George Parente: Leading DTG into the Next Era of Staffing and Consulting

Top 10 Most Inspiring CEOs in Business in 2022

George Parente has worked at DTG Consulting Solutions, Inc. for over 22 years. He was hired as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in April of 2000. And, in October of 2021, he became only the second Chief Executive Officer (CEO) that DTG Consulting Solutions has had in its 50 years of operations.

As CEO, Mr. Parente is responsible for overseeing all business operations. He is currently developing both long-term, and short-term strategies for the continued success of DTG. He also will continue in his role as CFO where he oversees all of the company’s financial operations, including banking and borrowing relations, budgeting and forecasting, financial statement preparation, payroll, and cost analysis.

George has over 30 years of experience in the Accounting and Finance fields. He holds an active CPA license in New Jersey and Maryland. He has obtained dual Masters’ degrees in Accounting and Business Administration. In connection with his doctoral studies, he received a certification in Advanced Graduate Studies in Business Administration. His continuing professional education has seen him receive certifications in Business Law, Change Management, Sales Growth Strategies, and Business Contracts from Cornell University. He also holds a certification in Negotiation Mastery from Harvard Business School. At the start of his career, he received advice from a friend, Jerry Molnar, who owned and operated an executive search firm in the Wall Street area. “Jerry told me to never stop learning. I heeded his advice and became a lifetime learner. I believe that everyone should be open and remain teachable. I realize that I can learn something from everyone, and every situation.”

From Hopeful Restauranteur to Accounting and Finance

When George was growing up, his father owned a restaurant across the street from where they lived. His father had the restaurant for over 40 years, and it was a popular place in town for two reasons: They served the best pizza, and he sponsored a lot of the local sports teams in the town.  “Everyone in town knew my dad, he was a very generous man. I always thought that I would run his restaurant after he retired. As far back as I could remember, his customers would always refer to me as the future owner of his restaurant. But, with three months left in my senior year of high school, he sold the restaurant.” George recalls, “I had no idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I had always envisioned working at and eventually owning my father’s business. It was as though someone pulled the rug out from under me. I was a 17-year-old kid, without any discernible skill sets that I could apply anywhere. I loved playing classical guitar, but I knew I could not earn a living as a guitarist. So, I wound up taking a job in the mailroom of an investment firm on Wall Street.”

Throughout his youth, he was a classically trained musician on guitar. “I would consider it a success when I was able to accomplish learning a certain piece of music. I remember there was a piece called Chaconne by Bach. After months of practice, I played it all the way through with no mistakes. I remember my teacher telling me that if you put the same dedication into anything in your life that you put into learning Chaconne, you will be successful,” he recollects.

Over the next 17 years, George was not only the first person in his family to graduate college, but he went straight through to the doctorate level. Some of his proudest moments are passing the CPA exam, finishing his doctorate classes, becoming the CFO of DTG, purchasing the firm in October of 2021, and becoming the CEO.

How It Happened

When George was in his early 30s, and looking for a job, he had two job offers the same day. One was with an energy company, and the other was with DTG Consulting Solutions.

“I understood what DTG did because I was doing it at that moment,” George recalls. “I worked for some large Fortune 500 companies and that did not appeal to me.  I felt like such a small fish in such a large pond. I didn’t feel what I was doing was having an immediate impact. When I found DTG Consulting Solutions, or they found me and offered me the job, I understood what they did. They impacted people’s lives immediately, by matching people’s skills with the best opportunities for the employee and for the clients for which they recruited the best talent.”

Honing His Leadership Skills at DTG

George recounts that when John DiBari started DTG Consulting Solutions, Inc. as a young expectant father almost 50 years ago, he put everything on the line. With just his knowledge and desire to be successful, he built a stable, secure company located in a landmark building, the Empire State Building.

“He laid the foundation that has kept DTG Consulting Solutions in business for half of a century. John started DTG with his knowledge of the consulting and executive placement industry. He built DTG into a company that operated in a landmark building, and he worked with some of the largest companies in the world,” notes George. “What makes DTG so attractive to me is the foundation and culture that John DiBari created. Every single person in the company can have their career defined by their work at DTG. We have life-long staffing and consulting professionals in every area of our company. We put so much time and effort into finding the right fit, not only for our clients but for people who work internally at DTG. We hire each in-house employee with the expectation that they will retire from DTG. ”

In April of 2000, George was looking to land someplace where he would spend the rest of his career and he knew, right away, there was something different about this company. “Everything felt right about DTG from the start. I walked into the offices on the 38th floor of the Empire State Building. It was a beautiful early spring day, and they had a breathtaking unobstructed view of lower Manhattan. I loved everything about the company immediately. There was an energy about the place. I was watching people working together and the energy was contagious.” he reminisces.

George found DTG the type of place where he could hone his skills and practice the tools of his trade, preparing financial statements, negotiating borrowing terms from banks for different projects, and pricing out different projects. “I was enjoying that part of the work, but it was also a very family-run business. There is a real family atmosphere at DTG, and we always operated the business that way. And to this day, that is the culture at DTG. I was attracted to the company, and I understood everything about what they did immediately, and that’s how the journey began here,” he says.

Throughout the years, the philosophy at DTG has remained simple. Our first obligation is to the accounts that we service. We find the best people for careers and business opportunities for our clients. If we find the best people for our clients, the client is satisfied, the employee is happy, and the staff at DTG is also rewarded.

George considers it his responsibility to give each of the managers the tools they need to run their departments successfully. He provides them with the monetary and human resources they need to run their departments to the best of their abilities. “The managers at DTG make my job easy. I don’t tell them what to do, they tell me what to do. The director of our client services has over two decades of experience in building client relationships and maintaining and growing accounts. Our director of recruiting has spent his entire career in the staffing industry and has been with DTG for over 20 years. Our director of human resources has spent her entire career in this industry. The only difficult part of my job is finding the next generation of DTG employees. The current business landscape of remote workers makes it a little difficult to capture the family-oriented culture that we have in place in our offices in New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Having only been the CEO for six months, George is happy with the success of the company but regrets not taking advantage of some opportunities, such as an additional acquisition and adding remote offices that would have added to the growth of the company. The Covid-19 pandemic postponed the sale of the company by 16 months. During this time, the way of doing business has changed so much. “I wished we had built a small office in a couple of the IT hotbeds. It would be nice to have small offices that could become part of the DTG family. That still may happen, but right now there is such focus on recruiters wanting to work 100% of the time remotely. We know that the right recruiters could work effectively when working 100% of the time remotely. But they would be missing out on the great culture that John DiBari built and that we continue to this day.”

“We have more work than we can handle. I would love to have had more say in bringing people into the company prior to the acquisition. That’s the only regret that I have. I want us to simultaneously be bringing in work and bringing in new recruiters and account managers,” he states. “I wish we had grown our staff more, in anticipation of the growth. I want a fresh pool of candidates, people constantly interviewing for positions, and when we find the gems, I want to hold on to them.”

DTG Has Survived Ups & Downs For 50 Years

DTG has a management team with many years of experience. The work they do is primarily IT-based, but they also do work in Finance and Accounting and their division in Massachusetts works primarily in Capital Markets. Roughly 92% of their revenues are generated from staffing and consulting, with the other 8% of their business coming from executive placement and project-based work.

“It gives me a lot of confidence that anything that we come up against, we can overcome because we’ve done it so many times,” says George. “I hate talking about it, but the terrorist attacks of 9/11 decimated many businesses. We lost friends, and people we placed on assignments at our clients in the World Trade Center. That was the most difficult of all of the downturns because we lost clients who were also friends that day. We never looked out of our windows in the Empire State Building again without remembering the tragedy of that day. The financial crisis of 2008 was difficult on our industry, but the pains from that downturn were only financial pains.”

However, George also believes that the more times you go through an adverse situation, the more faith you have in yourself that you’re going to be able to handle things. “You’re not as skeptical or afraid to face any challenges, because DTG has been around for 50 years, and we have been through it all,” he says.

“I define success as Achieving what you set out to accomplish. We have achieved what we set out to do through each one of these downturns. There are a lot of companies that do not survive difficult times. So the fact that we have survived all the ups and downs of 50 years is our success.”

What makes DTG successful to their clients is the fact that DTG saves their clients not only the uptime in getting somebody up and running but also the downtime in replacing those people when their skills are no longer needed. “Technology changes at such a rapid pace. Businesses are often better off hiring consultants who are already trained in the latest technologies. It is so much easier to hire DTG to do the work than it is to find the employees, hire them, and then have to retrain them as technology changes. We have the responsibility of providing you with people to complete assignments. And when those assignments are finished, DTG finds those people work somewhere else in that same technology,” says George.

Another part of the responsibility of being a CEO is getting out there and meeting clients. Every lunch or every meeting he has with clients, he always asks, “What could we do better for you? How could we be a more useful resource for your company? How can we be an extension of your company’s HR department?” George wants to showcase the talent that exists at DTG and makes them better than their competition. One of his favorite quotes about DTG came from an employee who was talking to a possible new client. The employee said, “People hear staffing and they think Robert Half. We pride ourselves on NOT being Robert Half. We are not interested in hiring 10 recruiters and hoping that one or two of them work out. We are all lifelong staffing and consulting professionals. We are not interested in HOPING that a new hire works out.”

“One thing interesting about the IT industry is that it can be done remotely,” says George. “We are going through a redefinition right now, dictated by COVID-19. Right now, there are so many companies that are letting people work remotely which expands our geographic areas for possible consultants. We basically can expand a pool of possible candidates for IT programming throughout the United States. That’s been the biggest industry change or the biggest positive change to our business in the past two years.”

The Vision of Keeping DTG Running For Another 50 Years

George’s definition of success is to achieve what he set out to do, and his vision for DTG is to build the next generation of people that are going to keep it running for another 50 years.

“This company is going to be around for a long time. I want to build on to what John DiBari built. We are only a few days short of being 50 years old, and so many people have given their entire careers to the success of this company,” he says.

George’s vision is to keep DTG functioning for as long as he leads it and make sure they have capable hands running it when he steps aside. “I want to have a succession plan for when I step aside, which will probably be in another 15 years,” he says. George gets very confused when people see an organization crumble after a leader leaves, and people think that the leader was so great. People think that when the leader left the company, the company could no longer function without that person leading it, and that means the leader was great. George’s interpretation is that “Great leaders leave a company with a succession plan in place to assure the company not only survives but prospers when a successor takes over as CEO.”

“DTG not only remained solvent, but in the six months that I’ve had the reign as CEO of this company, we have increased our daily revenue by 19% and the number of active consultants by 16%,” says George. Also in the first six months of leading DTG, the accounting and finance department has started an initiative to eliminate the use of paper in both the New Jersey and Massachusetts offices. He also hopes to motivate all his people to work as a team and create a culture where they think of the company first, then their accounts, and then themselves as an individual. “We all have been in this industry a long time. We all know that the person with the hot desk in January is often the one who sees a downturn several months later. The hot account in the springtime is the account that is fully staffed and not hiring in the fall. We need to remember this and work as one unit (DTG), and not a group of individuals or accounts.”

George gives his team a lot of free reins and asks the managers of each of the departments to make their own job descriptions. He wants the department leaders to run the departments the way they see most fitting. He wants the managers of each department to determine the best way to motivate their team. “I don’t need to be motivated because I absolutely love what I do. I have prepared myself my entire career to be at this point,” he says. “It comes naturally what I try to do with motivating people because I don’t think I’m any better than anybody else at DTG. I don’t think I’m better than the most recent hire that we’ve had, even though I’ve been here for 22 years. Every day I go to work as though it is my first day on the job and I have something to prove to myself.”

“In some ways, I have the easiest job in the world. I don’t put people in positions and tell them what to do. We have really smart people at DTG that tell me what to do,” he says. “I don’t want to meet any of our manager’s requests with resistance. I want to have an open mind about why they think something would be a good idea, and I want to hear how they will go about doing something differently. I give the managers as much freedom to do things the way they want, and I couldn’t be more proud to represent this company with the people involved in it.”

One way of showing how proud George is of the team at DTG is that he has set up a profit-sharing plan and makes equal contributions to everybody in the company. “This business has a lot of ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys,” he says. “I try to treat everyone in the company equally and motivate them by making equal contributions to everybody’s profit sharing account. Whether you’re having a good month or a bad month, you’re going to share equally in the profits of the company.”

Finding Balance With a Supportive Wife & Kids

George credits his supportive wife with being able to help him balance his life, despite having a lot on his plate. His wife is also a stay-at-home educator constantly driving the kids to and from tutors and working on homework with them herself.

“The way that I’m able to balance everything is by having the most understanding wife in the world, who is also a phenomenal stay-at-home mom, and who has never complained about anything,” he says. “She understands what her role is, I understand what my role is, and we know that we are equals in raising our family. She is extremely understanding of the time that I am not with the family. She cannot do what I do, and I cannot come close to doing what she does for our family. She doesn’t ask for much from me, and I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have her as a wife.”

George also credits himself with having the most understanding children in the world and tries his best to attend every one of his son’s travel hockey games and practices, while supporting his daughter in her hobby as a contortionist.

“She’s worked out routines where she uses contortion along with some dance moves, and she’s excelled at it and gets a lot of recognition for that,” he says proudly.

George is in the process of writing two books through Forbes Advantage Publishing. One book consists of short stories, and the other is a business book on leadership in small businesses. He also proclaims himself an avid exercise, diet, and nutrition fanatic. During COVID, he also picked up the classical guitar again.

“I stopped playing classical guitar in 1983 and I picked it up again in May of 2020. And when I started to relearn some of the pieces I played in my youth, it felt like I was having a conversation with an old friend,” he says. “I heard the guitar say things that I hadn’t heard for so long. It’s like rekindling a love affair. I try to devote an hour each day to it, but I do not let it get in the way of anything that the kids or my wife needs me to do.”

Wisdom for aspiring leaders

George believes that while it is very easy to impress other people, impressing oneself is worth more. “It does not mean a lot to me when people say they are impressed with me or something that I did. Maybe it is my upbringing to be skeptical of people.” However, his proudest moment was when his daughter, Daniela, said about his job as CEO, “You’re a pretty big deal over there, huh?”

George defines himself in one word: Complicated. The wisdom he shares for aspiring leaders is reassuringly uncomplicated and includes the following tips:

  • Never assume. You can use anyone as an inspiration and learn from everyone. I’ve taken a little bit from every leader that I have seen throughout my career, and from everyone that I have met over the years. You have to remain teachable. No leader has all the answers all the time. Never underestimate or disregard somebody because of age or status. Remain open-minded.
  • Find something that you love. Don’t worry about the money. If you do what you love to the best of your ability, the money will follow. And, building something sustainable is more important than money.
  • Every move that you make is going to have a reaction or influence, and not only on the person that you are speaking to. If you make a move, figure out how that move is going to affect everybody else in the company. Don’t always make a move or change things just because it is going to add to the bottom line. Think about the cause and effect that every move has on other people in the company.