Written by Dave Gilbertson, a Principal at the Parthenon Group. Prior to joining the Boston, MA office of the Parthenon Group, Dave obtained his MBA degree from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in 2005.
5:30 a.m. The alarm goes off and it’s time to head out to the gym for an early-morning workout!
5:33 a.m. I hate people that both get up at 5:30 to go to the gym and actually go there. Back to sleep.
7:15 a.m. Okay. it’s to wake up for real this time. Thursday is the day after the “peak of the week” and it means the weekend is on the way. This weekend that means Christmas shopping, as I’m headed home to North Dakota late next week. North Dakota in December, any other takers out there?
8:00 a.m. I’m on my way out the door and ready for the brisk walk to work. We’re going through a pre-Christmas warm streak in Boston, with temperatures above freezing, so the thirty-minute walk to work should be a beautiful one. I live in the South End and work in the Financial District, so the morning walk to work right through Chinatown is not the most picturesque. but it always seems to have its quirks.
8:10 am. Well, I’ve answered that question! I now know exactly why it is that the chicken crossed the road! I was strolling through Chinatown this moming and heard a commotion in one of the alleys before seeing a chicken come running out of the alley and into the street. Streaming out ofa door and into the alley was a knife-wielding guy in chef’s gear in hot pursuit. If I were a chicken. I’d cross the road, too.
8:30 a.m. I assume the chicken survived and now I’ve arrived at work, ready to start what looks to be a long day. After graduating from Tuck in June, I recently started work as a strategy consultant. I tried all through business school to figure out whether consulting would be for me and despite being rejected by a rather impressive array of firms, I found The Parthenon Group. I have always enjoyed telling people what to do and with consulting I have been able to make it a career.
9:00 a.m. What better way to start a day of meetings than thinking about orange juice! After arriving at Parthenon we had four days of training and suddenly I was considered the perfect candidate to serve on a two-person economic team representing Brazilian orange juice producers on anti-dumping charges in the International Trade Council at the Department of Commerce. What?
The call from staffing was right out of the movie Trading Places. “What do you know about the frozen concentrate orange juice market?” “Nothing,” I replied. “Well, you will know plenty by the end of the year.” With that, I was staffed on my first project. The case team was highly unusual for strategy consulting, as it consisted of simply a senior partner (known as “The Wizard”) and myself. For the past few months, we have created an econometric model that proves that Brazilian imports have not adversely impacted the domestic orange juice market. A couple weeks ago we presented the findings to a team of lobbyists and industry leaders representing 80% of the world’s orange juice supply.
That’s the good part. The bad part is that I have not been able to drink a glass of orange juice without wincing for three months.
This morning Mr. Wizard and I are meeting to put the finishing touches on the presentation. When I said that “we” created an econometric model, a more accurate description would probably be that “The Wizard” created the model while “I” looked confused and nodded a lot. No need for semantics, though, are there?
11:00 a.m. I have emerged from the economic lion’s den with plenty of work to do on the presentation. That’s okay, there is a reward waiting at lunch, as I am supposed to meet a Tuck classmate, John Choe, at a nearby sandwich spot to compare notes.
11:15 a.m. Why is it that The Wizard knows the exact bullet point in a presentation in which a change in wording will result in the maximum amount of work for the person doing the change (namely, me!). This morning we decided to update each of the ten or so economic models through 2005 instead of just 2004. This minor change set off a reverberation of work that will certainly have an adverse impact on the weekend.
12:00 p.m. I place a call to John to make sure we are still set for lunch. Unfortunately he wrenched his back over the prior weekend (I was assured that no Tripod hockey was involved!) and still can’t move. I make a note to myself that if I was a nicer guy I would dig up some juicy Red Sox gossip and send it over to him to lift his spirits. but evidently I’m just not that nice of a guy. Back to orange juice.
12:30 p.m. Since lunch with John is out, it’s back to Faneuil Hall for lunch. Around four times a week I head to Boston Chowda’ for lunch. Said, the store manager, welcomes me once again and sets me off with chowder in hand to people watch with all the tourists in Faneuil Hall.
12:50 p.m. Heading back to the office for a 1 p.m. meeting, I cannot believe my eyes. Heading into the building is a guy in a three-piece suit on a Segway scooter! He refuses to disembark from the scooter and starts banging on the door for the security guard to help him with the door. I could see an impending disaster at the elevator. The doors open and I head inside with two other guys before the most egregious office foul I’ve ever witnessed commenced. Mr. Segway plows right into the elevator, while still on the scooter! He’s got me pinned against the back wall of the elevator in disbelief as we both wait for the 8th floor to arrive. It does and he rides off into the office. I only wish I could have seen the incredulous face of the receptionist when he waited in the office lobby standing on a Segway scooter!
1:00 p.m. Switching gears for the day. I head into a meeting with the Harvard boys on the private equity case team. We are currently working on a project with the struggling portfolio company of the firm to figure out the competitive dynamics of the telecommunications services business. Unfortunately, the sum total of our team’s industry expertise in telecommunications services is the occasional ability to conduct a three-way conference call.
To solve the problem we decided we would just call up some retailers, see what they’re looking for. “Yeah! Call the customer!” we all screamed! Then the realization hit: cold-call retailers? The week before Christmas? This proved to be analogous to conducting an informational interview with the Tooth Fairy the day before Halloween. It’s a rather busy time of year to be chatting away mindlessly on the phone. The next solution to this problem came easy: throw money at them.
1:30 p.m. I have pulled the list of the 500 largest retailers in the U.S. and distributed the assignments among three of us for the cold calls.
2:00 p.m. Thirty minutes into this and none of us have had any luck. We are offering a $100 Amazon gift certificate for fifteen minutes of their time in taking a survey. Somehow it’s as if they have something better to do?
3:00 p.m. Success! I convinced two different retailers that $100 in their own pocket was better than fifteen minutes at the company’s expense. In consulting, talking with two people is considered a trend for statistical purposes. One more hour of this and that is all I can spare today.
4:00 p.m. I just got off the phone with the CIO of a major clothing retailer and am tempted to short the stock since it cannot be a good sign if the CIO of the company has nothing better to do with his time a week before Christmas than talk to me. Then, the time has come to go back to working on orange juice for a couple hours.
4:30 p.m. How am I supposed to convert European futures contracts measured in dollars per metric ton into cents per pound solid of frozen concentrate orange juice. Diego Garcia, where are you when I need you?
6:00 p.m. Why didn’t I pay better attention in Professor Kopalle’s class? The guy is absolutely amazing and I spent much of my time trying to come up with a statistics joke in order to get a free slice of pizza at the end of the quarter. By the way, what is a logarithm?
I set the orange juice aside and head back into a meeting with the Harvard boys to update our progress on the retailer cold-calls. While we have been on the phone they have been coming up with more and more ways to show what seems to be the same thing: the retail channel is a good opportunity for telecommunications services. We came up with a pyramid of services that they could offer going up the value chain because we could not think of a better way to display it. I have taken to calling it the “Triangle Offense.” Didn’t Kobe threaten to leave the Lakers because of the Triangle Offense?
7:15 p.m. Time to head out to meet a friend for dinner. Our birthdays are a few days apart and we always try to celebrate together when we’re in the same city. Tonight is a rare treat: venturing out into the North End of Boston. He provides a great listening ear as I bemoan the recent meltdown of what seemed to be a very strong relationship with my girlfriend. In changing the subject, I ask how things were going with his relationship. “Fine, we just went to her office party a couple days ago, it was pretty incredible.” His girlfriend works at the White House. Her “office party” was held in the West Wing. Ryan’s just a great guy, I am really happy for him.
9:30 p.m. Because both of these projects are wrapping up next week I have to return to the office after dinner for a couple hours of follow-up work. The changes to the telecommunications services presentation are due early in the morning for a potential meeting with the lead partner on the project, so it will be a late night.
The financial model is simply giving me fits. I came up with a model to size the market for telecommunications services among retailers and I just cannot quite get it to work. How am I supposed to know how much an average retailer spends for wiring a store with telecommunications and networking equipment?
12:00 a.m. I get in a taxi for the ten minute ride home. Looking back on the day I am frustrated by the fact that it looked like I would be able to sneak out for the clay at 7 p.m. and at the last second I had a lot of immediate work dumped on me, forcing a late-night return. At the same time, I was doing something challenging the entire day. It is a constant tug-of-war between the frustration of not having a predictable schedule and doing interesting work that I’m in the process of working out for myself in consulting, I am fortunate to work with amazingly talented people in an office with nearly no politics while doing interesting work. At the same time, even in a great environment the long hours can be tiring.
12:30 a.m. After working solidly on telecommunications services and orange juice for the entire day I fall into bed, fast asleep, freshly squeezed.