The verbose health advisors
Located in the famous Watergate complex in Washington, DC, The Advisory Board (or as it's fondly known, ABC) is best described as a cross between a think tank, a publishing company, and a consulting firm. The membership-based organization provides customized briefs, strategic research and educational services for more than 2,000 hospitals, health systems, insurers, physician practices, and medical technology companies. The firm publishes 24 major strategy studies and 15,000 customized research briefs annually, revealing the best (and worst) clinical, operational, and business management practices; it aims to help health care institutions maximize revenues, improve quality and reduce costs, while helping members benefit from another's learning curves.
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The firm maintains six membership programs serving distinct parts of the hospitals and health systems. These include: the Health Care Advisory Board for CEOs, COOs and boards of trustees; Oncology Roundtable for clinical and administrative leadership of cancer centers; Cardiology Roundtable for clinical and administrative leadership of heart centers; Clinical Initiative Center for COOs, physician executives and patient care services executives; Nursing Executive Center for senior nursing leaders; and IT Research Forum for chief information officers.
Research your way
The Advisory Board was founded in 1979 to conduct customized research projects for Fortune 500 companies. In the 1980s, the firm established its current focus on the financial services and health care industries. In 1998, the firm split into two separate companies - the Advisory Board company, a privately held health care research firm, and The Corporate Executive Board, a publicly held Global 3000/financial services research firm.
Coming off of a successful IPO of the Corporate Executive Board, the Advisory Board has the capital for new growth opportunities, which have the time and attention of the firm's leaders. The firm is considering extending beyond best practices research toward implementation at member institutions - leading product development, building consulting teams, facilitating executive workshops, and monitoring and advancing client engagements. Also, the firm believes that the Internet will provide for considerable growth, as it will be able to place new information online for members and others.
Recent growth at The Advisory Board has put hiring on the rise, and the firm claims new employees can expect speedy merit-based promotions. MBAs are hired as consultants, while BAs are hired for research positions [though they can and are promoted to consulting positions]. The firm looks for applicants with strong analytical skills and well-rounded academic backgrounds. Insiders advise applicants to research the firm before applying, and if you can, "send your resume through someone." Visit the "Employment Opportunities" section of the firm's web site for job listings and descriptions.
The Advisory Board generally recruits in the Ivy League, but welcomes applications from other schools, and from people already in the workforce. Send or fax resumes to human resources, or e-mail resumes to email@example.com. Interviewees generally go through a three-round process, with final interviews conducted at the headquarters in DC.
"Young, vibrant, and growing" describes The Advisory Board, where the staff has nearly doubled in size in the past five years, and more than half of employees are recent college grads. Employees report "an enormous amount of opportunity for advancement" at ABC, and note that managers "really recognize talent." One source reports moving up three times in three years. Another insider notes, however, that "if you're not in it for the long haul, it's also a great place to work for a year or two prior to going to grad school." "A lot of people -- particularly undergrads -- stay for one or two years. Some know they are going to medical school, and they work on the health care side to familiarize themselves with issues in the industry." In addition, "a fair amount of people leave for law or business school after two or three years."
Undergraduates "work on relatively short-term projects." They "do lots of primary research, and work on a broad range of projects" -- from the ultra-specific to "broader, more strategic reports." MBAs are hired as consultants, and are staffed on long-term studies that "are extremely intellectually engaging." Either way, our sources agree that "it's a wonderful way to learn about an industry."
Youth and inexperience have their drawbacks
The firm's average age of 26 makes for a "young and fun" office, with employees often socializing after work. The company sponsors an in-house happy hour every two weeks. Youth has its downside, though, as one employee reports: "Because the company's so young and has so many opportunities to advance quickly, you will most likely be managed by someone who has no prior experience managing people. This can sometimes cause tension." An insider who came to ABC after working for a few years remarks that "it was better that I came into the company with some experience under my belt." That source goes on to add: "Not everyone has a totally positive experience, because they are not familiar with the realities of the working world." Advisory Board consultants warn that new employees can face strict, though not impossible, deadlines for weekly research reports. "The deadlines cause a lot of people problems," one employee says, "but the expectations are not unreasonable. You have to be able to manage your time well."
Employees describe their co-workers as "smart, ambitious, and driven." Though "it's not a really competitive place," sources say that "people feel pressure to perform because there is so much opportunity and everyone is extremely talented." Sources report that women are treated "very fairly." One female employee reports that "opportunities for advancement are totally based on merit, and there are lots of women in positions of authority." Minorities are also treated well, but sources say "there are not that many here."
Official hours? Ha!
Official hours are 8:30 to 5:30, but "most people work longer," reports one source. "It's really your call though," another notes. "How much you work is entirely dependent on your ability to manage your time and finish your work. Some people go home at 5:30 every day, while others stay late fairly consistently." For researchers at least, "it's not like investment banking -- people don't give you a ton of work at the last minute and expect you to stay there all night." Consultants usually work a bit more; and "just before a study comes out, they work some pretty serious hours." They do travel, "but not like the consultants at McKinsey or Bain." Dress is business casual during the week, unless there are clients in the office.
The feeding of consultants
The Advisory Board offers "excellent and generous" benefits. Pay is "on par with the industry, if not a bit better." The greedy and ambitious will be pleased to hear that reviews are semi-annual, providing frequent occasions for promotions and raises. The top salespeople (marketers) may earn up to $300,000, while consultants typically earn $75,000 to $125,000. There are also bonuses, but insiders remark that, unlike at major consulting firms, "they are not really significant relative to total salary." Employees say that "the city itself is full of perks -- free museums, free meals, and cheap transportation."
To add to the fun, "ABC offers overtime meals, for those nights you get caught in the office, full expense reimbursement, MBA training, internal training, career counseling, grad school recommendations, OK benefits, and great co-workers." One employee crows: "You have the ideal conditions required for rapid advancement: huge responsibilities and a true meritocracy. Most of us have fun meeting deadlines, talking with industry leaders (and losers), and enjoying DC." Any downside? "The 401(k) stinks!"
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