At one point or another, every consultant will ask themselves: “Do I want to make Partner?” While some may see themselves on the Partner Track starting Day One, for others the answer is not initially so clear. Despite the various benefits associated with the Partner Track, (increased responsibility, value-added, and compensation, to name a few) the role is not the best move for everyone.
So what do I need to know before pursuing the track to partnership? Raines International spoke with several executives about when their paths diverted from the Partner Track. Here are the key questions you should consider before seeking partnership.
1. What am I looking to get out of my consulting experience?
They say that after two years in consulting you’ve learned the foundations, and fundamentally I knew I didn’t want to go on to be a Partner. As great as BCG is, if you know you don’t want to be a Partner, you should pull the plug sooner rather than later and move on. — Arjun Moorthy, VP, Business Development & Sales, HubSpot; Boston Consulting Group Alum
At that time, I thought I would get the skills and then boogie on out of there. I definitely was not looking to stay and make Partner. At the end of the day, though, I didn’t know how long it would take for me to get the skills I was looking for and figure out what the next ‘next’ would be. That was a journey. — Jessica Fortier, Senior Director, Logistics Strategy, Gap Inc.; Boston Consulting Group Alum
I had a very good track-record at McKinsey. My client work was always rated at the absolute highest; I had a very good time with what I was doing on the client-side. But I was simply just not too interested in other aspects of the work at McKinsey….. I think it was already clear in my head when I joined McKinsey that I needed to keep the door open. It was certainly clear I was not going to become a Partner at McKinsey. I figured that out very quickly, even before I joined the company, from talking with a lot of my friends from Kellogg who told me what they were doing. I knew from the beginning that I was not going to dedicate myself long-term to McKinsey. — Laurent Borne, Global Vice President, Product Development Excellence, Whirlpool Corporation; McKinsey & Company Alum
As I got closer to the Principal level in consulting, the emphasis was primarily on selling work, and that wasn’t my favorite thing in the world to do. I knew that career wise I couldn’t ultimately be happy with the Partner role. — Brian Slobodow, Operating Executive, Golden Gate Capital; A.T. Kearney Alum
2. What responsibilities are associated with the Partner role and will it be a fulfilling role for me?
No, I never considered Partner. Selling business wasn’t what excited me about consulting. I’m a business junkie – I like the art and science of business. In consulting I liked getting wide exposure to business at the start of my career. Eventually, however, I realized that while every consulting project is fun to talk about around the dinner table, every project is ultimately a bit of a grind when it comes time to do the work. —John Kimble, CFO, Mattel Consumer Products; Mars & Co. Alum
I never expected to stay as long as I did. It got very sticky. Toward the end, the last year or two, it was starting to become comfortable. When I thought about leaving I would start to think, “Oh I am giving up so much,” which was exactly the opposite of the kind of decision-making I wanted to have. I didn’t want to stay in a role just because it felt comfortable to leave or for a fear of the unknown. As it started to get really comfortable and became the path of least resistance, I promised myself, “I’ve got to at least look outside and make sure I am staying for the right reasons.” And it was really that, plus some changes on the personal front that led me to not want to travel as much. We had our first child and that made me start to think, “Well, let me at least just look,” because I wanted to make an informed decision. I was never one of those people gunning for Partner. Like many folks in these roles, I’m fairly driven but it wasn’t that I had to be in a certain role at a certain time or anything like that. — Heather Lord, SVP, Head of Strategy & Innovation, Capital Group; Boston Consulting Group Alum
3. What are my chances of making Partner?
The pipeline to Partner was getting a little bit stuffed and it was going to take me longer than expected. I certainly got a little bit demotivated and demoralized by the idea of having to wait a little longer to be a Partner. — Nicolai Gerard, Digital Acceleration Officer, Groupe SEB; Bain & Co. Alum
I was always very direct with A.T. Kearney, and basically said, “Look, here is when I expect to make Partner. There is no up-or-out model here, but I see it as an up-or-out. If you don’t want me as a Partner on the basis of the performance I’ve laid out, then let’s just agree that you don’t want me as a Partner and I’ll go do something else.” I had that conversation a year-and-a-half out with a number of different people, and it wasn’t menacing or threatening. It was just, “Let’s be honest, here’s the performance, I believe it is Partner-level work. Either I’m totally delusional and you need to bring me back down to earth; or it is Partner-level work but you’re unwilling to make me a Partner for some other reason; or it is Partner-level work and at that point let’s just call it what it is.” Maybe others don’t have that conversation. It is also possible they aren’t in the position of strength to have that conversation. — Gil Krakowsky, Vice President, Global Strategy & Business Development, The Gap, Inc.; A.T. Kearney Alum
At the end of the day, Partner, like any other professional opportunity, involves assessing the pros and cons of the role and a personal reflection on whether or not the role is right for you.
“Whether you are on the Partner path or not, you never know when opportunities will surface and, as they come along, you assess each by its own merit,” Jaime Iredale, Global Head of Procurement, QBE Insurance; A.T. Kearney Alum, says.