From Consulting to Private Equity: PE Execs (and Former Consultants) Highlight What Consultants Need
With private equity’s seemingly eternal popularity in the consulting world, droves of consultants will line up around the block to get a chance at a PE opportunity. We’ve highlighted some interview insights from a few PE operating execs who give their thoughts on what you really need to succeed in private equity as a consultant, and what you can work on now – even while you’re still in consulting – to get you there.

Experience Variations going into Private Equity: “Career Consultant” versus Consulting / Industry Combination

 

“I think going from consulting straight into PE might be a little challenging – especially if it’s into an OpEx type role where you are advising portfolio companies. Ultimately, it would be tough to gain credibility with operating companies if you yourself haven’t had a ‘real job’ – while it’s a stereotype, you’ll be limited by that perception. Perception is reality, unfortunately. I think getting corporate leadership experience is the best route into PE, especially if you want to take the path I have.”

 

- Brian Slobodow, Operating Executive, Golden Gate Capital | A.T. Kearney Alum

 

“[As a consultant] see if you can get yourself into the private equity space. You can get credit in a PE situation even if you’re doing strategy – I’ve taught a lot of McKinsey guys on my team who didn’t come ready with everything. The next step would be to jump to an academy company to get a deep spike, or into restructuring which is another good way to demonstrate results.”

 

- Maggie, Business Unit President, Portfolio Company | AlixPartners Alum

 

“A combination of industry experience and consulting experience is pretty powerful. Being personally responsible for an outcome in a non-consulting context (whether that’s P&L responsibility, line management, account management, etc.) is a big strength. If the person has been a career consultant, it’s a bit different. When a private equity operations team is recruiting, they want a fairly senior person – the challenge is that senior people at large consulting firms tend to be more focused on sales. Ideally a consultant who is still on site with the client 2-3 days per week and who has real responsibility for delivering the project is a good fit. Career consultants interviewing for a private equity role should be able to demonstrate day-to-day delivery and implementation accountability for a project while still meeting sales objectives.”

 

- Adam Fless, Director, KKR | A.T. Kearney & AlixPartners Alum

 

Results-oriented focus:

 

“It’s rare that you have a former consultant that cannot do the strategy and analysis piece…if you cannot follow through, it can be a limiting factor. As someone with a P&L, the numbers are my responsibility, and if you’re on my team you need to ensure those results are going to show up in my bottom line. For success in transition, the question to ask yourself is: will you have the patience and discipline to proactively follow through on your strategy – to set up the tracking mechanisms, schedule weekly calls, work with the different teams, and drive your own results – or will you need to be asked or reminded to do those things?”

 

- Brian Slobodow, Operating Executive, Golden Gate Capital | A.T. Kearney Alum

 

“For consultants who take the route of going straight into private equity, there is the challenge of being deal savvy… when you’re interviewing with a private equity firm, you have to be able to say, ‘This is what the P&L looked like before I was there, and this is what it was after.’ You need to be able to speak their language.”

 

- Maggie, Business Unit President, Portfolio Company | AlixPartners Alum

 

Self-sufficiency:

 

“[The private equity industry] typically values a senior self-motivator who doesn’t rely on a pyramid of staff to execute, and who has the ability to do raw analysis as well as go into a board meeting, and everything in between. They want someone who is willing to roll up his or her sleeves yet also has the ability to handle management and stakeholders at all levels. A lot of traditional consultants have great skill sets but rely on that pyramid model, which makes it tougher to transition to a much smaller, more focused team like you find in many private equity operations groups.”

 

- Adam Fless, Director, KKR | A.T. Kearney & AlixPartners Alum

 

A Delicate Balance

 

“When exploring any role, I always try to be myself. If it’s not a good fit, it won’t be a happy marriage. In getting in the door, I think it helps to be personable and humble yet also confident in your ability – and that’s a delicate balance to strike. Those qualities remain important once you’re there, because when you’re dealing with executives at portfolio companies, you don’t want to be perceived as someone who is coming in with all of the answers. You want to be perceived as smart and capable, yet as a partner who is willing to learn and willing to listen. That combination is key to success in both consulting and private equity, but perhaps even more so in private equity where you are involved with these companies over the course of several years.”

 

- Adam Fless, Director, KKR | A.T. Kearney & AlixPartners Alum

 

- previously published at consultanttrack.com

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