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EMPLOY

PROFILE
VAULT EMPLOYER PROFILE:

MARAKON
ASSOCIATES

BY THE STAFF OF VAULT

2002 Vault Inc.

Copyright 2002 by Vault Inc. All rights reserved.


All information in this book is subject to change without notice. Vault makes no claims as to
the accuracy and reliability of the information contained within and disclaims all warranties.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, for any purpose, without the express written permission of Vault
Inc.
Vault, the Vault logo, and the insider career networkTM are trademarks of Vault Inc.
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150 W22nd Street, New York, New York 10011, (212) 3664212.
Library of Congress CIP Data is available.
ISBN 158131196-6
Printed in the United States of America

Marakon Associates

Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION

Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
Marakon Associates at a Glance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

THE SCOOP

History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

ORGANIZATION

11

Key Officers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11


Departments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
Office Locations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

VAULT NEWSWIRE

15

OUR SURVEY SAYS

17

GETTING HIRED

23

Overview of the Hiring Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23


To Apply . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
Questions to Expect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28
Questions to Ask . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30

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iii

ON THE JOB

33

A Day in the Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33


Job Descriptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34
Career Path . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38

FINAL ANALYSIS

41

RECOMMENDED READING

43

Marakon Associates

Introduction
Overview
Marakon Associates, founded in 1978 and today one of the worlds premier
strategy consultancies, applies one overriding principle to its practice: that
managements governing objective should be to maximize a companys longterm value for shareholders. Rather than offering best practices advice,
Marakon instead rewrites clients strategies and management processes to
help them achieve top-quartile shareholder performance. To accomplish this
lofty goal, Marakon consultants identify value-creation opportunities by
relentlessly delving into strategy, organization, finance and any other
pertinent aspects of management. Approximately 30 percent of the firms
business comes from financial services, 20 percent from the consumer
products industry and another 20 percent each from the retailing and
manufacturing/industrial products industries. The rest of Marakons clientele
hail from a variety of industries.

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Marakon Associates at a Glance


245 Park Avenue
44th Floor
New York, NY 10167
Phone: (212) 377-5000
Fax: (212) 377-6000
www.marakon.com

THE STATS
Employer Type: Private Company
CEO: Ken Favaro
Employees (2002): 375, including
31 partners
Revenues (2001): $116 million

PRACTICE AREAS
Change Management
Finance
Leadership
Organization
Strategy Consulting

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UPPERS
Challenging, high-level work
Great learning and development
opportunities

DOWNERS
Tough, unpredictable lifestyle
Little name recognition outside the
corporate world

THE BUZZ

WHAT EMPLOYEES AT OTHER FIRMS ARE SAYING

The quant jocks


Living on an outdated rep?
Mysterious
Cerebral
A one-big-idea firm whose idea
is 20 years out of date
Good at what they do, fun
people
Rising star
Snooty

2002 Vault Inc.

Marakon Associates

The Scoop
A well-kept secret
Consistently ranked as one of the top boutique firms in Vaults annual prestige
survey, Marakon Associates is the best consulting firm youve never heard of.
It was founded in 1978 by three Wells Fargo executives and a business school
professor who foresaw the impact that value-driven strategies could have on
the business world; they set up shop in San Francisco and started to spread
the word through a small number of clients. Nearly a quarter of a century and
two office moves later, the business world has validated their hunch today
nearly every strategy firm has a shareholder-value practice, and countless
corporations have altered their management processes according to
Marakons principles.
Nevertheless, few people outside the corporate world have heard of Marakon;
even many MBA candidates have a hard time explaining what it does. The
firms low profile is due in part to its size in an industry dominated by big
strategy consultancies like McKinsey & Company (12,000 employees) and
Booz Allen Hamilton (11,000 employees), Marakons 250 consultants hardly
seem a force to reckon with. But the firms relative anonymity suits its
partners just fine; as they are apt to say, they only need to know 500 people
the CEOs of the Fortune 500.

Spreading a strategy
Because Marakon is convinced that strategy is in the details, it has been
known to analyze a clients every business activity and decision even those
made at the lowest levels. Ensuring that the strategies, organization and
finances of a company are aligned to maximize value can be a long and
expensive process; Marakon has been known to spend three to five years and
charge $5 million to $10 million a year in consulting fees before completing
an engagement. As a result, the firm has made a conscious choice to adopt a
long-term partnership mode of operation that is, staying with a small
number of clients for several years, rather than cycling through dozens every
year. Indeed, Marakon consultants often find themselves working on a series
of projects for the same client.

Strong growth and a diversity of clients


Marakons success speaks for itself. Having assisted and impressed the
likes of Boeing, Nordstrom, Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical, Marakon has
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Marakon Associates
The Scoop

proved that a meticulous working method reaps great rewards: The 10


companies with which Marakon has worked the most have seen double the
shareholder returns of their peers during the time they worked with the firm.
(The typical Marakon client outperforms its peers in total shareholder returns
by five percentage points over a 10-plus year period.) Marakon does quite
nicely for itself as well it maintains a revenue-per-consultant rate of
$476,000, earning it a place as one of the three highest-paid consultancies on
Consulting Alerts Global Leadership Index in 2001. And since its founding,
Marakon has boasted a 27.5 percent annual revenue growth rate, more than
double the industry average.

Up with people
According to the firm, its approach to employees, the so-called people
model, focuses on three themes learning, leading and living and, at least
in theory, the firm puts a premium on a healthy life/work balance. Marakons
quarterly meetings, planned and run by consultants and staff, are one- to
three-day events that incorporate activities like treasure hunts and talent
shows. As with most firms, Marakon expects its consultants to report to their
client sites typically three or four days a week, but the firm keeps careful
track of hours and lifestyle conditions. And, like all good consultancies,
Marakon tries to keep a handle on employee satisfaction through internal
surveys.
Marakon maintains a tight watch on its consultants performance, including
biannual performance reviews and ongoing, informal feedback. And
consultants at all levels participate in training programs in general business
and consulting skills. Consultants who plan to attend business school receive
application coaching, and top consultants often receive full, up-front tuition
reimbursement if they decide to return to Marakon afterwards. Those who do
return and many do stand a good chance of making partner within six to
seven years, one of the fastest tracks in the industry. According to the firm,
employees whose performance is on track can expect their salary to double
about every three years. In 2001, Marakon underwent a redesigned
consultant compensation project, which included increases in equity, base
pay, annual bonus and the overall bonus range for consultants.

Thinking value
The fundamentals of the Marakon shareholder-value strategy are outlined in
the firms 1994 book, The Value Imperative. Written by James M.
McTaggart, Peter W. Kontes and Michael C. Mankins, the book is more than
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Marakon Associates
The Scoop

just self-hype it not only explains what shareholder-value strategy is, but it
outlines how successful strategies are crafted and how they can be integrated
into corporate structures.
Like many strategy firms, Marakon also publishes a series of occasional
white papers on its web site as a way to highlight its intellectual capital.
Some recent papers include
At Christmas Time, Dont Spare the Needy, by Mike Baxter. This paper
argues that as CEOs need to resist the pressure by business units to grow
costs in 2003, regardless of financial forecasts, because the lesson of the
last five years is that only strict fiscal discipline will ensure efficiency.
How Shareholder Value Let Shareholders Down, by Ken Favaro.
Marakons CEO defends the shareholder value concept in light of investor
backlash. He argues that many companies applied it incorrectly by
focusing too narrowly on share price and not enough on increasing their
firms intrinsic value.
The Four Disciplines of Superior Value Growth, by Ron Langford and
Richard Steele. In light of post-recession growth strategies, Langford and
Steele outline the four principles that management must keep in mind to
ensure that revenue growth and shareholder value growth are aligned.
Overcoming Value Barriers, by Lee Mergy. One of the most important
things Marakon emphasizes to its clients is the need to leave nothing
untouched in realigning operations to maximize shareholder value. In this
article Mergy looks at the types of sacred management practices that often
hold companies back, whether they be preferred metrics or marketing
principles.
Solving Problems on the Inside, by Peter Kontes. This piece, which ran
in the April 30, 2002 issue of the Financial Times, looks at how proper
financial accounting is crucial to maintaining shareholder value.
Growth Traps: Lessons from the Go-Go 90s, by Michael Mankin. How to
improve a companys market performance while avoiding the obsession
with revenue growth that drove, but inevitably sank, the late 1990s boom.
The Value-Based IT Model, by Lee Mergy and Andy Simonoff. As
technology continues to play an increasingly valuable role in organizations,
it is important to keep the line of sight between investments in
information technology and shareholder value.

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Marakon Associates
The Scoop

Whats the Right Back-Office Solution? by Joe Shalleck and Mark


Underwood. Though this piece applies specifically to banking, it is a good
case study for how Marakon views operations questions in light of
shareholder-value considerations.

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Marakon Associates

Organization
Locations
New York (headquarters)
Chicago
San Francisco
London
Singapore

Key Officers
Ken Favaro: Chief Executive Officer
Favaro is the first non-founder to run Marakon, though he is hardly an
outsider at the firm. Favaro joined in 1984, and he was a co-founder of the
firms London office. He holds a B.S. in civil engineering and an MBA (as
an Arjay Miller Scholar), both from Stanford University.
Peter Kontes: Co-Chairman and Co-Founder
Jim McTaggart: Co-Chairman and Co-Founder
Bill Alberts: Co-Founder and Partner

Ownership
Marakon is a privately owned company.

Practices
Recently Marakon has been saying it wants to shed its boutique image as a
value-enhancement shop and become a top-level, general-interest strategy
firm. Nevertheless, with only 375 employees, 250 of them consultants, the
firm is unlikely to take on the likes of McKinsey, and the firm has yet to move
away from value management as its bread and butter. So while the firm lists
a number of different areas of focus in its press material, the name of the

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Marakon Associates
Organization

game is still asset-value maximization, or what Marakon calls Managing for


Value (MFV).
But what does that mean? In short, asset-value maximization means
realigning a companys operations sometimes radically to produce the
highest returns for its shareholders. On the simplest level, this is a two-step
process: First, Marakon identifies its clients optimal configuration, then it
helps the client restructure itself along those lines. To do this, the firm will
analyze everything from the clients marketing strategy to its consumers
behavior to its competitors own strategies. This may mean, for example,
recognizing that a company marketing high-quality soaps could capture a
large share of the shampoo market, or that a company with offices spread
throughout North American could increase profits dramatically by
consolidating its operations. In either case, the company may lose profit
initially. The key is Marakons long-term approach, which looks not to solve
specific problems or address particular aspects of a clients business, but
rather to makeover its entire corporate structure, if necessary. As CoChairman and Co-Founder Jim McTaggart told the Economic Times (of
India), Instead of just looking at a companys financial statements, MFV
looks outside the company to ask two important questions: Whats the pool
of the economic profit in a given marketplace, and how competitively
advantaged or disadvantaged is a certain companys position within that
pool?

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Marakon Associates

Vault Newswire
November 2002: Hired guns
Marakon has established a board of advisors comprised of five heavy-hitting
former executives, including Arthur C. Martinez, former chairman and CEO
of Sears; Lewis E. Platt, former chairman, president and CEO of HewlettPackard; and Frank G. Zarb, former chairman and CEO of the NASDAQ
(Zarb had recently turned down the opportunity to become head of the
Security and Exchange Commission). The board was formed to help
Marakon consolidate its claim to the high-end strategy market.

September 2002: Top of the mountain


In its third-quarter issue, Bank Director magazine named Marakon to its list
of eight top consulting firms. The list includes McKinsey & Company, Booz
Allen Hamilton and First Manhattan Consulting Group.

May 2002: Booked


According to Consulting Alert, Marakon was the only major strategy firm to
be operating at full capacity. The newsletter reported that the firm had
increased its client list by 40 percent over the previous nine months.

November 2001: A new face


At big firms, adding a new partner is hardly news. But at a firm with fewer
than 400 total employees, a new face in the leadership is a big deal. This
month Marakon added Sandeep Malik to its roster, bringing the partnership
level to 32 members. Malik came to the firm in 1994 as a senior manager
after spending several years at Cincinnati Milacron. Malik was integral in
opening Marakons Singapore office.

March 2001: Expanding overseas


To get its Asia-Pacific efforts rolling, Marakon announced the opening of its
Singapore office. For the time being, the office will concentrate on helping
current U.S. and European clients with their Asian operations, rather than
establish new, local business.

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Marakon Associates

Our Survey Says


Working for a living
Across the board, consultants describe working for Marakon as intense.
Weekend work is a given, and while consultants are supposed to put in an
about 65 hours per week, that can quickly spike during crunch times. Says
one Marakonite, You will work hard if you join Marakon. Most people
probably average around 70 [hours per week], with significantly higher hours
quite often. But while this kind of work isnt for everyone, insiders believe
that working at Marakon is rewarding for those willing to put in long, hard
hours. The same consultant adds that Although you do work hard, it is a
great experience, and I genuinely believe you learn more than at any other
firm as a recently graduated 22-year-old.
On the other hand, the flip side to working for an elite, focused firm is the
lack of opportunity to take on projects beyond the immediate needs of the
firm, a problem many respondents say is rampant at Marakon. Notes one
consultant, The heavily quantitative nature of the work and the focus on
certain approaches limits the potential variety of projects done. And,
decrying the firms laser-like focus on improving client profit, another
respondent says there is the feeling that you have to drink the Kool-Aid of
Managing for Value, providing no opportunity to really specialize if you are
interested in a particular industry.

Life in the balance


Many firms, of course, boast about their commitment to a work/life balance,
but in many cases that dedication is more talk than reality. But insiders say
Marakon is more serious than other firms about its employees quality of life;
as one consultant notes, Compared to my peers at other consulting firms, my
hours are very reasonable. Marakon doesnt value face time for the sake of
it, and allows considerable freedom, as long as the work gets done.
Ultimately, of course, balancing work and life is up to the individual, and at
Marakon the hours can creep up if you dont actively work to maintain a
balance. Though the hours get more predictable and manageable as you
progress within the firm, the workload can sometimes be overwhelming.
One consultant notes, The only problem I have is that it is constantly
challenging and whilst that is good, it is also quite exhausting. Not
surprisingly, many people who come to work for Marakon find themselves in
over their heads, and as a result the firm has only an average retention rate.

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Marakon Associates
Our Survey Says

A nice place to work


The majority of Marakon respondents praise the firm for its professional,
collegial atmosphere and well-managed structure. The partners really make
an effort to ensure people are happy and satisfied with the job, says one
consultant. Another adds, One of the things I value most about the Marakon
culture is the absence of intellectual arrogance. People here are extremely
bright and share a commitment to intellectual curiosity, which supports a
culture of approachability at all levels.
Though some respondents say that Marakon project teams can be overly
hierarchical, in general they characterize the firms management as friendly
and easy to work with, often making the rounds on Friday afternoons with a
beverage of choice. Virtually all partners have an open-door policy, says
one consultant. I have found the vast majority of them very approachable
and genuinely concerned about the people that work for them. Adds another,
Obviously treatment by executives depends on the individual, but over the
course of my two and a half years here, I have worked one-on-one with the
partner on nearly every project. I [am] always treated with the utmost respect
and [have] learned a great deal.
Marakonites also gave high marks to the firms offices. One respondent told
us that all managers and higher have their own offices everywhere. In some
offices, consultants have their own offices as well. Another notes that while
I still only have a cube, the office is so gorgeous, I dont mind, while a third
even goes so far as to say that the San Francisco office is the nicest office
environment I have ever seen.

Up and away
Marakon consultants travel almost every week, with a Tuesday-throughThursday away schedule as the standard travel model for the firm, though
there are always exceptions, a good example being international travel. That
typically results in a two week away/one week home travel model. The
travel can be intense, at times. It seems almost everyone has some form of
elite status with the airlines. We do have local projects, but our smaller
number of offices tends to increase our frequency of travel. Nevertheless, for
domestic projects, Sunday travel is rare, and travel loads lighten after the first
few years.
At the same time, some respondents note that the firm is very accommodating
when it comes to personal needs; for example, one consultant who needs to
spend time with his children notes that I quite often leave early but work at

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Our Survey Says

home, because the company will give me a fax and a scanner and set me up
with a broadband at home.
Marakon also makes it easy to transfer between offices though, unlike in
some firms, it is by no means an unwritten rule that career-building requires
working out of multiple offices. Nevertheless, many American consultants
like to put in a year at the London or Singapore offices, to get a feel for the
companys overseas work. In fact, most partners, once theyve gotten to that
point, have spent time in most of the offices, one respondent notes. Its
very common that people spend six months to year in another office in a
career.

Good rewards for good work


Consultants at Marakon may be asked to give 110 percent, but their efforts
are reimbursed with top-notch compensation packages. Salaries are equal or
above top-tier firms, with bonuses often 20 percent of yearly base pay or
more, though they are tied to firm performance and thus can vary greatly from
year to year (2001 bonuses, for example, were in the 10-15 percent range).
The firm offers stock ownership and profit-sharing plans, and has a tuition
reimbursement program for top consultants returning to school for an MBA
or another advanced degree. Added benefits include free food and drinks in
the offices, gym membership discounts, Palm Pilots and in-house massage
therapist visits.

Training days
While in recent years Marakon has cut back its employee training program,
respondents tell us that it is still one of the best things about working for the
firm. Marakon invests a huge amount of time and resources into training,
one consultant says. I dont remember the exact statistics, but I believe the
number of hours the average Marakon consultant spends in training during
the first two years is one of the highest in the industry.
Marakons training system is called the ACT Program; new consultants enroll
in ACT I, and further ACTs (II-IV) follow every six to nine months. Theres
a very strong Marakon framework in terms of how to view a business and
how to create value, relates one insider, so a lot of the ACT I training is
around learning all the intellectual capital that Marakon has developed over
the last 20 years. Theres a lot of emphasis on what weve learned in the past,
to make sure that everyone knows that and can apply it in their client work.
ACT I gets high marks from respondents; one notes that the training
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Marakon Associates
Our Survey Says

provides a good balance between theory and practice. It is much more


usable than training I have seen in other firms. Further ACTs deal more in
terms of management training and how to manage clients.
Consultants also praise Marakons internship program. I had a great, meaty
role on a strategy project, one reports. Marakon also provided an extensive
training week and social calendar to ensure we met not only fellow summer
interns, but also full-time Marakon consultants at every level. The program
exceeded my high expectations, says another. I worked on real work not
make work. I dealt with clients and participated in meetings and
presentations. I saw the Marakon consultant lifestyle with minimal sugar
coating.
Each of Marakons offices also participates in a number of communityinvolvement activities. The New York office participates in tutoring of
underprivileged students on an ongoing basis. We also volunteer at nursing
homes, soup kitchens, and participate in events such as the Revlon Run/Walk
for Breast Cancer. The firm offers pro bono consulting for nonprofits, and
if anyone has a desire to set up additional charity-based (non-billable) work,
this is always welcomed and encouraged.

Marakon? Whos that?


As a small firm, the lack of name recognition is a constant problem for
Marakon. CEOs and industry insiders recognize and respect it, but
respondents say the company could do more to get its name out. While this
is hardly a hindrance to Marakons top-level work, it can make things like
outplacement slightly more challenging.
Nor is Marakon the most diverse of firms. While the firm hires a good
number of female consultants, it has a hard time retaining them. As a result,
the number of women climbing the Marakon hierarchy is small. Very few
women exist at the senior ranks, says one respondent. The larger problem
is that the pipeline is also very thin. Another consultant adds, We only have
two female partners, one of whom is not in a client-facing role, and only one
minority partner. And while Marakon has reportedly expanded its recruiting
efforts to bring in minorities, at present there are very few at the firm.

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Marakon Associates

Getting Hired
Marakon offers prospective consultants a variety of ways to enter the firm. It
recruits from undergraduate institutions, U.S. and European MBA programs
and advanced degree programs in the States. For students, Marakon has a 10week MBA internship program in all offices as well as an eight-week BA
summer program in its London office.
Marakon typically limits its recruiting to the Ivies, Stanford and a few other
top-notch undergraduate schools, as well as the top MBA programs. We hear,
however, that its selectivity isnt as narrow as those of other top-shelf firms;
as one respondent tells us, its no McKinsey. We do not have 300
applications at every campus, nor are we as selective. At the same time,
Marakon does not cast a very wide net, as its rarely looking to hire more than
a relative handful of people. Its much more focused on the people that they
[recruiters] think would be appropriate for Marakon and would be interested
in Marakon, rather than a broad recruiting effort, said one insider.
The interview process at Marakon involves two to three rounds, with two to
three interviews in each round. You meet with everybody from the level you
would start at through partner, reports a senior analyst. For MBAs, the
process is relatively quick, with interview rounds on consecutive days and
offers made a few days later. At the beginning of each process, one
respondent tells Vault, Usually theres a breakfast, or a couple of get-toknow-you activities before the interview process. We came into the office for
the first round of interviews. We did three interviews in the first round with
three different people; I think two out of three were cases. Then you get
called back to the final round the next day; you meet with two other people,
usually all with senior managers and partners. One out of two are cases on
second day, but that changes from year to year.
The case interviews are pretty conventional, we hear, drawn right out of our
client work, so theyd typically be something we dealt with in a client
situation or very similar to that. While cases may involve anything from
cost-reduction strategies to marketing campaigns, keep in mind that Marakon
is keen on shareholder value, so a brief mention of how your solution can help
the stock price wouldnt hurt. Id say theyre very high-level strategyoriented questions in terms of looking at the overall picture of a company,
looking at how they can increase the value, notes on insider. Marakons
focus is maximizing shareholder value, so the cases are going to look at how
you create value in a business. Be careful, though, not to make too much of
shareholder value otherwise youll come across as artless and incapable of
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Marakon Associates
Getting Hired

thinking on your own. Says one Marakoner, I wouldnt recommend them


specifically to say this [shareholder value] is the most important thing,
because it will look like theyre being too specific. But I would recommend
them to have an awareness of the driving ethos of the firm.

Questions to Expect
1. Case: You are the head of a large corporation. Your company must
build a new paper plant. You must decide which country to build the
plant in. What factors would you consider?
This case is a pretty generic one, and youre just as likely to encounter it in a
Marakon interview as anywhere else. The key is that Marakon will approach
the question with shareholder value, and how to optimize it, in mind so
giving a nod to shareholder interests in your answer will help out immensely.
As with all case interviews, keep in mind that you are expected to ask the
interviewer questions to obtain additional information before answering the
case. Some questions to ask for this case would be: What does the
corporation I head do? What does the company plan to do with the paper
produced by the plant? Use the paper in its own manufacturing process? Sell
it to other companies? Do we even need to build the plant? Can we satisfy this
need in another way? Factors to consider in answering this case: each
countrys labor costs, political stability, government treatment of foreign
investments, price of raw materials, proximity to raw materials for the plant,
relevant shipping costs, tax laws, skill and availability of local labor force,
and access to local capital markets. As the interview goes on, the interviewer
will typically add information or constraints to the case (for example, he
could tell you that you must decide only between Brazil and China as a paper
plant location).
2. Case: The XYZ Corporation has cornered the market in widgets, and
yet its stock price is depressed. What are some reasons this might be
true, and how would you address it?
First, find out what else XYZ does. Are widgets its only product? What is the
financial state of its other divisions? Second, establish what the market in
widgets is like. Is it a booming market, or one on the decline? Third, ask how
the firm got to its dominant position through acquisitions, increased
marketing or an exodus of other manufacturers? If the market is declining or
companies are leaving the market, that might be an indication that widgets are
no longer the way to go, and that XYZ should get out of the market as well.

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Marakon Associates
Getting Hired

If the market is booming, perhaps the low stock price is a signal that investors
think the company has spent too much on its market-dominance campaign.
3. What is it about consulting that interests you?
Expect this sort of question in the fit interviews. Be honest, but try not to let
the dollar signs in your eyes shine too brightly.
4. Why would you be a good fit at Marakon?
All the big firms are going to ask you this, but at Marakon, a small, tightly
knit organization, its particularly important.
5. Case: You are a manufacturer of laundry detergent and thinking about
shifting into the dry-cleaning business. Decide if this is a feasible and/or
lucrative option.
Marakon wants to know if you fathom the many factors that go into making
such a momentous business decision. Here are a few crucial questions you
need to ask your interviewer: Can the assets be transferred from business to
business? What is the determined location both geographical and on an
operational level of this new dry cleaners? Will it be accessible to a
necessary number of customers? Is building a new brand in dry cleaning
going to be important or can we depend on an existing clientele? Obviously,
there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other factors to take into consideration
so avoid overkill. Just naming a few will suffice.
6. Case: You are in the trash collecting business in a town with a
population of 25,000. Everyone from the municipal level on down to
the citizens is losing money. Why? What can be done to change
profitability?
7. Case: You are a gumball manufacturer in Cleveland. Business has
declined for the last five years. What are some things you can do to
improve growth?
You need to assess what has halted growth during the past five years. The
two vital elements of profit, revenues and costs, also need to be evaluated.
8. Case: You are an automobile manufacturer and you want to move into
the luxury sector. Do you build your own brand or buy an existing one?
Remember, consider the question in light of shareholder value.

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Marakon Associates
Getting Hired

Questions to Ask
1. How solid is Marakons acceptance rate into business school? How
helpful is Marakon in placing its analysts into graduate school?
Obviously, this question is for associate consultants only. Given Marakons
four-star reputation, an interviewer wont have any trouble expounding the
firms impressive business school stats. However, by asking these questions,
a candidate opens up the floor for the interviewer to discuss related perks.
2. Please describe how Marakon evaluates promotion at the firm.
3. Why would a prospective client choose Marakon over another
consulting firm?
Go on give your interviewer a chance to brag.
4. How much responsibility will I be given in my first year?
Both analysts and associates are given a considerable amount of independent
work their first year at Marakon. Your interviewer will likely reiterate this
fact and cite the tasks typically completed by incoming consultants.
5. Please tell me more about the training Marakon provides.
6. How would you describe Marakons culture?
7. Will I have the opportunity to transfer to other Marakon offices?
Marakon respondents note that by the time they reach partners, consultants
have worked in at least two offices. But while transferring is encouraged, it
is by no means required.

To Apply
Check with your universitys career office to see if Marakon is planning an
on-campus recruiting visit. If not, or if you are already out of school, you
complete an online form at .www.marakon.com/careers/apply_form.aspx.

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Marakon Associates
Getting Hired

Salaries
Associate consultants: $50,000-$53,000 base pay (2002)
Consultants: $100,000-$105,000 base pay (2002)

Perks
401(k)
Profit-sharing
Cell phones
Employee assistance program
Employee referral bonus
Free food/drinks
Laptop computers
Palm pilots/PDAs
Sports/theater tickets
Tuition reimbursement
Long-term disability insurance
Gym membership discounts
Employee lounge area

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19

VAULT CAREER GUIDES


GET THE INSIDE SCOOP ON TOP JOBS
Cliffs Notes
for Careers
FORBES MAGAZINE

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profiles have been published
since 1997 and are the premier
source of insider information
on careers.

To get the unvarnished scoop,


check out Vault
SMARTMONEY MAGAZINE

Each year, Vault surveys and


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inside scoop on industries and
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get the jobs they want.

Marakon Associates

On the Job
Day in the Life
Associate Consultant/Consultant
8:30 a.m.: Arrive at work. On Mondays and Fridays Im at the office, but on
other days Im at the client. On those days I might arrive a little earlier,
depending on what kind of hours the client keeps.
8:30-10:00 a.m.: Grab some coffee, catch up on emails and voicemails. If
Im at the office Ill do this at my desk; if Im at the client site Ill be in the
team room, usually a conference room shared by all the Marakon people.
10:00 a.m. 1:00 p.m.: Research marketing efforts by the clients
competitors. If Im at the office I might also do some firm-building work,
especially on Fridays. If Im at the clients, most days Ill start this a little
later in order to make time for a quick team meeting though in general,
because I work so closely with my team, most of my interaction with them is
fairly ad hoc.
1:00 p.m.: Grab lunch. If Im at the office Ill go out with some of my friends
who work nearby; at the client site some team members and I will treat a few
of our client-side co-workers to lunch (remember: The customer is always
right, and a well-fed customer is always happy).
2:30 p.m.: Back to work. Depending on how much work I have to do, I
might take a very short lunch; I might even get takeout and eat at my desk.
Marakon isnt an hourly kind of place you do the work you need to do, and
you set your own schedule. Anyway, back at my desk/team room I finish
answering voice mails and emails from the morning, then get to work on a
PowerPoint presentation due next week.
4:30 p.m.: If Im at the office I might spend the rest of the day on the
presentation, but at the client site well typically have some sort of sit-down
meeting with our client-side team members sometime late in the day. Usually
this will involve bringing them up to speed on our project unlike us, they
cant spend all their time on the project. These meetings also typically
involve one or two upper-level client members as well.
6:30-7:00 p.m.: Unless its crunch time, I can usually ship off by 7 pm. And
if were in a real lull, I might leave before 6 pm. But most days range
between nine and 10 hours of work.
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21

Marakon Associates
On the Job

Manager
7:30 a.m.: Arrive at work. Marakon is pretty flexible about when I get there,
and sometimes its not until 9:30, depending on my work load. Once there, I
check email and voicemail, return a few calls, then head out to the client for
a fact-finding meeting (working out of the London office has the advantage
of proximity to most of the firms UK clients, who are mostly based in the
city).
9:00-11:00 a.m.: Meet with client to determine the next step on a costreduction project.
11:30 a.m.: Back at the office, I meet with several of my consultants about
the client meeting, and we coordinate the next round of deliverables.
12:00 p.m.: Return some more emails and voicemails, then head out to lunch.
1:00 p.m.: Back at work, I put the finishing touches on a PowerPoint
presentation created by one of my associate consultants in preparation for a
meeting with several partners visiting from the Chicago office.
2:00-4:00 p.m.: Meet with the visiting partners. By this point it should be
pretty obvious that the life of a manager at Marakon is pretty meetingintensive. But it is still focused on the project at hand as opposed to selling
future work or maintaining client relationships, which are the jobs of the
partners.
4:30-6:00 p.m.: Return any remaining emails and voicemails, and begin
making plans for a visit to the States that Ill be making later in the month.
Unless its serious crunch time, I rarely leave the office after 6 p.m.; Marakon
has provided me with a scanner, fax and broadband connection at home, so
Ill usually do my last few hours of work in my home office that way I can
see my wife and kids and enjoy a home-cooked meal.

Project Staffing
Marakon projects tend to run between six months and a year. The firm
maintains a relatively small client list, and so there is rarely an entirely new
project with an entirely new client; most projects roll over both Marakon and
client-side staffs. When consultants do leave projects, they are staffed anew
through two processes. On the one hand, there is a formal staffing system, a
database maintained by staffing coordinators at each office. Managers use
the database to find available consultants and to match skill sets and

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Marakon Associates
On the Job

development needs with their upcoming project. On the other hand,


managers also make use of a robust informal network of recommendations
and reviews; after selecting a consultant from the database, a manager will
typically meet with that consultants previous managers to learn details about
their skills and performance.

Job Descriptions
Associate consultant
Associate consultants are hired from undergraduate programs, and they
typically spend two to three years with the firm before moving into another
industry or, more often than not, going back to school. Their tasks revolve
around research and analysis, collecting the raw data and crunching it into
forms that consultants, managers and principals can then use in crafting client
deliverables. ACs can work in a variety of industries and rarely specialize, at
least in the first year.

Consultant
While an associate consultants work will be primarily analysis-driven, a
consultants work will be much more about shaping that analysis into client
deliverables strategies, campaigns and research reports. The consultant is
the day-to-day face of the firm at the clients office and is in charge of making
presentations and leading meetings with the client team. At Marakon we
tend to work very collaboratively with the client, notes one consultant, so
often I will have a team of clients I am managing, or I will have a client or
two that I am working with on a daily basis, so were doing it together.
Basically whatever piece of the project that Ive been assigned to, Im
actually managing that piece.

Career Path
Marakon respondents tell Vault that while many ACs go back to school for an
MBA, there is no imperative to do so getting promoted from AC to
consultant is not a once in a blue moon scenario, says one insider. For those
who rise within the firm, there is usually a two- to three-year period between
AC and consultant, and then another two to three years to manager (though
we hear that may in fact be sped up for those who move directly from AC to
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23

Marakon Associates
On the Job

consultant). Two to three more years gets them to senior manager, and after
another two to three years they have a chance to become a partner. All in all,
we hear, coming out of MBA you have about six to eight, six to nine years
to partner.

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Marakon Associates

Final Analysis
Marakon Associates may not be as well-known as McKinsey, Boston
Consulting Group and other top-tier consulting firms, but its prestige among
Fortune 500 executives is virtually unmatched, particularly compared to other
boutique shops. Marakons intense focus on shareholder value may be a
turnoff for some would-be consultants, but the firm offers even freshly
minted BAs unparalleled access to senior executives and strategic planning
decisions that they would never find at a much larger elite firm. Plus, the firm
is looking to expand its operational capabilities and compete more directly
with McKinsey, et al. meaning that it could be a much larger blip on
corporate Americas radar screen in the years to come.

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CAREER
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25

Do you have an interview coming


up with a consulting firm?
Unsure how to handle
a case interview?

Vault Live Case


Interview Prep
Vaults consulting experts bring
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A Vault consulting expert will put you through a real case


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For more information go to


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Marakon Associates

Recommended Reading
Marakon has a host of published working papers
http://www.marakon.com/ideas_list.html.

Also see:
Guns for Hire: The Consultants. Bank Director. October 2002.
Marakon Reports Pipeline Getting Crammed Again. Consulting Alert.
May 31, 2002.
Clear Strategy Needed to Create Shareholder Value. Business Times
(Singapore). July 23, 2001.
Marakon: Where Everybody Knows Your Name. Consulting Magazine.
November/December, 2000.
Marakon Runners. Fortune. September 28, 1998.

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For those hoping to climb the ladder of success, Vaults


insights are priceless. Money
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MARAKON ASSOCIATES
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Our Survey Says: Employees speak
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Getting Hired: The companys hiring
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