Did you enjoy the program? If yes, how?
Yes. I am based in Australia and Michael was travelling all the time during my sessions but we always found a way to connect. We would always start the call discussing some exciting new city where Michael was working and he had these amazing stories about the city, client or hotel where he was staying.
I don’t know anyone who travels as much as Michael and was slightly envious of this. It’s the life I wanted.
I was happy that Michael was sometimes taking calls at 3am in the morning to fit my schedule. I enjoyed the program for these reasons: the polite nature of our calls, the flexibility to accommodate and Michael’s extensive experience and travels means that we could link our cases to real consulting engagements he had managed.
That was pretty cool. We would be discussing a gas pipeline investment case and Michael would relate this back to his own experiences and talk me through the differences between my approach, the case answer and the way the real engagement was done.
Did the program meet your expectations? If yes, how?
Michael is a driver – type “A” personality who gets things done. I cannot imagine Michael sitting quietly in the background. He says he does this but I don’t think he does! I cannot imagine Michael even sitting. He is always full of energy at any time of the day.
I wanted someone like that because I was concerned my hectic work schedule would not give me the discipline to succeed. I had also been rejected at BCG and McKinsey 12 months ago and knew I could give up at the first sign of impending rejection.
By this measure, Michael easily met my expectations. He kept pushing and pushing until I managed to get a meeting with a McKinsey partner and kept pushing for more meetings. I thought he was relentless in this regard. Maybe putting Skype on my phone and connecting to Michael was not the best idea! He could find me anywhere and everywhere.
After I received an offer from Bain he still kept going. He insisted I go through all the interviews and then we could pick the best offer. It was tiring but we just pushed through everything.
I think candidates need to have good expectations of Michael’s style.
What was the most important learning’s from the program?
I was very pleased with the way we solved cases. I had never seen anything like it before and had been through all the books and material I could lay my grubby hands upon! The ability to build customized frameworks from a key question dazzled me the first time I saw it.
It took me about 4 coaching sessions to nail down the approach but once I saw this I could never go back to anything else. Just when I thought I could no longer be dazzled, Michael taught me how to build MECE hypotheses using the frameworks. That was a “WOW” moment for me.
There were so many clever and ingenious shortcuts to handle market sizing, guesstimates, and strategy cases etcetera. The tally sheet was another simple technique that took a messy case and gave it all the structure it needed for tracking benefits. Not to mention the benefits 2X2 matrix. That was very useful in my interviews.
The program is very good at teaching the McKinsey style interviewer led cases. We practiced many, many types of ways to build hypotheses, work with data when to do so etc. In some ways, the program places too much of an emphasis on McKinsey cases and maybe too little on BCG.
There are many more learning’s but these come to mind first.
Do you feel the program provided an advantage for you versus your own/other preparation? If so, in what way?
Easily, the best choice I made to prepare. My own approach was very weak using books which forced me to memorize frameworks or spit out ill conceived hypotheses.
I definitely think Michael and Firmsconsulting changed this for me.
Can you recall any memorable moments?
The Kim Kardashian / Jeremy Lin productivity case! That blew my mind and made my girlfriend laugh for about a full minute. I have since heard my girlfriend ask people this case over dinner.
I liked this case because it collided conventional wisdom with analyses. Conventional wisdom made me think Jeremy Lin must be more productive than Kim Kardashian. As we started working through the case I realized very quickly I had fallen for the stereotyping trap and had not taken the time to think about the question.
If productivity is total output value over total cost on inputs, then I needed to work out the output value. And output value is not the same as income since value is a balance sheet item and income is an income statement items. I needed to convert income to cash and plug into the balance sheet. The final numbers threw me for a loop – Kim Kardashian is far more productive than Jeremy Lin!
That was a classic Firmsconsulting case and why I liked the program so much. It made me rethink everything I took for granted.
What would you like changed in the program?
Over the last 16 months, Michael and I have become good friends. I have built similar relationships with other members of the team. I am always humbled by the strong focus on values they have. Michael will not hesitate to point out a breach of values he holds dear. That constancy of purpose is very hard to find and I regard Michael as a mentor as much as he is a friend.
I have seen Firmsconsulting grow rapidly in the last year and a half and worry about the health of these guys. Seriously! Responding to emails and Skype messages at odd hours like 3am and 6am cannot be a sustainable way to run a business. I would like to see a more sustainable way to manage clients because I think the current hours are insane.
Do you believe your coach was effective?
Michael is a great friend, colleague, mentor and coach. I believe I have more to learn from him and enjoy the calls we still keep many months after the training formally ended. Michael is painfully honest and looks for ways to improve. Even if we are discussing sport and he thinks of an improvement area for me, he will veer the discussion into that area.
Michael effectiveness as a coach is because he believes in what he does. He told me that whenever I make decisions I must always ask myself “why” I am doing it and not “what” I am doing.
I asked him why he started Firmsconsulting and he said it was because he wanted to personally groom tomorrow’s consulting leaders. I cannot argue with that. It is a worthwhile pursuit.
Do you personally believe the sessions were tailored for your own development?
If you add up all the time we spent on the training it went well over the 12 hours and I found Michael not to be obsessed about the time we were spending but focused on whether I was the type of student who would benefit from the sessions.
I do not have an MBA or any pure business training and that was exposed in session 7 when we did a fairly strange ink valuation case for passports. Michael has such a deep understanding of business topics that he stopped the session and we spent the time discussing the basics of valuations:
• Calculating demand
• Calculating revenue from demand
• Estimating operating costs from demand
• Calculating fixed costs from demand
• Forecasting revenue
• Time value of money
• Discounting forecasts back
• Why to discount forecasts
• How to build a discount rate
• Calculating a terminal value
• Alternative to the discount method
I may have mixed up some of them above but this was the gist of it.
I enjoyed the session so much because he used an example from his career where they had to value a pipeline and we talked through the pro’s and con’s of the project, how they calculated the WACC and why they used adjusted inflation and so on. Michael brings interesting stories to understand concepts completely and then indicates which ideas will be needed for a case interview and which should be remembered for my own benefit.
What are your thoughts on using former McKinsey/BCG worldwide practice leaders to coach clients?
Great news but sadly happened after I had worked with FC and hopefully I will get the chance to interact with them at an FC event.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I hope the books and learning tools for consultants are made more widely available than they currently are.
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