From hose to consulting
Before he founded his consulting firm, Kurt Salmon worked in a stocking factory. He studied engineering in Germany, and came to the U.S. in 1930. He became a consultant because it paid more than working in a hosiery mill (one would hope!). He later switched his focus to the apparel industry and opened his own firm in 1935. Since then, Kurt Salmon Associates has expanded across the globe, offering premier managerial advice to the retail, consumer products, and health care industries. Today, the Atlanta-based firm employs approximately 800 professionals.
Hamilton HMC, the firm's health care consulting arm, was formed in 1986 with the acquisition of Hamilton Associates. The division has recently emerged as a leader in its field, advising on such issues as strategy improvements, technology implementation, managed care, and facility planning. One in five hospitals in the United States has engaged the services of Hamilton HMC, which also finds clients in academic medical centers, research organizations, government health agencies, long-term care facilities, clinics, and physician groups.
Retailers par excellence
Major groups within the company's retail and consumer products division include strategy, supply chain management, operations, IT, logistics, and corporate finance. Although Kurt Salmon Associates is smaller than most of its management consulting competitors (which the firm identifies as A.T. Kearney, McKinsey, Andersen Consulting/Arthur Andersen, Deloitte Consulting and Booz-Allen Hamilton), it is the largest firm specializing in the consumer product and retail industries.
Kurt Salmon has averaged approximately 22 percent annual growth over the last several years, with at least 80 percent of the firm's business coming from previous clients. Its engagements usually last anywhere from six weeks to over a year. The firm serves a wide range of firms, from small manufacturers to large department stores. However, the firm's focus has moved up the supply chain over the years, from operations to retail. Recent clients include Tiffany, Nike, Liz Claiborne, and Home Depot.
The new wave
In June 1998, KSA launched an investment bank subsidiary, which specializes in M&A, capital formation, and financial consulting services tailored to consumer products companines. Soon after, the firm formed alliances software vendors SAP, Island Pacific, i2, JBA, QRS, and Rockport Trade Systems. The firm offers business to business and direct consumer e-commerce consulting services to retailers. In May 2000, the company purchased London-based MMM Consultancy Group, which is active in the financial services, utilities, retail and consumer products industries. The acquisition added four new offices to KSA's stable and helped expand the reach and depth of its consulting business.
In 1999, Kurt Salmon announced a partnership with CommercialWare, Inc., a provider of order management and fulfillment for the direct-to-consumer market. Using CommercialWare's software platform, Mozart, the two companies are hoping to expand their respective businesses on the Web.
KSA's employment web page, located at www.kurtsalmon.com/KSA_careers/careersindex.html, provides information for job seekers. The firm invites applicants to send their resumes via an online service. Applicants can also mail resumes directly to the company's two recruitment offices. For North America and Asia, contact the Director of Recruiting; Kurt Salmon Associates; 1355 Peachtree Street, NE; Suite 900; Atlanta, GA 30309; Fax: 404.898.9590. For Europe, contact Director of Recruiting; Kurt Salmon Associates GmbH; Neuer Zollhof 3; 40221 Dusseldorf; Germany; Main: +49.211.75950; Fax: +49.211.7595111.
The firm hires about five to 10 new MBA-level consultants and about 60 undergraduates each year. Summer internships are rarely offered, and sources say "KSA will not reimburse summers for their second year if they come back." U.S. and foreign nationals (with permanent work status in the U.S.) may apply for positions in the U.S., but overseas positions are only open to foreign nationals.
New consultant hires often start out in the Performance Enhancement, Corporate Finance, Logistics, or Healthcare practices. The firm occasionally encourages its consultants to go on short- or long-term assignments overseas. During their first year, consultants attend an intense two-week orientation program. New MBA hires usually have three years of work experience, come from the top 10 percent of their class, and typically have prior experience in consulting, retail, consumer products, or healthcare. Fluency in a second language and additional degrees are considered pluses as well. New undergraduate hires come from the top 10 percent of their class, have strong quantitative and analytical skills, and have a good understanding of business issues, the firm reports.
Insiders report that "the firm is very concerned with fit, and big egos don't really fit in here." Interviews are done in three rounds: the first and second rounds "are to gauge fit," and are followed by a series of analytical/quantitative tests. If you are called back, you will meet with a manager, insiders say. The third round is "the office interview," where candidates meet with "more senior people."
A recent interviewee at Kurt Salmon reports: "It was the most intensive interview I have ever had. I went through eight people in three days before I was made an offer. The experience included two tests after the initial interview. One test was a twelve-minute multiple choice with 50 questions. The goal was to answer as many of the questions correctly in that period of time. The second test was a killer 12 pages of word problems. These were supposed to test logic and thinking speed. You also get a personality test in human resources. They never tell you how you did on the test, only if you passed or failed."
Kurt Salmon consultants cite their "friendly, helpful" co-workers and "rapid" career advancement paths as two of the best things about the firm. They also comment that they receive "far superior training" and "more serious responsibilities" than their peers at other consulting firms. However, salaries "are somewhat below market level," insiders report. "The firm has always been conservative when it comes to keeping up with the market," says one. However, one insider remarks that KSA "has moved up over the past year or two." Benefits are "on par with the rest of the [consulting] industry," and employees like the fact that "the retirement plan vests in only seven years." Perks include "standard expense account stuff when you're traveling." Consultants in the New York office "can call a car service if they work late, but in Atlanta, pretty much everyone drives to work, so it's not necessary."
Culture of relaxation ? or is it?
Dress codes vary widely by office. At the Atlanta headquarters, "it's business casual every day, and on Friday, you can wear anything ? within reason ? no jeans with holes in them or anything." In the New York office, on the other hand, "it's suits Monday through Thursday, and casual Friday means khakis and collared shirts." Whatever they wear, KSA's consultants work in "what could be described as a casual work environment." "To give you an example, the president of the company came to one Christmas party wearing a tux and sneakers," says one insider. As at most consulting firms, the age range at KSA "is pretty young," which makes for "a bit more of a relaxed culture." "Some of our principals are 33, 34 years old," one source points out. The firm sponsors "periodic happy hours" to encourage mingling, but consultants in the firm's headquarters say "there's not too much socializing out of the office. There are a lot of married people here."
Friendly and flexible
KSA is "a family-friendly firm," with "diverse senior management in terms of background and ethnicity." Overall, the firm has "a fair amount of Hispanics and foreign nationals ? but few black Americans."
A source gives us the breakdown for the U.S. offices: 14 percent of principals are female, and 11 percent of the firm's officers/partners are minorities; 6 percent of the firm's professionals are African American, 4 percent are Hispanic, and 7 percent are Asian. Kurt Salmon Associates is "pretty flexible about hours as long as you get your work done." "If you want to work from home sometimes, that's fine." In addition, when it comes to choosing your projects, "if there's a reason why you don't want a real travel-intensive period ? if your wife is pregnant, for example ? you can let that be known, and the firm will try to accommodate that."
Insiders confirm the company's claim that "we hire believing each new consultant has the potential to one day become a principal." "The firm makes a sincere effort to assess whether hires will make it," reports a consultant, "if you get in, your chances of becoming a principal are significantly higher than at other firms ? KSA doesn't have that churn and burn attitude." In addition, "you can make principal if you don"t have an MBA."
On the road again
Kurt Salmon insiders say "travel is no worse than other consulting firms," and note that it "tries to focus more on lifestyle." "We generally work less hours than they do in the Big Five firms," says a contact, though "there are spikes because the work is project-driven." Travel is also "unpredictable, since it depends on the project." Several contacts report working "on average between 50 and 60 hours a week," and say "weekends are rare." "There's no face-time issue here, or at the client," adds one insider. Operations and Logistics consultants can relocate every six months for the first several years of their careers. After that, consultants usually settle near a KSA office and travel during the week. Strategy-oriented projects can be handled largely out of the home office. In those cases, travel is only about two to three days a week. As for travel abroad, "if you would very much like to be transferred to a foreign office," reveals a consultant, "you can do it, but a move like that would never be forced on you."
Director of Recruiting
1355 Peachtree Street, NE1
A.T. Kearney;Andersen Consulting;Booz-Allen Hamilton ;Deloitte & Touche;McKinsey & Company;Swander Pace & Company
More Company Profiles
For more career information, go to Vault.com
©2000, Vault.com Inc