Did you enjoy the program? If yes, how?
The training was very effective – I enjoyed it. I found Michael easy to engage and it was just a very nice set of exchanges overall. I looked forward to the sessions. As a military officer having served 2 tours in Afghanistan, I had a strong engineering background and expertise with the Marine Corps but very little analytic exposure to business problems.
Each session with Michael was like a mini-MBA program and he went out of his way to teach me vital concepts like productivity, NPV calculations, time series analyses, market analyses, supply chain dynamics, competition analyses, margin calculations and more.
I ended up signing up for 24 hours in total since the sessions were so good and far better than the training I was receiving by finding training partners online. The recommendations provided were very specific to my target office and I felt that Michael and his FC had good knowledge of how that office worked, what the recruiter would say and how I should handle my discussions.
Michael put my needs first many times and offered me free lessons and regularly did more than was required.
Did the program meet your expectations? If yes, how?
The program exceeded my expectations.
Some context may be necessary for why this was such an extraordinary program, for me anyway. Others may have had a different experience especially if there expectations were not clear at the beginning.
I was 33 years old, married with no children. I had a master’s degree in engineering from a ranked school but had spent my entire career in the army, eventually rising to the rank of Captain and serving 2 tours and a staff rotation into the internal analyses unit for systems procurement. Everyone with whom I spoke told me to do an MBA.
Michael told me they were wrong and I had everything to make a smooth transition, but it would take time to network and build my skills.
I was able to secure interviews with 8 firms: McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Monitor, Booz, AT Kearney, Deloitte and Monitor Company. That was far more than I expected and it came down to Michael’s strict views on partner-only networking.
Of the 8 firms, I interviewed at 4 and received offers from 2. I withdrew from my interviews at the other 4. Receiving offers from McKinsey and Bain was more than I had hoped to receive.
The overall experience, dogged persistence on Michael’s side and two offers more than made this program worthwhile.
What was the most important learning’s from the program?
There were many important lessons. The ones which stayed with me after I joined McKinsey are the ones I will discuss here.
Ignore conventional wisdom: On many occasions I would watch Michael listen to the advice I had received from friends, ask some questions and do the opposite. This was a common trait and after a few sessions I asked him why he ignored advice from my friends at MBB?
He told me that most people do not care enough to critically consider the question before answering and simply provide the most acceptable answer.
“The most acceptable answer is perfect for the average candidate, but no candidate is average. Therefore the most acceptable answer is useful to everyone and equally useless to everyone.”
That took me a long time to understand but I saw the merits as we constantly did things which others taught were crazy. My wife thought I should do my MBA and network with associates. Michael thought that was a waste of time and money and he had logical reasons for the decisions.
Manage the downside: Michael drummed in the idea of creating multiple paths to the same goal. We went broad with the application strategy since he wanted me to face some soft firms to get familiar with the interview process. This was an excellent strategy because it helped my confidence – but it also got me tired. There was no probably no perfect way to do this and the tiredness was just collateral damage.
When my networking started yielding invites Michael pushed me to build even more relationships and this was useful in one case when the Bain relationship I had spent 2 months cultivating ended with the partner leaving. A lot of work is done to prevent unpredictable events from derailing the plan. This was a good lesson for me.
Learning should be fun: I think the sessions were deliberately designed to be less stressful. I found Michael would inject these funny stories from his many trips around the world to help me understand an idea in consulting.
I cannot remember all the stories after such a long time. I do remember that they helped me move past my mental blocks and got me thinking about things in a fresh way. The stress-free environment made me look forward to the sessions.
Do you feel the program provided an advantage for you versus your own/other preparation? If so, in what way?
I was going nowhere fast without the program! Seriously, I was so close to signing up for an MBA which would have ended up costing me about $250,000 with lost income and possibly my marriage!
When I did the ROI on this program after things had settled down at McKinsey, the case was obvious. The final fee of a couple thousand dollars was a no-brainer when compared to the doubling of my salary and avoided MBA costs.
The program showed me the importance of finding expert help and using it. I stuck to Michael very closely during that time. I had him check all my emails, sent him Skype messages daily – about 5 times a day. We spoke every weekend even if it was 5 minutes to check my direction. My strategy was to get Michael to speak as much as possible since the advice was very effective. The more he spoke, the more I learned.
FC’s advice dwarfs anything to be found in forums, books or other sites. The depth of the information is unusual and most advice was carefully considered for my own needs.
Can you recall any memorable moments?
We had about 30 sessions over 3 months so had too many memories to recall and hopefully I am recalling the most significant one!
In my first round interview with BCG I was going to be interviewed by a female partner who had a tough reputation in the office. Michael knew her and pointed out this information to me, and alums of the office did the same. Michael and I strategized the best way I could impress her. Eventually he decided that the best way to show confidence and engage her was to do the case on the whiteboard in the interview room.
He felt this would keep the energy levels up, demonstrate my comfort in cases and keep her engaged in me. I tried this approach and it was an excellent idea. The case went very well and the partner even ended up walking me to my car and thanking me for making the session so much fun.
This is a memorable example where one of Michael’s suggestions is so tactically specific and worked so well.
What would you like changed in the program?
The program was very good and my suggestions are just that: suggestions. I will leave it to FC and the former partners to see what can or cannot work:
1. FC converts all recorded sessions to transcripts. It may be helpful if these transcripts were released to clients after each session so we can read and review our mistakes.
2. The program is very intense for someone without a bridging program. I think sometime should be dedicated to helping us understand how to learn business concepts when we have no background at all. I struggled at first and only found my feet after a few sessions.
4. Having an ex-partner coach was scary and exhilarating. Michael operates at 280 Km/hour and is always bouncing around full of energy. I think this can be intimidating for many clients and Michael should try to on-board people more slowly. I don’t think this was a problem for me but could easily see it challenging different clients with weaker personalities.
Do you believe your coach was effective?
Michael’s effectiveness is captured by the countless tiny pieces of advice he provides which were so specific to me and my situation. Offering a general observation is not appropriate since the advice was never general. I provided some examples above and there are many others like this.
Do you personally believe the sessions were tailored for your own development?
The sessions were tailored to my needs. I usually wrote to Michael after each session to offer my observations on where I was doing well and struggling. Michael would incorporate this into the next session to fix any problems.
We spoke many times between sessions and I was impressed at Michael’s ability to recall details from sessions done very early. I would need to refer to my notes to stay on top of things. That gave me comfort my needs were foremost for FC.
What are your thoughts on using former McKinsey/BCG worldwide practice leaders to coach clients?
FC is far from a transactional business. I had used a competitor service previously and felt they were only interested if I could pay them. And they measured everything and just stopped sessions when my purchased time was finished. FC spent lots of time speaking to me before I signed up and they edited my resume before I became a client!
They never once tried to get me to sign up for the service. There was no selling. All calls with Michael ended with a polite “please feel free to contact us if you need any help.” That was very strange as I had to force them to start the screening process.
I never felt the sessions were linked to payments of any kind and we often went over the allotted time. If you add in all the time I spent with Michael and the other members of FC it was easily more than the 24 hours I purchased, and they never made me feel this was a business deal. It always felt like a partnership.
If FC can bring in former BCG, Bain and McKinsey leaders and keep this standard then it is going to be a tremendous success. My one worry is that as they grow, there will be pressure to keep finances in order. Please don’t change guys!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
There is a big difference working with a partner and associate. I had both helping me and eventually stopped asking my friend from McKinsey for help because the quality of the feedback was good but not exceptional. FC’s advice was always different and I usually had to pause, think about it and go ask for an explanation. The logic was usually correct and I felt comfortable after hearing the reason.
This business-model of using partners is a good model because it works.
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