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6 2 2009 »Out of Office: Milestone's Jess Varughese
Jess VarugheseJess Varughese is the Managing Partner of Milestone, a two-year old financial services consulting boutique. In the midst of what he calls “the worst environment that the financial services industry has ever seen,” it would be easy to focus on day-to-day client struggles and ignore firm culture. Instead, Varughese turned to community service activities to bring his firm together.

Consulting: Culturally, how is Milestone different?
One of the drivers of starting our firm in May 2007 was that we wanted to create a real sense of community within our firm. And part of that effort is to focus on community service and local initiatives.

Consulting: How did you decide which community service activities to participate in?
Most of us came from big firms, which tend to align around big causes. Participation expectations are set from the top down. We came at this a little differently. We wanted a bottom-up approach. We wanted our staff to be very involved. To insure full and vested participation, we really wanted it to be their idea. Our staff, as a group, chose to focus on New York Cares Day. It wasn’t just a handful of people; we did it as a firm. Our entire firm went out for an entire day and focused on one activity. We had 100 percent attendance and it built a tremendous sense of teamwork.

Consulting: New York Care Day is a massive volunteer effort. In a single day, 43,000 people participate in activities all over the city. What did your team do?
Our job for the day was to help paint a school in Brooklyn. Our team attacked it like a consulting project. We broke up into teams and were assigned activities based on individual strengths. Painting assignments were doled out based on height, etc. It was a huge task. It posed challenges from the beginning—lack of scaffolding, paint brushes, etc. – but our team did whatever it took to get the job done.

Consulting: Were there any surprises?
There were real personal relationships built that day. We’re a small firm that will only thrive if we can build a sense of community.
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