Thursday, April 4, 2013

10 Questions with Thomas Koveleskie

Subject: Thomas Koveleskie, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (TM)
Location: Working on Wall Street since 1998

You were one of the very first people to get involved with NGLCCNY back in 2007 before it officially launched. What was the possibility you saw for the Chamber? 

I wanted to bring together thoughtful, successful and passionate business professionals who were interested in building lifetime connections among themselves with a spirit of self-improvement, contribution and generosity. I wanted to create an environment where I myself would feel comfortable in building business relationships and friendships. It was about bringing together my personal passion for the LGBT community and my desire to see friends succeed.

The Chamber’s Industry Council programs are your brainchild. Under your leadership we’ve launched the Legal, Financial Services, Social Impact and Media & Entertainment IC’s. What was your vision for these councils? 

In a city as large as ours, where you have millions and millions of people, I saw that the depth of New York City would allow for a breadth of industry specific networking groups. It was about creating specialized gatherings of professionals that would be a unique addition to the landscape. In particular, I wanted to offer continuing education training in a collegial environment. The Industry Councils are meant as a pathway for people more advanced in their careers to access opportunities. I saw this as a way to create something new for the LGBT community.

LGBT people and our causes, such as marriage equality and diversity, are rapidly gaining ground. What do you see is next for the LGBT community? 

I think what’s next for the LGBT community is moving into a broader engagement with social justice issues that are beyond the current civil rights concerns that have been the focus of our community, and for good reason. However, as those inequities are addressed and resolved in our favor, which I believe will occur, a very well-oiled machine of advocacy has been put into place with fundraising resources and with individuals who have been trained and developed to articulate passionately and persuasively the reason to undertake sweeping changes. Those same skills can be parlayed into helping other communities. Perhaps that could be people with disabilities, immigrants and other civil rights causes that are not yet front and center in our society.

NGLCCNY is starting a new chapter with the transition in leadership. What is your hope for the next phase of the Chamber’s growth?

My hope for the next leader of NGLCCNY is that he is able to win the hearts and minds of the existing members through his personal commitment to each person’s dreams that they bring to the Chamber. I hope that he can connect with people on a deep personal basis and become a leader who can relate to every member from the largest corporation to the smallest start up launching from a kitchen table. My hope is that he can build a framework for the Chamber’s growth and operations that is commensurate with a city as demanding as New York and leverage the opportunities that are present in this rich business ecosystem.

Over the last two years your role at NGLCCNY has very much been behind the scenes. It’s a fact that many of our events were a success because of the outreach you personally did to your contacts. How important is personal outreach to building a business? 

I think the economic crisis of the last years has shown the importance of personal relationships and personal commitment in the business world. At the end of the day, people do business with individuals and institutions that they've come to know and trust and whose reputation for excellence in service stands out against the competition. As economic conditions have become more competitive, this underlying truth in business has only become more apparent. Companies who don’t have deep rooted connections with customers are more likely to struggle. Moreover, I believe that the rise of social media, which has provided everybody with an individual platform to express their authentic self that otherwise might not be articulated, has deepened the trend toward the personalization of business. I recently saw a news report about how house calls are making a comeback among personal service providers. This almost has a nostalgic feel for how business used to be done. One-on-one business is enabled through social media making a small businesses more nimble than large corporations. My point? Personal outreach, both face-to-face and via social media, is crucial to the success of any business. 

As a Certified Financial Planner, you work with many savvy business owners. What do they have in common? 

They have the courage and desire to seek advice from other people. They don’t rely on their own efforts to do everything in their businesses. For small business owners, this is knowing when the opportunity cost of doing something in-house might be outweighed by not delegating outside to another service provider.

Visionary is one word that accurately describes you Thomas. Now that your work with NGLCCNY is finished, what is next for you?

For five years I served helping to lay the foundation for the Chamber and developing its programs. It's been an amazing experience. Now I’m looking forward to increasing the focus on my own practice, acquiring new clients and relationships with sophisticated professionals and discerning business owners. On the personal front, I've recently set myself a goal that by the time I turn 45 I will complete a triathlon. So I started taking private swimming lessons and joined a gay cycling club and will being training for a marathon.

You speak German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and English fluently. You have an MBA from Cornell University, an impressive array of financial services licenses and most notably you are a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (TM). What drives you to continually expand your boundaries and deepen your knowledge?

The psychological impetus arose when I was 13 years old. I came out when I was in junior high and found myself instantly ostracized by my friends. I became suddenly aware of my vulnerability in society. Then I had an epiphany that I would have to rely on myself to thrive and control my own destiny. After that flash of insight, the next day I began to read a book a week to expand my intellectual horizons, learn other languages and travel to foreign countries. I avoided activities that weren’t aligned with my intellectual goals, such as watching TV. That inner drive has remained with me since that time. I enjoy learning foreign languages because of the discipline and concentration it requires and because it demands new ways of thinking. Learning is a way to expand my horizons and to explore new worlds literally and figuratively. While my drive was ignited by a negative event, it has given me great joy to pursue my passions.

What role does spirituality play in your life?

At age 39, seeing that I had achieved much of what I had sought to both professionally and academically, I saw that the next frontier was my inner Self. If I was to achieve my career and life goals, it was clear that fitness of mind, body and spirit would need to become a first priority. What that meant practically was making dramatic changes to my diet and daily exercise routine and incorporating daily spiritual practices. I mediate for thirty minutes every morning and before I retire each night I spend 15 minutes in reflection. My one vice that I have not been able to eradicate is my love for excellently brewed Italian espresso.

Paris or Rome? 

Paris and Rome. I can have both.

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