Dartmouth Business Journal (DBJ): On a day to day basis, what type of consulting do you do for McKinsey?
Jim Brennan (JB): I’m a partner at Mckinsey & Company. I spend most of my time working on strategy and go-to market issues with consumer package goods and retail companies.
DBJ: What do you mean by go-to market issues?
JB: By go-to market, I mean I work with the way that companies bring goods to the market and customers through retail.
DBJ: Are there any projects you are currently working on or recently finished you can tell us about?
JB: I can’t give client names for confidentiality reasons, but typically I work with large manufacturers of food, personal care products, snacks, or candy. An example project that I would work on would be working with a multinational food and personal care company to help them develop a turnaround strategy for one of their products that has been losing market share. So we come up with ways to reposition their product and come up with a gross strategy so that it can grow and deliver more income back to the company.
DBJ: Are most of the projects that you work with turnaround projects? How about startups?
JB: It’s not just turnaround. We also work with brands that are doing well and continue to do well. Most of the work I do though is for pretty big and established manufacturers and not startup companies.
DBJ: When you are doing these types of projects, what type of skills are the most important to your success?
JB: I actually think the most important skill is the ability to work well with people and build relationships with them. That could be with the client or within McKinsey itself. I have to be able to work with them in a one-on-one way. The other skills are probably logical thinking and clear communication.
DBJ: How did you acquire those skills? Dartmouth? Law school?
JB: I think it is sort of mixed. At Dartmouth, it was relating with people and interacting with them. In law school, it was a lot of logical thinking and presenting things in a clear and compelling way.
DBJ: So those skills are what McKinsey’s looking for in employees?
JB: McKinsey’s definitely looking for those skills. They make up a big part of what we do.
DBJ: Are there any additional things you would advise Dartmouth students who are looking at consulting?
JB: No, I don’t think so. I think those skills are the biggest aspects.
DBJ: Can you tell us about your time at Dartmouth? What did you study here?
JB: At Dartmouth, I studied government. It was what I was interested in. I never took a math or business course at college or law school. So it’s kind of interesting from the perspective of what you decide study and what you end up doing. I mean they ended up being pretty different. I spent most of my time, as most people do at Dartmouth, hanging out with my friends and going to parties. From the activity front, I was probably most involved with the Rockefeller Center. I spent a lot of time there helping the administration of the center and also working with some of the political candidates that went on campus.
DBJ: Do you think that put you at a disadvantage compared to students who focused on economics or went to business school instead of law school?
JB: Not really. Obviously I had to figure out excel before I started working. I never used it before that. But it really wasn’t a disadvantage. But I do think that’s worth noting. The other skills I mentioned are much more important that just being able to punch numbers all the time. That’s my perspective.
DBJ: Would you say that networking with other Dartmouth graduates has helped you?
JB: Not directly. I didn’t work with people that went to Dartmouth. I do certainly continue to have friends from Dartmouth that I spend a lot of time with. I am actually married to a ’96 as well, so I’d say there is a good amount of Dartmouth discussion that goes on at home.
DBJ: After Dartmouth when you decided to go to law school, were you thinking about practicing law?
JB: I just went to law school because I thought it was interesting, which it was. But once I got there, I decided I didn’t want to practice law. Most of the big law firms I looked at weren’t doing things I thought were very interesting.
DBJ: What led you to consulting?
JB: I thought it had a good mix of having clients and personal interactions. It seemed a much more interesting context for work.