After completing my undergraduate degree and a Masters in management at the LSE, a number of career paths lay open to me, but I became interested in strategy consulting. The chance to analyse key business issues and gain exposure to a variety of industries and organisations was really attractive. I also liked the emphasis on problem solving and creative thinking, as well as the client interaction. While at Oxford I had always been fascinated by the business world and so strategy consulting seemed like an ideal career choice.
Having chosen to pursue a career in consulting, I was confused as to which of the many consultancies to join. I attended a presentation given by the strategy group with PwC and was really impressed by the group’s friendly and ‘boutique’ culture. Its focus on the deal environment was also appealing, providing a varied client base (corporate businesses to private equity houses) and different types of work, ranging from due diligence to pure strategy work.
Having been with the group for over eight months now, I am convinced that I made the right choice. I work with a supportive, bright and diverse set of people and have been exposed to a range of industries and interesting business problems. Although a relatively new joiner to the group, I have had significant client contact, often with top management teams. We are really encouraged to take on early responsibility and everyday brings a new challenge.
It is difficult to describe a typical week in strategy since every week is different! We work on a project by project basis, with each one usually lasting about three to four weeks. One week you could find yourself interviewing industry experts in the doughnut market and the next you could be analysing the business processes of a large household name. However, I have made an attempt to describe a fairly typical week, so here goes.
I get into the office at 08.30, just in time to set up and read my e-mails before our project team meeting. I am currently working on a joint project with our business recovery team to examine the recovery plan of an ailing retail chain. We have already completed two phases of the work looking at the short and medium term market prospects. In today’s kick off meeting we discuss our approach to the third phase of work, which is an analysis of the retailer’s business plan and store portfolio. Management would like to see a draft of our work by the end of the week, so we get to work right away.
I spend the rest of the day becoming familiar with the store data we have and thinking about the type of analyses we could undertake.
It’s another early start as I attend an industrial products team meeting in the morning. We have a bi-weekly meeting to inform us of new project work in the sector and potential leads. I am aligned to the industrial products sector, but we really work across sectors and can specialise later on. Today, some of my colleagues present on a recent project that they worked on.
I spend the rest of the morning learning how to use a software programme which allows you to perform various analyses on a company’s store portfolio. I use the software to place the retailer’s stores on a map to indicate high areas of concentration. I then define the store catchment areas and analyse the characteristics of these catchments, for instance the catchment population by age and social grade. This allows some insight into the factors driving store profitability. I find that stores tend to be more profitable in areas of higher social grade, which makes sense due to the group’s focus on luxury goods.
In the afternoon I attend a conference call with the management team to discuss their new business plan and the assumptions behind it. The CEO explains the new initiatives the company plans to put into place in order to drive growth going forward, such as more targeted promotion and development of their internet channel.
I then spend the rest of the afternoon finishing my previous analysis, this time looking at co-located stores i.e. locations where there is more than one store close by, and whether this has any financial impact on the business.
Weekly training sessions are organised for new joiners to the group. This morning I attend a two hour session on the pyramid principle, an effective method of structuring reports. After the training session I have a coffee with my counsellor to discuss my progress so far. We talk a bit about my current project and he gives me some good advice about how to tackle this type of assignment.
After lunch with my colleagues in the canteen, I get back to the store portfolio analysis. I sit down with my manager to discuss the key messages we want to bring out in our report. After drafting some blank slides together, I spend the rest of the day analysing the data and trying to understand the key findings.
A particularly interesting piece of analysis which I carry out examines the rationale behind management’s planned store closures. I find that co-located stores are amongst the least profitable and management is planning to close most of these stores. However, I also identify an additional eleven stores that are co-located but not planned for closure. This is an issue I plan to discuss with the management team later on.
In the evening I attend a celebratory dinner for a project I worked on a few months ago. It’s a great chance to relax with my colleagues and to get to know them better, with it satisfying to know that the client was happy with our report and ended up buying the target.
In the morning, we have another call with management in which we discuss the outcomes of our analysis. Management gives us their views on each of the additional stores we identified for closure – some of which we find are either profitable after all or have slightly different store formats. We also discuss the new initiatives management plans to implement and gain a good understanding of the potential revenue uplift these could lead to which we expect to partially offset sales declines from store closures.
In the afternoon we have a business group event where we work through some case studies in small groups and attend a lecture on strategy frameworks given by a professor from London Business School. It is interesting to draw comparisons between the strategy frameworks and examples from our everyday work. After the lecture we head to a nearby pub for a drink to end the day.
I spend the morning looking at management’s projected sales growth by product and comparing it to our assumptions on market growth. Management’s forecasts appear to be reasonable, although there seems to be risk around some areas where our research suggests a more pessimistic view of the market in the future. As an outcome of this, I propose some adjustments to their future revenue forecasts, essentially reducing their expected growth rate to reflect the tougher market conditions that we identified.
In the afternoon I begin generating charts and relevant commentary to display our key findings. It is nice to finally outline our conclusions after having completed the analysis.
Finally, I have some time to catch up on my week’s admin. I check my diary for next week and then head to a nearby bar with some friends from the office. It has been a busy week and I am looking forward to relaxing over the weekend!