In a world of growing digital threats, veteran players such as Silent Quadrant stand ready to keep the gates safe. Towards that end, it is no understatement to say that security is an indelible part of Silent Quadrant’s heritage. Indeed, starting his career with the United States Navy working with the Naval Tactical Data System, Kenneth Holley pivoted to the private sector when he founded Information Systems Integration (now Silent Quadrant) in 1993 in Washington, DC. Identifying security as a key area of concern for both governments and private industry moving forward, Holley then shifted much of the company’s focus to the then-emerging medium of the Internet, initiating a transformation that grew the company and its purpose under the new identity, Silent Quadrant.
Kenneth, Silent Quadrant has delivered cybersecurity consulting, digital transformation, and risk management for nearly 30 years. Can you start off by telling us a little more about the company including how it started and its work in with clients?
Following six years in the United States Navy working with the first and second generations of the NTDS (Naval Tactical Data System) – through which I gained extensive experience in purpose-driven information systems as well as the security around them – I settled in the Washington, DC area, and eventually founded the business in 1993. At its founding, the business was named Information Systems Integration and was focused around providing information technology and integration services and consulting to small and medium size businesses.
Within around 18 months of founding the business I identified what would become one of our key vertical markets: federal government relations (lobbying) firms in Washington, DC. Over the next couple of decades, I worked to expand the business within this primary and extremely unique vertical. In addition, the business also serves small and medium size businesses across a variety of sectors, associations, and one of the largest energy checkoff councils in the United States.
Within the information technology space, my personal passion is all-things network-related and cybersecurity. So, towards the end of the 1990’s – with the proliferation of the Internet and connected devices – I shifted the focus of the business very deliberately to digital security, which positioned us ahead in a competitive sense. With a particular focus on infrastructure security and data protection, the business has assisted many clients ensure brand and profile security. My personal life’s work and mission lies within tangibly redefining the fundamental role of cybersecurity and resilience within as many businesses and organizations as I can possibly touch.
Through 2015 the business continued to serve the top lobby firms in Washington, DC and small and medium size businesses throughout the United States, but I sensed a fork in the road: continue along the same path with a solid book of business, sell the business and retire, or double-down and scale the business to new heights and unique directions. I decided on the latter and in early 2016 hired our current COO, Adam Brewer, to assist with that mission.
Adam Brewer brought an entirely unique perspective which has proven to be a dynamic force within the business. His professional background was not in technology or digital security, but rather 20 years in the hospitality industry and the deep psychological aspects of success within that space. Rooted in service to others, Adam’s empathy-wrapped, emotional intelligence approach to serving our own clients is an important differentiator – so much of what is absent within the cybersecurity industry is the ability to bridge the chasm between people and technology – and with Adam’s leadership as part of the executive team, we’ve been able to do just that. Technology is only the conduit, what Silent Quadrant truly protects are people, reputations, and livelihoods.
Over the next couple of years, we developed our roadmap and growth plan, along with what our new brand identity would be: Silent Quadrant. Working with one of the leading brand and identity agencies in Dallas, Texas we relaunched our business identity as Silent Quadrant in January of 2018.
Silent Quadrant precisely represents who we are, what we do, and the areas within which we operate. For all of our clients, we are that: the Silent Quadrant of their businesses, nearly invisible yet always in motion; the most trusted aspect.
As successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople recognize and understand well, it’s vital to maintain a close view of markets and factors – such provides both the intelligence and the impetus for strategic pivots and breakout moments. As a result, over the past 4 years our team has further narrowed-in on our key areas of focus: cybersecurity consulting and precisely tailored digital protection.
One key area of distinction for Silent Quadrant is that we are selective with regard to the clients we serve – whether a small business, medium size business, large enterprise, family office, or high net worth individuals – we seek those which are truly purpose-driven. Those clients who realize the most benefit from our work are the ones who are supremely in touch with their own purpose, understand the value of a highly tailored approach, and place high value on long-term trust relationships. Because our work does just that: protects their purpose.
This notion of purpose is vital and core to our mission because it’s along this critical path that Silent Quadrant not only protects the most purpose-driven businesses in the world, but we also transform them into the most resilient entities in the world. This fabric of resilience becomes a center of gravity for every organization we serve, creating differentiation and efficiency within every business dynamic. And through our unique approach, we also achieve conscious transformation within our clients, bringing extreme visibility into all areas of business risk, and contextual alignment of digital security with organizational culture and business outcomes.
The aspect of culture is foundational, as no business can achieve true resilience without the appropriate culture in place – it’s a key element, yet in my experience, an often-overlooked factor. For our clients, elevating digital security to the executive and board level does, indeed, bestow a new cultural mindset – from the top down – that puts protection and resilience in line with profits, and positions the businesses we serve to fulfill their social responsibility within a fully digital transformed world.
In October of 2021, newly retired Air Force Colonel Marc Packler joined our executive team as President of CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) Advisory. Prior to retirement, Marc last served as Commander, Air Force Cyberspace Capabilities Center, and brings an immense and diverse skill set – derived over the course of his 25+ year career in the United States Air Force – to positively impact digital security, digital transformation, risk management, and strategic operations within organizations across a vast array of industries.
With our executive team rounded-out, we recently launched a new segment of the business: Quadrant Four. Quadrant Four aims to connect private sector knowledge to the Federal Government and change the way in which innovative businesses gain a foothold and do business within all areas of the public sector, in particular the Department of Defense (DoD). We’re already seeing great success on behalf of Quadrant Four clients, and project this business unit to be a considerable revenue driver.
What was your motivation for founding Silent Quadrant?
My motivation for everything in business and life is serving others. As such, when I founded the business in 1993, I saw a unique opportunity along with a prescient vision to provide quality and reasonably priced information technology services to small and medium sized businesses which, at that time, were being largely overlooked by the larger technology providers – and in many cases, grossly overcharged for modern business information technology solutions. I knew I could make a difference within this space, while at the same time elevating the image of the “IT Guy”. My own motivation and vision proved to be enormously successful.
Something that I write and speak about often is that great business ideas are only as good as the action and follow-through. Sometimes it takes decades to become a success in your field. Having the discipline, self-motivation, and self-direction to attack each day with the highest levels of energy and focus is what separates the successful from unsuccessful. Beyond that, what’s important is the journey – there’s a rich tapestry that we, as entrepreneurs, weave along the way; it becomes a beautiful work of art, but it doesn’t happen overnight, nothing worthwhile ever does. This is something that I am massively passionate about.
Kenneth, what was your background in business prior to founding the business in the early 1990s? How did creating Silent Quadrant change your trajectory as an entrepreneur?
I’ve always been fascinated about business – done correctly, it’s a wonderful exchange of value. Business drives the world forward. So, going back to my childhood, I’ve been engaged in business from an early age; whether that was selling newspapers or flowers on a street corner, or having my own lawn mowing business.
After I separated from the United States Navy in the late 1980’s I settled in the Washington, DC area, which is where I met my wife, Nancy. Interestingly, we met while we both worked at a local animal shelter. Spring boarding from that and having a mutual love for pets, we saw an opportunity in the area for high quality, high touch pet care services. So, in 1991 we founded our in-home pet care business, Creatures Comfort. What we did through that business was to provide care for pets whose owners were out of town, as well as weekday daily dog walks for those owners who were away at work. Part of the impetus for starting Creatures Comfort, beyond the market opportunity that we saw, was an income bridge while I continued my computer science and information technology studies and founded my own business, which ran in parallel for a period of time.
By 1993 we had built the largest in-home pet care service in the Northern Virginia / DC area. On Christmas Day 1993, a Washington Post reporter shadowed us on our pet care rounds, producing a feature article that ran on December 26, 1993. In 1994 we sold and exited Creatures Comfort and I devoted all of my time and energy to my own business.
The world lives online today. How does Silent Quadrant make life easier for clients?
All of us exist within a fully digitally transformed world – that’s a critical notion in framing the work that we do for our clients. The short answer is that we protect our clients, their businesses, their livelihoods, and their purpose. The longer answer involves identifying contextual digital risk within all areas of our clients’ businesses and from there determining what the overall resilience of the business is, where the gaps are, and how to precisely fill the gaps and mitigate the risk on an ongoing basis. Cybersecurity isn’t a one and done exercise; as the threat surface and landscape evolves, so does how every business approach the security of their organization. Silent Quadrant also elevates this view of resiliency to the executive and board levels and places it squarely as a business decision, where it should be. Historically, small and medium size businesses have tended to lump together “IT” and “cybersecurity” – while they intersect, it’s important to view each domain as separate, both logically and from a budgeting perspective; often times, that’s an internal cultural shift, and something that Silent Quadrant assists with in a large degree.
What are some of the cyber risks governments, businesses, and individuals face in the 21st century? How can working with Silent Quadrant negate those risks?
Certainly, the threat landscape is vast and it’s impossible to completely eliminate all risk. That said, one of the most overlooked areas for businesses in today’s world is their own supply chain, particularly the vendor / partners that are the closest-in. Without question, we are all part of an interconnected world, each of us – whether individually or as a business – represent a link within this digital chain. And so, it’s vital that business leaders understand and embrace this notion and their own social responsibility in maintaining the security of their environments that comes with it. Silent Quadrant illuminates all of this for our clients. Without complete visibility it’s impossible to know what the risks are, how to prioritize and address them, and what the specific path forward is for organizational resilience. Fundamentally for businesses, it’s about being able to take a punch, recover, and keep on going.
Kenneth, can you tell us about the company’s executive team? How does the company recruit team members?
In terms of team building, I’ll double down on the culture aspect. It’s even more imperative that our culture is where it needs to be if we’re going to serve as the example and do meaningful work. That’s why we’ve always maintained a relationship-first approach – gaining a clear understanding of the individual’s passions, experiences, and goals. Getting to know the person outside of the business is critical, prior to hiring. We strive to understand what fulfills them to ensure we’re aligned and capable of setting them up to succeed. Ultimately, that’s what our priority is and always will be. If the individuals that make up our team are fulfilled, our business will be successful – and by extension, our clients will be successful in their digital security and resilience journey.
The ethos of Silent Quadrant is about doing the things that don’t scale. It’s in everything from the uncompromising, high-touch approach to serving our clients to how we build our own team.
What makes the combination of talent on your executive team so effective?
One of the biggest challenges organizations face is getting their culture where it needs to be, in terms of understanding and prioritizing cybersecurity. Our executive team is positioned to address the entire organizational structure from every angle. To not only speak to the technical stakeholders, but also to communicate the importance and value of cybersecurity and resilience from the boardroom to the breakroom.
At the end of the day, we understand the importance of technology in protecting an organization – but the critical ligature is the human element. We have to maintain the ability to resonate with every audience within the organization if we’re truly going to affect change, and our executive team’s diverse talents and skill sets position us to be extremely effective in doing just that.
Can you tell us about some of the organizations and entities that Silent Quadrant has worked with over the last 30 years?
Over the past nearly three decades, Silent Quadrant has worked with the top government relations firms in Washington, DC, high-profile trade associations, government check-off programs, high net worth individuals, as well as small and medium size businesses – across all sectors – throughout the United States.
One unique aspect of Silent Quadrant is the fact that the majority of our clients have been with us for well over two decades. I believe that incredibly low client turnover speaks to the integrity of our approach, the effectiveness of what we do and how we do it, as well as the level of trust our clients place in us.
How has technology changed in the cybersecurity realm and where is the industry going in the future?
Without question it’s been Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). From a threat perspective, there’s been an exponential increase as the attack surface has widened. Blending AI and ML in with correlation and context has made every security team more effective – both from an efficacy perspective as well as scalability.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Silent Quadrant and the cybersecurity sector?
Prior to the pandemic, our team was generally on the road quite a bit meeting with clients. With that immediate shutdown in travel, we pivoted hard to focusing deeper on how we tangibly convey the value of what we do to our current and future clients. For us, that was a true silver lining and we’ve realized some huge forward momentum as a result.
Woven into that is the fact that we had prepared our clients to make the sudden shift to a work-from-home model, and they were able to make that pivot rapidly and securely without missing a beat. I believe that’s the truest expression of value.
In 1993, the cybersecurity world was much smaller. What are the biggest differences you see in the industry today?
The cybersecurity industry itself has exploded since 1993, with the market projected to reach $346 billion annually by 2027. Unfortunately, though, cybercrime is projected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, growing at a rate of 15% per year – that means for all that’s being invested in cybersecurity, most organizations haven’t fundamentally solved the problem. While there are excellent, innovative, and very effective digital security solutions in the market, it’s also highly crowded with charlatans. We can’t, as a society, continue to just throw technology at this problem and expect it to change. Technology is only the conduit; the real solution lies with people. Being able to bridge that chasm and craft a contextually aligned risk and resilience program is the path forward – for our businesses and our society. That is what we do at Silent Quadrant.
Kenneth, how is a day in your life?
As an entrepreneur, I intentionally crafted a daily framework that I’m able to apply no matter where I am or what’s going on. My daily routine is highly disciplined – I’m up at 6:00am, brew my morning coffee, then jump right into my journal. From there I check email and plan my calendar for the day. I’m generally in the office and right to work by 8:00am – and with some brief and structured breaks for lunch and dinner, generally working until 7:00-8:00pm, sometimes later depending upon the deadlines.
I philosophically disagree with the notion of work / life balance, favoring an approach that’s a true work / life integration. I truly love what I do and always have, so while some days are more demanding than others, it never feels like work. Also, I’m fortunate to have a wife and partner who agrees with and supports this approach to life – I think that’s one of the more important aspects to my success as an entrepreneur and business owner.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’m an audiobook fanatic. If I’m not in meetings or on calls, I have an audiobook playing. This medium allows me to learn and absorb while I’m working or driving and has proved to be an incredible learning resource for me.
Choose two of your favorite quotes and write them here
“Never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill
“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” – Steve Jobs
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
I would ensure that every business owner and leader – no matter the size of their organization – understands the importance of digital security to their business, to their livelihoods, to the wellbeing of their employees, and to continued innovation. Within the world we now live, it is both a social responsibility imperative, as well as a social good project within your own organization. This truly is my life’s work and mission and I’m blessed to be able to do it.
Client-focused and purpose-driven, Silent Quadrant is an expert in the field of data security and partners with like-minded organizations of varying sizes to help companies leverage greater efficiencies and develop more robust resilience. To do this, Silent Quadrant begins with a cultural transformation at partner organizations, one in which the importance of cybersecurity exists at the executive and board level on down. Initially created to reshape the public’s perception of the IT expert, the company continues to make a difference in the industry through continued energy and laser-sharp focus on the issues that matter to clients including cybersecurity and protecting the digital infrastructure of an organization. Towards this end, Silent Quadrant approaches cybersecurity as an organic issue and one that is ever-evolving. Realizing that they and their clients are part of an inextricably interconnected online world, Silent Quadrant works with partners to identify relevant issues and solutions before they ever become problems. Beyond this, Silent Quadrant works to instruct the public and clients on the importance of cybersecurity in business as well as in their personal lives.
To learn more about Kenneth Holley and Silent Quadrant, please visit the company’s official website at https://silentquadrant.com
Images credit: Vinnie Fallico