I worked at Mars & Co (Less than a year)
I was a full time consultant in the Greenwich office for roughly 6 months during a broader career transition, so my experience is not generally representative of many others with longer tenure who may have more jaded views. Given the firm's small size, abysmal website and dearth of marketing materials, it's important to offer some general context for prospective employees about what Mars actually is: A privately held, small, boutique strategy consulting firm with a nominally global presence that views BCG, Bain or McKinsey as peers and that has a long history with clients in the consumer / retail sector. While the official point of differentiation is that Mars works with only one client per industry at any given time to ensure exclusivity, it's important to recognize the degree to which most consulting engagements occur in the CPG space. That can be a feature or a bug depending on what you're looking for. Both the pros & cons of Mars stem largely from the fact that it is a small firm with impressive clients (mostly Fortune 500). Pros generally: Highly quantitative, analytically competent consultants. Mars tends to hire people with PHDs looking for a first job to break into business, or undergrads with an engineering or similarly quantitative grounding. As a result the work tends to be very granular, analytically rigorous and often built from first business principles. As a consultant you get to work on a broad range of problems that can include high level strategy for new markets, structural reorganization efforts, in-the-weeds supply chain or pricing analysis. Because teams are typically small (3-4 people), junior members can add a lot of value and prove themselves quickly. There are ample opportunities (if you take the initiative) to present your work to senior management at your clients, though this will typically be at the mid-upper management levels and not the C-suite. The work itself is interesting and often actionable because of its specificity. There is very little of the type of large-scale implementation projects (throw bodies at a problem) that characterize junior roles at larger consulting firms. Mars probably over-indexes on competitive intelligence (cold-calling research, price checks, etc) given its ability to ensure exclusivity within an industry. There are quite a few international engagements that can last several months and which you can participate in early in your career at Mars. It's a great situation for a self-starting early 20-something right out of school, looking to travel, and who basically has no family commitments. There are consultants who, while ostensibly based in Greenwich, have spent 2-3 years living abroad on assignments. For those who dislike extensive travel - there is less required "face-time" at the client site, though this varies significantly by project. Consultants don't typically spend the Mon-Thurs at the client site, but fly out as needed. In my 6 months at the firm the most I was ever away from home was 3 days at a time, and most weeks I was at my desk in Greenwich. Mars is great for someone looking to have a future career in CPG, as you will work with Fortune 500 clients in this space and gain broad enough expertise (analysis of syndicated data, marketing, merchandising) to be a passable junior brand manager anywhere. Some of the firm's more notable alumni have gone onto success on Wall Street as consumer analysts, or hedge fund managers specializing in consumer stocks. Finally, the exit opportunities are pretty good and the skill set is broadly applicable in a number of different industries. People seemed to go onto work at well known data startups, into finance, to other specialized consulting firms, or into the CPG space in strategy/finance roles.
If you want to be a consultant to have 1) a large salary & year end bonus, 2) an active & useful alumni network, 3) prestige / benefits / name recognition, then Mars is probably going to disappoint you relative to opportunities at the Big 3 Management Consultancies, or even consulting with one of the large accounting firms. That's not to say that compensation is bad, but all-in will probably come in at the low end of market rate. I suspect that this is a function of being a small firm that can't always push back on client demands - thus Mars offers great services at lower cost. The thing that gives is employee comp & work/life balance. In my mind, the quality & nature of the work outweigh some of these drawbacks, but not all. Because it's a small company that is solely owned by a man who is no longer heavily involved in the day-to-day business, there is a deep sclerosis within the organization that retards business growth, internal visibility on your performance as a consultant, and any true effort at modernization. This manifests itself in a few key ways: There doesn't appear to be any real investment in HR capabilities that grow the consultant pool, encourage retention, or improve the quality of the existing pool through effective training. I saw this a more of a nuisance than a dealbreaker, but many people who come in without having had prior business experience will find this incredibly frustrating because they are expected to do a lot without any real mentorship or intelligible knowledge transfer system. Training is basically "sink or swim", and the current crop of project managers are not good mentors. Project management is very poor, with timelines that are not well managed due to lack of attention/direction from senior leaders until the very end. Typically, if you are not comfortable forcefully managing up in this organization, your work-life balance will suffer. Unsurprisingly, turnover is quite high (20-25%+ annually, and definitely higher than that in the 6 months I was there). Documentation on projects that could come in handy on subsequent engagements is very poorly managed, there are no centralized, automated, searchable resources for new employees. As a result, every project requires a degree of time consuming wheel reinvention. Valuable subject matter expertise is lost for no reason, and many of the mid-level consultants have large basic knowledge gaps as a result of not having been exposed to a particular business concept through their project work. Mars presents an antiquated face to the outside world because it has made no investment in its website, in the format of its presentation decks (which I'm pretty sure are 20 year old knock-offs of old BCG templates), or in training on presentation skills to its consultants. While you will receive feedback on your performance at the end of each project, there is little to no communication about how that translates into your career path, your year end compensation, etc. It appears relatively easy to move up through the organization from entry-level up to Senior Consultant within <5-6 years. After that mobility is severely limited as there is very little VP turnover. If you live in Manhattan, your commute on the Metro North will be a constant source of frustration. While Mars does not have an overtly sexist/frat-like culture, the firm does a terrible job at making female consultants feel welcome - it is not a place I would recommend to any of my female friends. There was literally 1 female consultant in Greenwich during most of my time there. This is partly due to the original pool of candidates (skewing STEM backgrounds) from which the firm draws its talent, but also the lack any female role models within the organization (all VPs are men). I don't see how management can remedy this easily, as the situation is largely self-reinforcing.
Advice to Management
Delineate a succession plan, make VP's owners in the business in order to incentivize growth & modernization. Make recruitment & retention of female consultants at all levels (but especially SC or higher) a priority. Embrace your core competency, grow your client base within a couple of well defined verticals, specialize to deliver higher value and charge premium billing.
I applied online. The process took 3 weeks. I interviewed at Mars & Co (Greenwich, CT) in May 2015.
There were three rounds. The first was a 30-minute phone interview with typical fit questions. The next one was a set of in-person interviews consisting of back to back 45-minute meetings with an Associate Consultant and then a Senior Consultant. Each of these interviews contained fit questions and one case. The final round was another set of in-person interviews: this time three back-to-back interviews with a Project Manager and then two Senior Vice-Presidents. They asked fit, brain-teaser, and case questions. Two consultants also took me to lunch before my final-round interviews. Case questions consisted primarily (but not solely) of market sizing. One of the interviewers really challenged my process at a couple of points but every other interviewer was simply supportive throughout the whole thing. The Senior Vice-Presidents that I met with were especially warm and friendly. Communication and coordination with HR was quick and smooth throughout the entire process.