Sample size: What is your n?

Sample size. This is a phrase every consultant should know and (kinda) understand. Consultants are in the business of 80/20 rule, and smartly deducing insights from a sample of structured data (read: excel), qualitative interviews, observations, benchmarks and other KPI.  We often look at samples to see what it can say about a larger population (statistics… Read More »

Consulting tip: How to make decks for other people

Over my career, I estimate that I made 700+ presentations.  Some were executive summary or update presentations of 5-10 pages. Some were financial and operational reviews. Some were full-scale consulting engagement read-outs (e.g., 40+ pages).  They were all top-shelf and required enormous time / effort / love. Many of them were also for other people.… Read More »

Geek out. Become the mini-expert

Geek out. I have been using this slang a lot.  Many of us who have heard this expression know that it means to become a little bit obsessive about something (usually a hobby). Applying this to business problems, my argument is that business consultants and students need to harness that kind of enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity and… Read More »

Top tier consulting compensation = good coin

Charles Aris is an executive recruiting firm based in N Carolina that specializes in placing top-tier consultants into industry. They are good at what they do. Take a look at their 2017 strategy consulting compensation study here. Rigorous methodology. In true consulting firm, their survey has a large sample size (900+ data points) from more than… Read More »

BCG report: The most innovative companies, 2016

BCG recently published its 11th annual global survey of the most innovative companies here (PDF, 1.1Mb). It’s brief (20pg) and not controversial. It highlights a few case studies – J&J, Cisco, BASF and Under Armour. See the list of top 50 companies. Consultantsmind opinions in red. No surprise you see FAANG companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google).… Read More »

Chilling out with The Economist

The Economist has a blog called Graphic Detail, which excels at showing complex ideas simply. Engaging, thoughtful, and often surprising.  Some recent graphs: 1) High blood pressure globally, not just affluent countries here          A recent study in Lancet largely dispels the myth that high blood pressure is a rich country’s problem; it’s prevalent… Read More »

Who is Peter Thiel?

On Wikipedia you will quickly find that Peter Thiel is the founder of Paypal, the first investor in Facebook, and has a net worth is $2.5B+. Oddly, those three facts are the least interesting parts of his story, point of view, and personna. Recently wrote Zero to One here (affiliate link). Super contrarian – Thiel is… Read More »

Intellectual curiosity is fuel for your career

Life is a long time. Yes, I am only 45, but after 25+ years in corporate America, I can tell you that A LOT of people are “checked out” while still at their jobs. Middle-management and mortgages. That’s not the way it should be. That’s not the way they first envisioned their careers.  My assertion… Read More »

Metacognition: thinking about thinking

Today I was speaking with some friends about metacognition. Yes, I realize that is a $10 word, but the idea is fairly simple on the surface – being aware of your own thoughts. Essentially, thinking about your thinking. Whoa – deep, I know. Skill. Consultants pride ourselves on being skilled and competent – at Excel, at… Read More »

Consultant’s cruise: ocean views

Took a 7 day cruise through the Eastern Caribbean. Highly recommend. So healthy to experience the wide-open ocean for several days. Great perspective – how big the world is, and how thankful we should all be. Enjoy your holidays. Related posts: Consultant’s long weekend – Arizona Loyalty Points: Thank You Client Links

McKinsey’s $125B savings plan for the Pentagon, Ignored

So this morning there was a fantastical headline in the Washington Post here: Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste What the hay? Isn’t this a Ben Affleck movie about a government cover-up? No, it’s an internal report created by the Defense Business Board, “a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, and consultants from… Read More »

Consulting tool: Finviz.com #1: How to screen stocks

Finviz.com is a great way to filter stocks and generally get smart on specific industries. While there are multiple tools on the website, will focus on something call the screener. As you can see here and below, there are 60+ filters (industry, country, P/E, operating margin, dividend %, beta, EPS growth rate) you can apply… Read More »

Consulting tip: How to roll off a project

When I worked for Big 4 consulting, one of the hardest things was rolling off a project you did not like. Too often, what you become good at – is exactly – what bores you. It’s a bit tricky because no one likes a short-timer. There are multiple ways to orchestrate this, but also many ways to… Read More »

Slideology 3: Designing effective slides

This is the final section review of Duarte’s Slideology (affiliate link). I am going to pick and choose what to share with readers. Consulting presentations (for good or bad) are fairly conservative and a bit regimented. As a result, the parts of the books about color, tone, font type, backgrounds, icons etc. . . is a bit… Read More »

Slideology 2: Use diagrams to tell stories

This is the second section review of Duarte’s Slideology (affiliate link). This agency has become a sensation after they did Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth presentation and also a famous TED talk here. Chapter 2  – Create ideas, not slides. I will largely skip this chapter as the idea of brainstorming, understanding the WHY, sketching out… Read More »

Slideology 1: Making bad slides is easy, and it will negatively impact your career – Duarte

Slideology is a book from 2008 about PowerPoint. It is well-structured, thoughtful, and a massively influential book in the “presentation business”.  It makes a whole lot of sense to me and is quite easy-to-read. Nancy Duarte has been doing this for 20+ years and makes some crazy good points. After listening to a podcast interview,… Read More »

How I Built This Podcast – BCG and Beer

If you are like me, you love listening to successful people tell their stories – for their confidence, ingenuity, fears, failures, heroism, goofiness, and ultimately success. We see a little of ourselves in them and experience the art of good story-telling. So, listen to this NPR podcast called How I Built This – where they interview Jim… Read More »

McKinsey Report: Thriving in the New Abnormal, NA Asset Management

The global asset management business is huge. There are lots of billionaires and lots of people like you and me who have our wealth with pensions, 401K, and in stock/bond mutual funds. With the incredibly loose monetary policy (read: printing money), it is no surprise that global assets under management (AUM) have done well. In fact, they had… Read More »

McKinsey: How big is the gig economy?

McKinsey & Co published a very authoritative 148 page study here (3.8Mb pdf) arguing a fairly simple (perhaps obvious) fact; the number of people freelancing is larger than you might think (20%+) and growing quickly. For those who already do project-based solo work this is non-news. We all know ex-consultants, Uber drivers, photographers, web-sign designers, caterers, eBay arbitragers, mortgage attorneys, and real… Read More »

Anti-FOMO book: The ONE thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

This book is all about focus. It is like the Pareto Principle to the extreme. The authors argue that by narrowing your focus to ONE thing in each area of your life, you will be happier, more successful, and find things easier. It turns out that pseudo multi-tasking, and not thinking about what is most important in… Read More »

Consulting tip: study charts, tables, graphs

Consultants see patterns. It’s a core part of our job to analyze data, separate the signal from the noise, and interpret the patterns. Some are better than others and it’s a talent that takes time to turn into a skill. Find good presentations and study them. Like an craftsman who can appreciates solid work, geek out on graphs and analyses.… Read More »

What is FOMO?

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Yes, we all have it sometimes. Social anxiety. It’s that nagging fear you that you might be better off – somewhere else, with someone else, doing something more fun. It’s that high-school sense of peer pressure to not be left out of the group. It’s that hint of jealousy and benchmarking to see how you’re doing… Read More »

Consulting tip: Minto’s Pyramid Principle

Repost. This is from 4 years ago and covers the Minto’s pyramid principle – one of the most important concepts in executive communication and logical structuring of arguments. This is really big at all the big 4 and big 3. It is the scaffolding of management consulting thinking. My revised thoughts (2016) shown in red color. Consultants must structure… Read More »

Trust without clear expectations = fail

Trust, but verify. This is a Russian proverb that US President Ronald Reagan learned and used frequently when speaking about the Soviet Union and nuclear arms reduction verification in the 1980s. I use it quite a bit too – and when delivered with good comedic timing – it can be quite funny. Trust people. But don’t be so naive to… Read More »

Grit matters more than talent

Grit is a casual word which means “resolve” in English. Endurance with a mission. Doing something difficult and not giving up. It is the opposite of complacency or indecision. Clearly, people with grit are going to be more successful – because by definition, they are not giving up. That said, how important is it? Is it more important that… Read More »

Career tip: What is an informational interview?

Of the many things I learned in MBA, the “informational interview” is one of those gems that remains relevant a decade later. Information interviews. They are simply low-expectation, business meetings with (relative) strangers to find out more about an industry, company, or opportunity. It is a win-win: The interviewee has the opportunity to be generous – with their… Read More »

Retirement tip: rental properties 101

Note this post is about rental properties – not about consulting. That said, all consultants and professionals making $$$, need to start putting money away to get yourself retired? It’s actually a question that I ask most all of my friends, and even acquaintances: “What are you doing to get money working for you (assets) so you can… Read More »

Bain: Founder’s Mentality

Founder’s Mentality is a simple and elegant framework from Bain that describes how companies lose their way as they grow. The path from start-up to global juggernaut is not a straight line and Bain research shows that only 1 in 9 companies show sustainable growth for 10+ years. They call it the growth paradox – growth creates complexity and complexity kills growth. As consultants – I… Read More »

Consulting basics: What is a SOW?

A statement of work (SOW) is a phrase you will hear almost daily in your life as a consultant. It’s a client-facing document that outlines what the consultant is proposing to get done on a new project or phase of work. This is particularly important why? Because new projects are the lifeblood of a firm’s utilization, profitability, and career… Read More »

Corporate training: $70 billion largely wasted?

Corporate learning and development is a huge market. Training magazine estimates here that it is approximately $70 billion annually for companies with more than 100 employees.  While that is a huge number, it feels about right. All of this training takes the form of L&D headcount, outside consultants, training tools, travel, and other education spending. They estimate… Read More »

Case interview advice from Bain

It’s consulting interview season which means well-groomed MBAs are sitting across small tables with consulting firm partners and senior managers in something called a case interview. For those readers from consulting firms – you know this fire drill – and probably remember it fondly like Marines who remember “hell week”. Case interview advice. For those in the throes of case interview for full-time… Read More »

Review: BCG 2016 M&A Report

2015 was a blockbuster M&A year. Lot of big name deals as companies re-position themselves and push for growth in a slow-growth, low-interest rate environment. Good times for investment bankers and due diligence big 4 firms. BCG 2016 M&A report here. 2016 has slowed down. BCG notes that 1H 2016 is down 27% YoY, but still flat compared to 10-year average. Remember, this… Read More »

Billionaires part 2: The Bad

Too many billionaires? That can be bad: Ruchir Sharma is an investment strategist for Morgan Stanley who focuses on emerging markets. He uses a 10 point system to evaluate the investment-worthiness of countries, and the billionaire index is one of them. He makes a simple but logical macro-economic argument against having a large % of a country’s wealth… Read More »

Billionaires part 1: The Good

Billionaires are more common than ever. Ruchir Sharma- Morgan Stanley global strategist – notes in Rise and Fall of Nations (affiliate link) that the number of billionaires increased from 1,011 to 1,826 between 2009-2014. That is a 80% increase in billionaires over 5 years.  If the number of “billionaires” were a stock, it would been a great investment. As… Read More »

Review: PwC Global 100 Software Leaders

PWC released their 4th report on top 100 global software leaders here.  Of course you will see the major bulge-bracket software companies (Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, EMC etc), but you will also see a lot of names that you may interact only tangentially.  For example, companies like Kronos (timekeeping), Workday (HR software as a service), Concur (expense… Read More »

Review: 2016 BCG Global Challengers

In sharp contrast from the last post about slow global growth, BCG writes in their 10th annual report about emerging market companies that are killing it. BCG notes that the top companies – i.e. highlighted in this report – are growing revenues at 3x the market with above average margins. The old days when multi-national firms… Read More »

Morgan Stanley – expect slower and lower global growth

Driving back from lunch today, listened to this podcast interview of Ruchir Sharma here, global strategist for Morgan Stanley, manager of $20 billion of assets. Well-spoken, very clear point of view about the world economy after the 2007 crisis: It is a new normal of slower, and lower growth – in part driven by population slow… Read More »

Are emotions contagious in the workplace?

Yes, they are. Emotions are contagious. Lots of research on this topic and a great TEDx talk here by Brandon Smith showing that, yes, emotions do exist at work and play a much larger role than you might think. I am a huge believer that culture trumps strategy and the importance of leaders in setting the direction and an environment of… Read More »

Invest time in people, experiences, assets, and writing

Grandpa-sounding advice coming your way. Here is a thesis for you to test out.  Do you agree with this statement? There are 4 smart ways to invest time: people, experiences, assets, and writing because all these things get more valuable over time. In the age of immediacy and instant access, your relationships, memories, passive income, and point of view will be unique to… Read More »

Time quotes from Tolstoy, Jobs, Wooden, Buffett, Dickinson

I turn 45 this year and honestly, my 40s > my 30s > my 20s. When people say, “Aw, I wish I were ____ years old again”, I honestly, don’t get that. Enjoying the journey too much for that kind of romanticism. That said, I do think a lot about time and really enjoyed these… Read More »

World’s worst question: “Are you sure?”

This is my least favorite expression in all of consulting. “Are you sure?” Built into the question is a lack of trust, glibness, superficial concern with accuracy over meaning, and honestly, a bit of disdain. It’s a superficial question. It’s the kind of question that is asked out of (bad) habit and does nothing to really add… Read More »

Sadly, 20 email tips

Surprisingly, many people use email poorly. They write long-winded email essays that are ambiguous, and often copy too many people. These sloppy people create more confusion, frustration and rework. In this case, more communication is actually worse. Email tip: Take 15 seconds to think before you send out emails.  What am I trying to say, am I sending… Read More »

Consulting tip: Watch videos on LEAN

Lean. Toyota Production System. These are words and concepts that any business person should readily know and understand – even if you are not an operations consultant. Process improvement initiatives built on these concepts take out billions of dollars of waste every year – from every industry. A typical LEAN consulting project will easily take out $1-5 million of waste –… Read More »