Building an Innovation Consulting Practice

A Firmsconsulting Original Strategy Training Series.

“The Promotion: Season 1″  demonstrates the skill a McKinsey, BCG et al partner would use to navigate the complex path to a partnership or any other promotion. 

Follow us as we help Andrew, a senior manager / associate principal at a major international professional services firm, become an equity partner in 3 years by following a highly unconventional path: by re-building the firm’s failed innovation practice. Starting with a total budget of just $150K, and signing authority of < $5,000, we take you through every meeting, dinner, coffee chat, obstacle, plan, tactic, pilot, proposal, marital problem, client push-back, strategy, success, failure etc. to achieve total revenue of >$30MM within 3 years. 

Before Andrew, no equity partner had ever been elected from an internal role in this firm. 

We will post special Q&A episodes in response to member questions.

~320 episodes; documenting everything Andrew did to change his career. 


At the start of the show Andrew is a 39-year-old finance specialist serving mid-sized clients in the North-East USA. He recently joined the firm after working at a rival professional services giant for much of his career. He left his prior firm because he was not offered a path to partnership. His career had stalled.

Despite the excitement of joining the new firm, he again fails to make progress and continues to serve mid-size clients, which, given the size of the projects, makes it difficult for him to ever reach the ~$3MM/annum hurdle for partnership.

Moreover, Andrew does not know how to sell without selling. He follows a benefits-based sales approach which does not work. At this point Andrew believes that, at best, he may make partner in 7 to 10 years, but he will likely remain a senior manager. In fact, he is considering leaving to join as a partner at a much smaller regional firm.

He is happily married with a wonderful wife and children. Yet, he bears the guilt of knowing he asked his wife to give up her lucrative investment banking job to raise their children. His wife kept her end of the bargain but Andrew believes he did not do enough on his side.

Innovating Within the Firm – Year 1

Michael takes over Andrew’s career to develop an entirely new career strategy and route to the partnership. In a bold and daring move, Andrew is asked to forget about the common route to partnership and focus on the non-existent, failing and embarrassing innovation practice that the firm’s management committee is considering to shut down.

Michael works with Andrew to find a route into innovation, eventually position him to run the function in a caretaker role, and develop a definition and scalable model for innovation. After a very slow start, September through to December turn out to be important months where a grass-roots innovation campaign is assembled. Michael’s very carefully planned successes and image management strategy gets Andrew noticed by senior management.

New Revenue for the Firm – Year 2

After hitting a major milestone at the end of Year 1, Michael maps out an aggressive but logical plan to shift innovation from its internal focus to external clients. Michael and Andrew continue building out an innovation engine that can scale across the firm. Andrew’s star keeps rising.

They set out, with a detailed strategy, to achieve two highly improbable, but significant, goals.

The year ends with Andrew landing his first multi-million-dollar client engagement. Not done yet, they focus on building out an innovation service for external clients, with a bigger goal in mind than when they started working two years ago.

Innovating for Clients – Year 3

Michael and Andrew pursue the final, and incredibly ambitious, goal: to manage a full innovation program at a major multi-national client, while going head-to-head against BCG and McKinsey, yet by using a different approach to innovation and in an area where the firm has no prior track record. This program requires Andrew to find a way to execute a plan of bringing together the firm’s skills in audit, tax, corporate finance, legal, technology and consulting to create new sources of revenue for clients.

Michael and Andrew develop a “blocking strategy” which allows Andrew to use the unique assets of the firm, to conduct innovation programs in a way that is different from McKinsey and BCG. In other words, they use McKinsey/BCG thinking to build an innovation practice that leverages the strengths of the firm versus replicating the approach used by BCG and McKinsey.

The program ends with Andrew’s initiatives generating >$30 million in savings + revenue for the firm and an offer to join the equity partnership.

Although the number looks daunting, we will explain to you the exact path taken, how we phased the initiatives, how we built a loyal team around Andrew and how we trained Andrew to become comfortable with sales.

We break down each source of revenue + savings into the dollar benefit to the firm, how it was calculated, how it was validated and how you could go about applying the same concept. Significant time is spent explaining the build-up to each pilot, the lessons learned and how the improved process was rolled out across the firm.

Access to this Program

This program is exclusively available to Firmsconsulting Insiders.

Released Episodes


1. The story behind the episodes

2. Client Background

3. Interview process

4. How we think about this

5. A moonshot

6. Am I Andrew’s friend?

7. Does career success buy financial freedom or vice versa?

8. The old-boys network

9. Everyone says!

10. The economic model of a career masterpiece

11. The central partnership challenge

12. Unproductive delays

13. Critically altering the problem statement

14. Strategy for the role

15. Finding the innovation opportunity

16. Dealing with a personal crisis

17. Innovation structure within the firm

18. Being innovative

19. Strategy to get the innovation role

20. Tactics to get the innovation role

21. Challenges in his role

22. Turning debilitating disadvantages into advantages

23. Day 1 in the new role

24. Meeting the firm’s head of strategy

25. Stepping back: what does the firm want/need

26. Defining innovation

27. What is innovation?

28. Announcing an innovation plan with fanfare

29. The real reason you are not a visionary

30. Using a business plan or learning as you go

31. You must know the numbers

32. Ignore best practice

33. Innovate inside the firm or at clients?

34. 8 meetings to gain trust without a business plan

35. Withdrawing from non-profits/charities/school board

36. Internal vs. external clients?

37. Replicating McKinsey’s Innovation practice is a bad idea

38. Financial targets for partnership and ideal clients

39. How did we create Andrew’s career strategy?

40. Falling in love with sexy ideas

41. Should the innovation practice act/look hip and/or cool?

42. Importance of private networking dinners

43. The importance of sticking to the critical path

44. What happens after the 8 tax partner meetings?

45. Keeping the burn low

46. Andrew’s plan for the pilot

47. Psychology of running the pilot

48. Listening to 1st workshop and teaching brainstorming

49. After the workshop

50. Should Andrew lead FIAB?

51. An insurgent mentality

52. Trauma in planning FIAB

53. Language degradation

54. Andrews three roles

55. 5 Month Update

56. How I work and think things through

57. Why internal resistance is a strategic weapon

58. Cultivating relationships from the workshops

59. Planning the pilot: Partner update

60. Editing the presentation – The idea

61. Using the presentation

62. Marital Problems for Andrew

63. Problems with the Partnership Counsellor

64. Is this idea really innovative?

65. The importance of saying no!

66. When to make the case for partnership

67. Critical insight from Workshop 1

68. Lack of an automated innovation process

69. Workshop 2: the big one

70. Buildup to the pilot

71. Balancing internal support with reality

72. Working with support services needs more authorization

73. Updating the innovation partner

74. All the leading ladies at an expensive dinner

75. Following up from the expensive dinner

76. Pimp, Napoleon, Hitler Analogies & Metaphors

77. Andrews key next step: explaining the pilot process

78. Coffee with Andrew’s allies within support service

79. What keeps me going

80. When do we create an innovation brand?

81. Airbnb Strategy: Internal Support Services Partner

82. The first pilot: background

83. Everything shared on Yammer: older version of Slack

84. Benefit 1: consolidating travel

85. Kathy and her team of vloggers

86. Benefit 2: delays in approvals

87. Benefit 3: avoiding integration costs

88. Benefit 4: normalizing discounts

89. Integrating SMS and basic updates: tags and links

90. Building the business case – via Yammer

91. Manipulating the system: Jamie Dimon rule

92. Major celebration: The Fat Hunters

93. Evolution & strategic rise of Kathy

94. Relationship between Andrew & myself

95. Building a grassroots innovation movement

96. Notice the pattern of replicability

97. Grilling the internal benchmarking team

98. Andrew is offered to tour the firm as an expert!

99. How did Andrew go AWOL within Tax for 3 months?

100. The pilot saved $7.12MM! Andrew’s star is born

101. The curse of marginal success

102. Reimbursing Andrew’s time costs

103. Breaking down the approach in the pilot

104. Critical technical problem

105. Critical Insights

106. Andrew’s partner meeting post the support services call

107. Partner dinner with Andrew

108. Wrapping up the first year

109. Comparison to another Big 4 Accounting Firm & Client

110. Calculating the $30MM number

111. Priorities for the year

112. Andrew’s growing results and name

113. The clam before the storm

114. Five critical presentations

115. Vision for innovation

116. Innovation approach

117. Rules for innovation

118. FIAB

119. Innovation Program

120. Big Meeting: Updating the partner on what is the overall process

121. Update on Andrew’s Dinner

122. Meeting of the Innovation Committee

123. Making Andrew the Innovation leader

124. Accelerating Andrew’s partnership discussions

125. Expanding Andrews Budget

126. Cultivating the tax + internal support services partner relationship

127. Rolling out the process around the rest of support services

128. Reminder of the Rules of Innovation

129. Learning from the worst practices

130. Motivating for the team

131. Who were the first hires?

132. Defining a team

133. Permanent versus contractors

134. Centralized versus co-located

135. Cool / elitist versus practical

136. Full data sharing including emails

137. Major focus on customer service / unusual at a start-up

138. Setting up a rotation system

139. Setting rewards and remuneration

140. Setting titles

141. Setting performance management

142. Dress code

143. Finding a home for his team

144. Building their culture

145. Story of Blockbuster

146. People with fire in their belly usually do not work in consulting technology units

147. Motivation of internal tech teams is wrong

148. Committed funding: why, how much and how

149. Customization

150. Specs: high-level versus the detailed the teams wanted

151. Prepping for meeting with IT: how leverage works

152. First meeting with IT Consulting

153. Define customization

154. The incremental benefit of incremental changes

155. Second meeting with IT Consulting: problems with internal consulting technology units

156. Why not use contractors?

157. Moving from variable to fixed cost

158. Adapting Yammer: no bottom up building

159. Is free really free?

160. Will this work?

More to come…

Our commitment to client confidentiality requires some details to be altered.

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