Q&A with Don Piluso: General Manager, Nashville
Slalom’s leader in Nashville opens up on why he traded in his surfboard for a guitar, how he earns trust, and what makes Slalom such a special place.
You originally joined Slalom to help us grow our Southern California region. Tell us a little about that journey.
Southern California was one market when I joined Slalom in 2013, with around 50 employees. Since then, I have been part of an incredible journey splitting it into three distinct, amazing markets in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego with over 350+ team members.
It’s been awesome to see people grow and go after their dreams. Also to see people be a part of the Slalom journey and then go off to other things that excite them—their next journey—but still remain part of our ecosystem. I feel like it wasn’t just a business, it was an ecosystem of colleagues and friends that grew into something very special.
What excites you about the market in Nashville?
There’s so much business that’s happening here. It reminds me of when the Orange County was first growing—there are a lot of similarities. There’s this excitement and buzz in the air about the companies and the people that are moving here. Every day I’m on the street, I see a license plate from somewhere different. People are coming here because it feels like the opportunities are limitless.
Nashville’s in this stage where people are looking for partners and colleagues to help them start their journey. It’s super exciting to think that Slalom could be a part of that journey and offer something that no other consulting firm does, which is to stay local and be vested with the community.
What are your goals for Slalom Nashville over the next few years?
First and foremost is to connect to the community—to look for impactful organizations that we want to be a part of, whether that’s the Nashville Software School, which is doing things like retraining veterans and country singers in the community who want to get into technology, or Girls Who Code. I had a strong connection with Girls Who Code in Southern California. They have clubs out here, too.
But, at the same time, we also have to get to know our customers, and they have to get to know us. And the best way to do that is to meet people, talk to them about what we’ve done in other places, and bring points of view that Nashville hasn’t seen yet. That’s exciting for all of us who are on the ground floor here.
How does it feel for you personally to be moving to Nashville and, in some ways, starting the journey over again?
Why am I trading in my surfboard for a guitar? One, I love being in the field with teams and clients. That’s my jam—it’s what fills me up every day. I love being in the action and am so excited to take the lessons learned from SoCal and help start our business in Nashville. On the more personal side, as a family, we were looking for a new destination that was more in line with how we want to live our day-to-day life. Tennessee feels less intense for us—it’s a way to pace our life a little bit differently. And my wife and I love country music. Watching live music is our favorite thing to do—we have somewhere to go every night if we want to!
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe in leading by example. I would never ask my team to do something that I wouldn’t do myself, or that I wouldn’t be a part of. I believe in rolling up your sleeves and being in the trenches with the team. That’s how you earn trust and credibility. People know you’re authentic when you’re actually doing it with them. So that’s a core trait that I try to live by.
What do you look for in a new hire? How do you recognize a great fit for Slalom?
It’s funny, I would say likability is the number one thing. They’ve got to have that presence about them of being excited. They’re passionate. They’re interested in taking this new challenge on. They want to join something that we feel excited and passionate about as well. They want to join the group and contribute. You get a good feel through the interview process of what people’s goals and aspirations are, and if they’re going to be a fit for Slalom in the long term.
What makes a great consultant?
Flexibility, for sure. You also have to be constantly open to change and learning. What makes a consultant successful is being able to pick things up quickly and always having that eagerness to learn more. That’s why clients come to us instead of doing it themselves. They’re looking for people to do that extra-mile work for them.
What would you say to someone who might be thinking about coming to work with you at Slalom Nashville?
I would say it’s a place where you can experiment, you can pilot, you can do the things that you love to do. And you can be challenged, every day, with people who are like-minded. And I feel like that’s something that’s really special, and you can’t find it everywhere.
Your choice of “like-minded” is interesting. What does that mean to you?
It’s a people-first mentality focused on outcomes, for the betterment of society and the world. What resonates with me is that Slalom has always taken a people-first approach, especially through the pandemic. “Like-minded“ represents the things we did for our people—and how that went above and beyond taking care of them and not having them worry about losing their jobs. It reminds me of Slalom’s core values—this is a special place. I don’t know another consulting firm that’s like it.
How will you be approaching diversity, inclusion, and equity as you grow this team?
I promised our executive team that within our first full year of operation we would mirror our community. So I want to make sure that we’re opening up the right channels to pull talent from, to give us the opportunity to reflect our community. It’s harder to catch up once you’ve gotten to a certain growth point. We’re in a unique situation where we can do it from the start.
Do you have a favorite Slalom core value?
I really like “stay humble and curious.” All the values resonate with me, but even if you’re the smartest person in the room, there’s always something you can be learning every day. I learn something new from every single team member that I interact with. It doesn’t matter what level they are or where they are in the organization. I’m excited to hear about what’s going on with them. I try to take all those lessons and data points and keep growing as a consultant. In order to do that, you have to be humble and you have to be curious.