A Taste of the Real World; Hell Week at Frankfurt School

Boy oh boy does this semester just keep getting better and better. If you saw my last post then you’ll know that last week I was a busy bee working on my uni’s advisory project. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then read on.

Last Monday the entire Financial Advisory concentration of the Master of Finance, Class of 2018 began one of the most important exercises of our entire studies. During the Pre-Advisory Week lecture, we had been given cryptic clues as to how this week would go but nothing in concrete. Before this week we had prepared general Fact Books for our companies, but we didn’t know the details of our case to actually get started.

This year, we had three companies involved and five cases total. Without giving any potentially sensitive information away, we had an international automotive company give us two cases, a boutique law firm give us one case, and a food and beverage company give us two cases. Groups sizes varied between 2-4 people and there were two groups working on each case.

My group was just two people, myself and my partner Timo. We really didn’t know each other before this project, but I have to say we made a pretty good team. Together we were one of the groups assigned to the Food and Beverage company and our case consisted of helping them solve the volatility they experience when purchasing raw ingredients.

On Monday, we were given contact details to be able to reach out to the company and learn exactly what they expect from us and for us to ask for information and materials to to solve their case.

Understanding the Reptilian Brain

Many groups and even my teammate really struggled with being able to identify exactly was the companies wanted from us within the limited time constraints of the phone calls. While our phone call was hurried since our company and contact people were very busy, it was enough for me to be able to understand exactly what they wanted.

This part of the assignment really reminds me of my favorite Marketing professor from WSU who drilled into me the theories of the Triune Brain Model. The most applicable part of this theory came from my Consumer Research course where one of the main themes was that, often times, the consumer doesn’t know what they want or why they made a decision. In addition, the reptilian brain (as it is called in the Triune Brain Model) doesn’t work alone so when you ask someone what they want or why they did something they tend to unthinkingly rationalize what was originally an automatic decision made by the reptilian brain.

This lesson has helped me many times in life and it really helped with the phone call because you could tell that the contact knew what they wanted but that perhaps the reasoning was being rationalized away from the reptilian. Basically what I’m trying to say in the most words humanly possible is that while he was able to iterate to an extent what he wanted, it took skill to look beyond that and into what they truly wanted.

Time to Get to Work

Once we were able to understand what the company needed and wanted from us, it was time to get to work, and by work, I mean research. Over the course of two(ish) days Timo and I easily read over 50 articles, reports and book chapters plus the countless web pages and studies we skimmed looking for leads.

Constant learning was a characteristic of consulting that I had been made aware of a while ago, but seeing and experiencing it in practice made me realize just how much you would be learning on the job even in a short amount of time.

Developing a Framework

During the process of researching it became pretty clear that the best way to approach our meeting on Friday was to provide a loose framework for them to fill in with their own data and processes to make their decisions.

Within the framework I developed a 6 step process for them to work through in order to evaluate their volatility and make a decision how to manage it. Timo tackled some of the big keywords that they had mentioned in our phone call such as big data and predictive analytics and together we came up with a presentation we were both pretty pleased with.

The Meeting

Friday afternoon Timo and I suited up to deliver our presentation. We had 45 minutes including Q&A with the company’s CFO and Head of Purchasing. I like to think that the meeting went extremely well. The company seemed incredibly receptive to our suggestions and even went so far as to say that they will definitely be putting into practice 3 of our main slides. Timo and I left the meeting extremely happy with our presentation, the outcome, and the week as a whole.

The next morning we went to our oral exam where we got really great and helpful insights into our project, where we could have improved, and what approaches the other team took for the case. We gave brief performance reviews for each other (and of course had only good things to say) and gave critiques to the professor on the week as a whole, what we liked, and what could be improved for the future.

***

Overall the Advisory Project “hell week” was extremely helpful for me to get a better feel for what the real world might look like after I graduate and really turned out to be not so hellish after all. With a great teammate, clearly defined problem and time management skills, the week turned out to be an incredibly informative, educational and useful for now and for planning our futures after graduation.


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