2016 has ended and as always I send out my thoughts recapping the year and offering advice for clients. If you saw many changes with Firmsconsulting in 2016 brace yourselves for an even bigger, and very different, 2017.

2017 is going to be about major updates to FC Insider. Exclusive and, dare I say, groundbreaking new training programs (not yet revealed) along with some major changes elsewhere. A necessary reward for our most loyal clients: man y whom have been with us since the beginning.

Ethics

No discussion about future leaders should ever begin without ethics. Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for many clients. Bonuses usually come in, or not. You catch up with family, and friends, and invariably compare your career and life; who got promoted, who went to France for summer, who bought the better home, who can afford to get married, have kids etc.

My advice, as hard as this may be to execute, is to never ever compare your true self to the sinfully choreographed images others project of themselves. No one really tells you what is happening in their lives. What seems like someone else’s success to you may actually be abject failure. In fact, stay away from Instagram! Pictures mislead. This need not be said but the mere act of whipping out an iPhone to document a romantic dinner in Venice, for Instagram, renders the moment unromantic. So beware of images that appear to show a life of splendor.

The quest to succeed in life is tough since, as the US constitution rightly proclaims, life is about the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is not something we will necessarily attain and it is going to be a steeplechase to get there. Yet, this desire is ingrained in all of us. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to more than society had intended for you. Ambition is a worthy and necessary attribute to succeed.

Yet, the American Dream feels more like a slow-burn nightmare to millions. Yes, it was never meant to be easy but it was certainly never meant to be impossible. Capitalism was designed to be a gently sloping pyramid where fewer and fewer progress to the apex, but with plenty of resting spots at each step of the pyramid. However, the majority seem to be slipping and sliding off the sides with just a few at the top.

Pressure from family, self-imposed comparisons, debt obligations etc., all force us to try our best at climbing up this pyramid. Sometimes we make poor decisions. Do not feel bad about making some poor decisions. We all make them. It is called youth or, for the select few, post-happy-hour-decision-making. You should not beat yourself up about it but just doggedly push forward.

Bad decisions are the natural outcome of pushing the limits. This is especially true when you lack seasoned mentors and role models.

With all this pressure, those with the most to lose need to play for the long term. In other words, defer short term benefits for more stable long term gains. Here I am referring to professionals. For a few, taking just one shortcut to land that dream job/role/title may seem like the best path forward. And they justify it by the slim probability of being caught.

Whom will know that they fudged the numbers? Whom will know they took credit for someone else’s work? Whom will know that they stole content from a website?

The age of the internet has made it ridiculously easy to steal. Most of us were born in an era where we think it is okay to simply illegally download files and use it. Just because something can be downloaded easily, does not make it right. And this is not even an ethics issue. This is a crime. Don’t be a criminal.

The negative outcome of this approach is that it is practically impossible to be confident in your abilities if you never took the time to develop said capabilities. Do the hard work. Take the long road. Enjoy the journey.

I am here to tell you that you can and should be a better version of yourself. You can be both ethical and successful. Mistakes from your past should not prohibit you from being a better person. You can be that person. And I am not preaching from a sanctimonious pillar. I vividly and candidly discuss all the mistakes I made on my journey from BA to partner in my 20s.

Unethical behaviour has a desensitizing impact. Do it once, and you never learn to do things the right way. Pretty soon, you will want to achieve more and the only way you know how is to cut corners. At some point things will come undone. You may never even know you crossed the line until the SEC comes knocking on your door.

Your goal as a professional is to never ever incentivize Preet Bharara to seek a meeting with you.

Your most important advantage is your credibility. It needs to be protected and nurtured. I have seen too many clients throw away their reputations for the silliest of advantages. Do not do it.

Being ethical does not mean being a pushover. Ethical leaders need to be tough to forge their own agenda. Business, like life, is tough. You need to be tough. You have to be a fighter.

No matter what you may have done or are thinking of doing right now, do not let a handful of incidents define you. You are not whom you were yesterday. You are whom you aspire to be. You can rise up to be a thoughtful, caring and inspiring leader. You can be the change you seek in others. You can succeed by taking actions which help and nurture your colleagues.

That is the type of leadership the world needs. That is the type of leadership within all of us. You just need to act on it.

Content Released in 2016 

2016 was a productive year. Albeit at some cost to our health. In 2016 my work travel was more than the all the travel I did in the previous 5 years combined and came pretty close to when I was a partner.

We moved our main office to the USA, launched FC Insider, launched the FC Insider app and our executive recruiting program, and released 6 new training programs = 320 episodes = 100 hours of new content.

  1. TCO III with Jen Nwankwo
  2. TCO III with Zach Steinfeld
  3. 1st 90 Days with Henri St-Pierre
  4. Partner in 3 Years
  5. How to Become a Partner in Your 20s
  6. Case Interviews for EMBAs / Experienced Hires
  7. Corporate Strat. & Transformation Study Updates

Firmsconsulting Insider

FC Insider is and will continue to be a core part of Firmsconsulting. You saw many initiatives within FC Insider in 2016. Much more will be coming out in 2017. Things we have not yet announced. We are thankful to so many long time clients and have for years spoke about doing more for them but never found the right way to act on this goal, until now.

FC Insider is the free loyalty program we launched this year. It has been a great success and very well received. I typically use Amazon Prime to explain FC Insider, though our loyalty program has no additional fees.

FC Insider will have >14 unique training programs which are not available anywhere else on the site, with even more programs being planned and scheduled down the road. “Partner in 3 Years” and “How to Become a Partner in Your 20s” are far and away the most popular programs. “Case Interviews for EMBA / Experienced Hires” is another sleeper hit. It was designed for the Darden Business School and is highly ranked.

Soon FC Insider will have more than the 15 unique programs below.

  1. Partner in 3 Yrs.
  2. Interviewing as an Experienced Hire / EMBA
  3. Life After Consulting
  4. How to become a Partner in your 20’s
  1. McKinsey after Extended Maternity Leave
  2. Learning from FC Greatest Case Interview Clients
  3. TCO IV: Sizan, French-Turkish MSc / Asia
  4. TCO IV: Dylan, Booth MBA / USA
  5. TCO IV: Francisco, Big 4 consultant / USA
  6. TCO IV: Haris, Big 4 National Tax Leader / Europe
  1. Implementing a Corporate Strategy Turnaround
  2. Big Data & Machine Learning Healthcare Study
  3. Courier & Freight Turnaround Strategy
  4. Insurance Digital & IT Strategy
  5. Mission to Mars Strategy Study

Firmsconsulting, and particularly within FC Insider, will remain the only place to find the uniquely deep insights and skills of former McKinsey, BCG et al partners.

Executive Recruiting is now available to FC Insiders. We carefully vet each role and only accept roles that we believe are best suited to the career needs of our clients.

Our “Strategy Skills” app was pushed out in June 2016 and we have been collecting feedback since. We pushed out the App before it was ready because we wanted FC Insiders to gain access to their content as early as possible: FC Insider content can only be accessed via our App. Rest assured we are working on the feedback received.

The Consulting Offer

TCO III finally came out. Jen Nwankwo joined the Boston Office of Bain & Company. Zach Steinfeld also was successfully placed in Atlanta. TCO III was different from previous seasons since we primarily focused on the correct ways to analyze breakeven curves. This is probably the most important concept to understand for associate-level interviews.

TCO has never failed to place a participant into McKinsey, BCG or Bain in any season. That is a record of which we are very proud.

Granted, there was a 2-and-a-half-year gap between TCO II and TCO III, this still remains the only case interview training program where you can watch former partners train real applicants.

TCO IV is now being produced but will take longer to complete since there are mainly experienced hire participants and their interview cycles tend to last 18 months or more.

TCO IV is also unique in other ways:

  1. One of the participants is the National Practice Leader of a Big 4 accounting firm.
  2. Another is a current Booth MBA.
  3. There are no PhDs in this season.
  4. We have our first Hispanic participant, whom can serve as an important role model.
  5. We also have our first Muslim female participant. Another important role model.

The Executive Program

The US Market Entry Study, The Merger Strategy Study, Strategy Library and The Corp. Strategy & Transformation Study continue to be very popular and unique. There are no other training programs like them anywhere in the world.

Clients and companies from over 150 countries use the material. Consultants from all major consulting firms use the material, including numerous other organizations around the world. This includes universities and governments. We are proud of the excessive depth and quality of the material.

Clients have asked that we accelerate the release of content in the Executive Program. I can assure you we are not neglecting this program. These programs are what make FC different. They will continue to be a major priority and we have actually focused a little too much on these study programs in recent years.

Context matters a little here. Between early 2014 and mid-2016 we released  three Executive Programs and nothing else on the site. In other words, during this time 3 studies were released while we released no TCO programs or loyalty programs.

We ended off 2015 by working on 4 studies simultaneously.

  1. Implementing a Corporate Strategy Turnaround
  2. Big Data & Machine Learning Healthcare Study
  3. Courier & Freight Turnaround Strategy
  4. Insurance Digital & IT Strategy

We are now working on releasing them along with the Mission to Mars Study. In the comments let us know which of these 5 studies you would like to see released first.

The Corp. Strategy & Transformation Study is very large and there will be delays as we release phases. However, after The Merger Strategy Study many members requested that we release modules as they are made available versus waiting for the entire study to finish before release contents. That is why The Corp. Strategy & Transformation Study is being released a module at a time. And it is a huge study. It will take time to come out.

The 1st 90 Days in Consulting with Henri St-Pierre was also a successful program we launched. We will add more to this.

The good news overall is that we have found a way to significantly increase the rate at which we release studies. We are now working on that.

Note, studies will be split up a little with some of the unique content only becoming available to FC Insiders.

iTunes Channels: Strategy Skills & Case Interviews

Strategy Skills” and “Case Interviews” are regularly ranked within the Top 5-10 careers podcasts in most countries worldwide. That is a big achievement so thank you for this.

In fact, “Case Interviews” is the most popular case interview podcast worldwide.

That said, we release content based on popularity of our content. With so many initiatives on the go, we need to prioritize based on popularity. If we see some content is more useful, based on comments, we release more of the content. This ensures we release things you find useful. So, if you enjoy these iTunes channels, please post a review on iTunes for Case Interviews podcast and/or Strategy Skills podcast.

It helps us understand what is important to you and what you think of our work.

We focus our attention based on client feedback.

1-on-1 Coaching

This is the last piece but certainly not the least.

One of the things we have done over the last year is free up much more time so we dedicate our efforts to 1-on-1 coaching: both for case interviews, current consultants and industry executives. This remains the engine of FC and a priority. If this slows everything else falls apart. We believe working directly with both case interview and executive clients allows us to both stay aware of the latest issues but also groom tomorrow’s leaders.

We now have close to 1,000 consulting alumni around the world. This would be higher if we included subscription clients.

Our placement rate for coaching dropped from 73.2% to 70.4% for McKinsey, Bain and BCG and this was not easy to keep above 70%. We consider this placement rate a success since we continue to bring in more development candidates and work with them. Candidates like Sanda, Irina, Sveta, Peter etc. This is still far and away the highest rate in the industry. We believe this is because we only use former partners to train our clients.

This is something we will never change.

This makes our program unique. We carefully screen all applicants and choose to work with those who have potential but usually not the easiest path into McKinsey or BCG.

We have made one major change to our coaching programs to keep this placement rate above 70%; applicants to any of our coaching programs must now apply to work with us at least 12 months before they intend to interview.

This may seem like a tedious change but our data shows a clear pattern. Those who work with us for 12 months or longer have an 85.6% chance of getting an offer. Those who work with us for less than 12 months have a far lower probability of success. This probability keeps dropping with fewer months to prepare.

So, we are doing this to help you.

We have also introduced many new techniques and methods to teach cases, and all of these flow through to the TCO online programs.

Summary

I would like to end this year thinking that members felt we put their best interests first. Thank you for believing in us and continuing to work with us.

My hope is that we create leaders that conduct business in a manner they would want to be treated. Maybe I am old fashioned and aspire for too much, but I think in a modern world some older ideas are worth preserving. It is important to note that Marvin Bower built McKinsey on ideas from an even older law firm and those values remain even more important today.

Finally, FC Insider is only going to become better, with both new and improved content. We are going to rewarding our most loyal members even more in 2017.

Enjoy any time away and travel safely.

Michael

Partner

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Comments

12 responses to Firmsconsulting in Review

  1. Thanks Humza. I hope all is going well for you.
    Michael

  2. Another year of outstanding content – eager to see the ‘Implementing a Corporate Strategy Turnaround’ soon.

    Best,
    Humza

  3. Thanks William.

    We are excited to! I would encourage you to send us feedback often on content as we release them and any new content you hope to see.

    Michael

  4. I love these year end reviews. FC released some truly excellent content in 2016 and I’m thoroughly excited about what’s in store for 2017. You said something that is going to be ingrained in how I lead this year…”You can rise up to be a thoughtful, caring and inspiring leader. You can be the change you seek in others. You can succeed by taking actions which help and nurture your colleagues.” Thank You! I’m so excited for what’s coming at FC this year.

  5. Thanks EHB. Good to see you still are with us over 5(?) years.
    Email me the issues directly at [email protected].
    Technical issues etc. are quite important so if you send them to me they will be fixed.

    Michael

  6. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the great coaching programs of 2016. We are always positively surprised by what is achieved and planned.

    With respect to FC insider, I would appreciate if you can share the Courier and Freight turnaround study first.

    Also, where can we post suggested / small improvements to the existing (like IT issues)?

    All the best for 2017!
    EHB

  7. Thanks Zander.

  8. Mission to Mars, of course! Successfully and safely getting off the planet is an important step that we need to be working towards, unless we are content to be a small, fading blip in the history of the universe.

  9. Thanks Javed. Your vote is counted.
    Happy New Year.
    Michael

  10. Great thoughts by a great coach! It was a pleasure, an honor, and a blessing learning from you in 2016. Look forward to continuing.

    On that note, I will appreciate if you FC can release the Courier and Frieght turnaround study for the FC insiders.

    Thanks,
    Javed

  11. Thanks Davison. I truly appreciate the message.
    Michael

  12. Hi Michael,

    Thank you for your inspirational messages and continuing to be a literal embodiment of ethical virtue. FC’s content and culture are electrifying, and look to be even more so in the coming years.

    Happy new year!

    Regards,
    Davison

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