategy, but the people to carry it on after you’ve left. It took me years to figure that out.

Which business books are you reading?

The last book I read was “Grounded” by Rob Rosen.

Interview with Vanessa Small