On SEI D.C.’s 5-year anniversary, Managing Director Patrick Donegan reflects on the milestones, lessons, and what’s still to come.
Today, we celebrate the five-year anniversary of SEI Washington, D.C, and I can’t believe how far we’ve come. I remember sitting at the W. Hotel in Washington D.C. when we officially announced our new office in 2016. I was staring at the White House across the street and thinking “wow, we’re really doing this.”
We started with no employees and no clients. But as soon as the announcement went live, we were flooded with emails from SEI consultants from all our other offices. Consultants, even ones I did not know, offered to refer clients, make introductions, and connect with potential hires. This is what it’s like to open and build a new office with SEI — we are one company and united by a shared vision.
What We’ve Done
As a team, we’ve grown a lot in just a few years. We welcomed our first internal transfer from Boston and made our first local hire in September 2016. We got our first local client that same year. I remember when our CEO Bill first visited the office — below is an image from that first quarterly meeting in October 2016. Our team only had 4 members at the time.
When I look back, I know we were successful because we prioritized building a team with an entrepreneurial mindset. Of course, I looked for consultants with deep skills alignment to meet client needs. But I also looked for professionals with the passion and drive to build and grow a thriving business.
Because we live where we work, we became actively involved with the D.C. community as we grew. We worked regularly with nonprofits that provide homeless relief, veterans support, and support to families in need.
In 2019, by building a strong client base and forming collaborative technology partnerships, we reached our rolling 12 net-income target that triggered the distribution of shares for employee ownership to all eligible DC consultants. This is a key part of SEI’s business model — broad based local employee ownership.
That same year, we also began to receive recognition for our culture. Washington D.C.’s Business Journal named us on their list of “Best Places to Work.” Now, we’ve been in their top 3 for 3 years running. In 2020, we made the “Inc. 5000 Regionals: D.C. Metro List” as the 25th fastest growing company in the D.C. area.
In March 2020, when COVID-19 hit our country, we moved quickly to adapt. We shifted to remote work, and we experimented with new ways to provide support and drive value for our clients in an unprecedented crisis. Crucially, as a national organization, we also banded together to support our local offices across the country. As a testament to the quality and dedication of our consultants in D.C. and elsewhere, we’ve come into 2021 a stronger, more resilient organization.
Where We’re Going
I could continue to talk about growth — our local team of 35+ employees, or our increasing revenue and net income. But these metrics can’t capture what really matters to me. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved, but at the end of the day, it’s the culture we’ve created, the value we bring to our clients, and the relationships we’ve built with our community that make us who we are.
As the nation emerges from the pandemic, our organization is also reconnecting face-to-face and adapting to the new normal. I won’t offer predictions about the future, but when I look forward to the next five years, I am confident that our journey is just beginning. We will continue to experiment with new technologies and methods and expand and refine the capabilities we offer. Most of all, I know we will continue to place our core values at the heart of what we do, and we will continue to build our community — in the office and in this great city.