As you make the leap from consulting to corporate, reign in your horses and guide your path precisely. There is a clear divide in career decision making between current consultants and seasoned former consultants. The majority of current consultants have such pent up desire to “own something” that they look past positioning moves. Senior leaders know that each move counts, and they want to see where a role will take them. In the span of a few years, you could go from a candidate for a VP of Strategy role to a candidate for a CEO of a $2bn public company, but it all depends on how well you have built upon your skill set and where it adds the most value.
Obviously, big companies are the ones that send the most money to consulting firms, so most consultants have spent time advising large corporations and are biased against joining one. Many large corporations have earned their reputations for being slow, bureaucratic, and loaded with “dead wood” in the talent pool. As a Director or VP of Strategy, the fear is that you’ll be layers away from the CEO in a stodgy organization. But a select few mammoth companies are packed with outstanding talent, offer dozens of career opportunities for you to take advantage of, and have brand names that are known around the world. These are the “great places to be from,” and they change from time to time, somewhat according to their ability to attract talent such as you.
Contrast this with a startup, family-owned company, or a mom and pop shop portfolio company of a major PE firm. Most startups fail, and that stat applies to the one you’re interviewing with. Family-owned Italian restaurants are great, but family-owned companies are filled with quirky leadership, unreasonably sized egos, and about-face changes in direction. And while working for a portfolio company of a major PE firm or well-known middle market PE firm can be a great way to build wealth and your resume, smaller shops don’t offer the same level of expertise and consistency with their ability to attract and retain talent and deliver results. Plus, you don’t benefit from the brand awareness of having a big PE shop as your sponsor, so all you really have going for you is a President/SVP/VP role with a $200mn company that makes stuff from the 1950s, is bleeding money, and has product liability issues that the owners forgot to tell you about.
You joined your consulting firm because of its brand name, number of practice areas, advancement opportunities, and the amount you’d learn. Three years later, have you learned all that there is to know? You’re really just beginning, so we urge you to seriously consider going to a well-known company with revered leadership and a solid track record of turning management consultants into executive leaders. You don’t have to stay there forever. The three years you spend with this “great place to be from” will open all sorts of doors for you, with a fraction of the risk.