Tim Green

The Mission-Driven Mind

Tim Green was leadership material before his acceptance to West Point, but it was the academy and his subsequent years with the military that shaped, trained, and focused him.  “Everything during that time frame was aimed at developing me as a leader,” he explains today.  “By the time I was 27, I was leading organizations of 1,500 people.”

Diverging sharply from the environment of a private corporation, the military gave Tim the opportunity to lead from a young age, providing him with the resources to find the strengths he later put to use as an executive in the business world.  “I really enjoyed working with soldiers,” he recalls.  “I was part of the all-volunteer force, and everybody was there because they wanted to be there.  They were driven by the mission.  And it was always amazing to me that you could take all these people from different walks of life and get them moving in the same direction with that mission.  Race, color, creed, religion, gender, height, weight—it didn’t matter.  I had the opportunity to see what a group of people was really capable of, and I never forgot it.”  Indeed, this emphasis on building a team, and of consolidating that team behind a common goal, made Tim uniquely qualified to lead organizations as he moved out into the private sector.

Since his time in the military, Tim has worked with four different business owners as they attempted to grow their companies and incorporate outside management.  He has also worked with larger businesses, deftly adapting to each new challenge by assessing the needs of the group and the priorities of the owner.  “Those four situations were very different, but they had some elements that were similar,” he observes.  “I began to understand that those leaders got to where they are today by being who they are, and I wasn’t going to change that, so I had to be able to adapt.”

Wielding this leadership experience and cultivated business savvy, Tim today serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Centuria Corporation, a government contractor that provides technical services that center around IT, science, and engineering.  Founded in 2002 by veteran Kevin Burke, the group has grown steadily over the past ten years.  Now comprised of 180 employees and 50 subcontractors spread from New Hampshire out to Phoenix, Arizona, Centuria brought in a little over $30 million in revenue in 2011, and as a result of its growth, its upcoming challenge will be the transition from competing for service-disabled-veteran-owned small-business contracts to free and open competition.  “We’ve been preparing for this for a few years,” Tim explains.  “It’s something you can’t leave to the last minute, but we hope to avoid the dip backwards that is common in this industry and instead maintain our current growth trends.”

Tim joined Centuria in 2009, when Kevin, at the helm of a rapidly expanding venture, realized it was time to bring in an outside management team.  “It’s a huge thing for an owner, particularly a sole owner, to bring in an outside team,” Tim points out.  “It’s one of the most significant changes an owner ever has to make, when he starts to share leadership with another individual.  I think the fact that I had experienced that kind of responsibility before gave him the degree of comfort he was looking for.  I’m able to see what an organization needs from me and to provide it, and that’s what Kevin needed.”  After hiring Tim as COO, Kevin went on to add an executive Vice President for Sales, as well as a CFO.

Judging from the ease of his assimilation into Centuria, it comes as no surprise that Tim hails from a large yet meticulously managed family.  His parents, after raising four biological daughters of their own, decided to adopt a son, making Tim their first adoptive child at seven months of age.  He was soon joined by nine more adoptive siblings over the course of the next decade—a situation that made for a uniquely educational childhood.  “We all had to find a way to get along,” Tim recalls.  “There were a lot of strong personalities in the house, and you sort of inherently had to think from the perspective of ‘what’s going to be best for the family?’ instead of ‘what’s going to be best for me?’  Developing this kind of thinking really came in handy later in my military career, where we had to see the world from the perspective of the mission.  We all had jobs and responsibilities from an early age, and the household was actually very well ordered.  We had a pretty tight schedule with little deviation.”

Adopting ten children was virtually unheard of in the 1960s and 1970s, yet Tim’s mother’s was motivated to provide a loving home to orphan children after emerging from her own troubled youth.  Orphaned at a young age when her Cherokee mother and wealthy father both passed away during a flu epidemic in the 1930s, she was unwanted by her extended family due to her mixed race.  Her father’s family sheltered her until they were granted legal access to her inheritance and then promptly abandoned her with nothing.  Taken in by a distant aunt in Colorado, she met Tim’s father and settled in the region, but the memories of her time shuttling between unwelcoming relatives never left her.

The Greens had already taken in four sons when an agency contacted them and asked them to consider taking in a child with special needs.  “Of course it was all over after that,” Tim smiles.  “My mother went down there and ended up launching a process where they ended up adopting six more kids, each with a physical, mental, or emotional challenge.  I think that, if my mother could have adopted everyone, she probably would have.  I’m sure I got some of my mission orientation from observing her passion and commitment as well.”

Though Tim’s parents were clearly compassionate and generous, the sheer number of kids in the house kept Tim from ever being spoiled by that generosity.  By the time of Tim’s adoption, his father was running his own construction company.  It was a successful business, but with 14 mouths to feed, there was little extra cash to go around.  Informing the adaptability that Tim would later use to provide the right sort of individualized management for a variety of owners and businesses over the years, his parents did not have a prescribed path for each child.  College was on the docket for some, but not others—it all depended on the child’s wants and needs.  “Not everybody worked in the family—it depended on our goals,” Tim affirms.  “I never worked while I was going to school, but a couple of my brothers did.  I wanted to go to college, so school was more important than a job.  My parents had me focused on stuff that would keep school a number one priority.”

Reaching one’s goals was about more than just effort, however.  Tim can still remember the day in seventh grade when his father pulled him aside and said, “Tim, I understand you want to go to college.  I absolutely want you to do that, but we need to figure out how we’re going to pay for it, because you’ve got a bunch of brothers and sisters that don’t have the same advantages you do.  You’ve got a full set of faculties, fingers, and toes, and not all of your brothers and sisters have that, so they’re going to need more support.  Because of that, I can’t pay for you to go to college, so we’re going to have to figure out another way to get you there.”  It was after this conversation that Tim first became interested in the Army.  His father had served during World War II and supported the interest, and a guidance counselor in high school introduced him to a former student and current West Point cadet who pushed him to consider the academy.

Tim’s acceptance came as no surprise to teachers who’d watched him ace every class in high school.  School hadn’t always been smooth sailing, however.  In sixth grade, his poor performance had actually landed him on probationary status.  His counselor’s recommendation to transfer him to a remedial school, along with his mother’s focused “encouragement” all summer, lit a fire under Tim and led him to work hard in school for the first time—a watershed moment he considers to have been a real turning point.  “I went into seventh grade, and my only motive was to get straight A’s so that I could turn around and say ‘I told you so,’” Tim laughs.  “I was angry and wanted to get straight A’s to show everybody I could do it.”  He did, in fact, succeed in his quest, and by the end of the year, he was enrolled in a summer camp for gifted and talented students—an experience that kindled in him an appreciation for doing well and doing one’s best.

This appreciation for his gifts, and the realization that he had a responsibility to use them as best he could, has led Tim to perform exceptionally throughout his career.  In fact, among his proudest accomplishments came during an almost unbelievable turnaround in New Orleans, where he had been hired as COO of a subsidiary that had been launched several years before.  “It was a small business award, but it was a billion dollar blanket purchase agreement, and they were expecting in their first year to do $60 million,” Tim recalls.  Instead, they’d hit only $40 million, much to the chagrin of the customer and corporation alike.

On his first day, Tim walked into an organization with 300 employees and no intermediate management.  The existing protocol had him meeting with each employee each morning to provide instruction—a practice that was as unsustainable as it was impossible.  With that, Tim took on the task of creating an internal structure that facilitated operation and eliminated micromanagement.  After his changes, he received twenty direct reports, with the rest of the employees reporting to those twenty employees.  “Over time, we rationalized the enterprise and skinned it down,” he explains.  “After getting everything straightened out, we went from $40 million to $80 million that year.  When I left four years later, the company was doing over $100 million in revenue.  There were six division managers and a whole new crop of customers.  The thing was firing on all eight cylinders, and it was really a situation where I could stand back and say, wow, I really had an impact here.”

In advising young college graduates looking to follow in his footsteps and be successful in the business world today, Tim stresses the importance of pursuing excellence.  “No matter what job you have, do the best you can,” he says.  “It doesn’t matter what it is.  In fact, it all starts with the job you have right now.  Are you absolutely doing the best job you can right here?”  A lesson Tim learned in 6th grade, it has served him well ever since.  Beyond that, he emphasizes the importance of giving.  “Be generous with your time, your knowledge, and whatever else you have the opportunity to give,” he says.  “If you can adopt that mindset, everything else will fall into place.”

This mantra is expressed in Centuria’s philosophy of giving back, which is a foundational element to its company culture. “One of our biggest efforts has taken shape over the last several years as we’ve really ramped up our veteran hiring,” Tim points out.  “When I got there, the percentage of veterans in our workforce was low, at 3 percent.  Now, however, we’re approaching 20 percent.”  Centuria is also very active in Veteran-owned-business support organizations like NVSBC, the National Veterans’ Small Business Coalition.  And, again exemplifying his emphasis on adaptability and on understanding that solutions must be tailored to situations, Tim prefers local initiatives over national ones.  “We really believe in the adage that ‘support begins at home,’ so we defer to our program managers to support programs that mean something to the local workforce,” he describes.  “For example, out in Oklahoma, we’ve got about thirty or forty employees, and we support a range of activities like Meals on Wheels and a program called Christmas in April, where teams go out and build, repair, and refurbish homes.  A lot of what we do philanthropically doesn’t have a big national sticker on it because we’re trying to figure out something that is most meaningful for our teams on the ground, wherever they may be.”

And what is most meaningful to Tim?  The mission, of course.  From his family, to the military, to the various businesses and owners he has supported, he has changed his focus and adapted himself to advance the mission of the group.  “When you want something, and you start working towards it, things fall into place,” he affirms.  “By keeping your heart and mind aligned with that mission, those things will stay in place.”  By holding true to a leadership style that is driven by the mission in this way, Tim’s example demonstrates that astute orientation and big-picture thinking keep one’s feet on the right path and one’s mind on the right message, whatever may come.

Tim Green

Gordon J Bernhardt


President and founder of Bernhardt Wealth Management and author of Profiles in Success: Inspiration from Executive Leaders in the Washington D.C. Area. Gordon provides financial planning and wealth management services to affluent individuals, families and business owners throughout the Washington, DC area. Since establishing his firm in 1994, he and his team have been focused on providing high quality service and independent financial advice to help clients make informed decisions about their money.

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