I worked at Mars & Co full-time
- Good environment to get your hands on a lot of different technology.
- Conducive to learning.
- Good work/life balance.
- Good benefits, fair pay, good people
- Since there's a small IT department, growth opportunities are limited
I worked at Mars & Co full-time
- Some really interesting projects
- You get a lot of responsibility very quickly when you join
- Promotions can be quick
- There are some very intelligent people who are great to work with within the firm (however, many of these people leave/ are in lower positions)
- While high turnover in consulting is expected, high turnover of upper managers is not. While I was at Mars, I saw many of the best managers and senior consultants at the company leave which does not bode well for the company's future.
- They don't do much to look out for employee's well being. Many projects are over sold and under staffed and you are expected to work as late and often as needed to fill this gap. A lot of this is due to an underlying fear within the company of losing clients because of the "one client per industry" model.
- No bonuses at lower levels
- There is no upward review system which definitely shows in some of the poor management
- Promotions are not so much based on reviews but more on VPs pushing for people which leads to a fairly convoluted, opaque promotion schedule
- They don't do much to stay up to date and relevant as a company (i.e. no internal office chat, no electronic expense form, etc.)
- There are very few women in the company and no women in higher positions
Advice to Management
Ask and respond to employee feedback to try to grow as a company
I worked at Mars & Co full-time (More than a year)
- Very strong analytical firm and smart people
- Small firm with the opportunity to work on many different projects and get promoted quickly
- Work life balance is pretty good, for a consulting firm
- Top clients who are often the number 1 or 2 in their industry
- No transparency
- VPs are not empowered to build culture and manage the business as the owner/CEO has full control and manages from afar
- Very transactional relationship with employees with little to no outreach to alumni
Advice to Management
Give more control to VPs
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.
They just let you sit there if you can't be bothered to work
Everything, badly managed and fear based culture
I worked at Mars & Co full-time (More than 3 years)
I was an employee at Mars & Co’s Greenwich, CT office for about three years and have worked at three very different companies in my career. I have waited some time since leaving to avoid any emotional artifacts in my assessment and have kept in touch with current employees. Writing a review was a difficult decision to make, but I feel that it is ethically responsible to educate college, PhD and business school graduates so that they can make an informed career decision.
Nearly every employee of Mars & Co is extraordinarily intelligent and hardworking. However, the organization has momentous cultural shortcomings and a severe lack of leadership which has resulted in significant organizational decay which will continue into the foreseeable future. Voluntary turnover (not up or out) of greater than 20% per year reflects the strain that has been put on the business.
Mars & Co offers a unique opportunity to gain substantial experience early in your career. It is not uncommon to be placed on an international assignment within two years’ experience. Promotions are very rapid and it is possible for a college graduate to double their starting salary within three years. This generally requires that junior consultants take on increasing responsibility and be put on “trial by fire.” In my opinion, Mars & Co outperforms most consulting firms in this regard.
The project size and revenue generated per employee is very impressive for such a small organization. Most clients are extremely impressed by the work that Mars’ consultants perform. As a result of the rigorous recruiting process, Mars’ consultants are some of the most analytically competent people I have ever met. Most of the Greenwich office’s work is on consumer packaged goods (CPG). It is important to understand that, although the organization does work in many different industries, much of your time would be spent working on CPG projects.
Where Mars & Co excels in analytical work, its leadership and project management are extremely disappointing. It is difficult to understand how severe of an issue this is until you have experienced it. The root cause of this problem is that success is generally measured at Mars by how many hours you work and how technically complex your methods are. Unfortunately, these are essentially the metrics a good manager should try to minimize. All senior employees at the firm have been promoted from within, as is Dominique Mars’ prerogative. This has distilled the poorest management to the top of the organization. With a few very notable exceptions, most of the managers at Mars & Co perform analyst roles and grind their teams with a fickle, unorganized approach.
As a sole proprietorship, the organizational structure of the firm is very abnormal. In Greenwich, one person has complete control of most decision making. Unfortunately, this person only works part time and has a tendency to lash out in grammatically incorrect and thoughtless memos. Progress to modernize and improve the firm has been all but stopped by the laziness and ego of the final decision makers. In my opinion, nearly all of the challenges faced by Mars & Co could be solved if the administrative leader would allow for an open an honest culture where feedback was considered and a sincere effort was made to reduce the turnover burden that is put on the business. During my time at Mars, I saw some extraordinarily ugly situations that crossed my ethical and professional boundaries.
An example of one of the many cultural shortcomings that exist is Mars’ stance on women consultants. Only one female currently works in the Greenwich office. The official answer written in the employee recruiting handbook to the question “why aren’t there any female VPs?” is “We have one in Paris. In the US we’ve had women making it to PMs (project managers), but it seems that their desire for motherhood and home life took precedence over their careers.” Mars & Co is truly culturally backwards and my experience at other companies confirms my belief that these issues have significantly eroded Mars’ workforce.
Advice to Management
I am grateful for the experience I gained at Mars & Co, and I have a high regard for their work and people. While I was there, I saw about half of the organization leave including many that had started after me. Such high voluntary turnover is not an industry norm and reflects the poisonous culture that has been allowed to infect the organization. While you will gain a significant amount of experience and a large salary, I would only recommend Mars & Co as a last resort for those seeking employment in CPG related businesses. Management needs to actively work within the business to make it a place their employees would actually recommend to a friend!
I have been working at Mars & Co full-time (More than a year)
• Get to work with some of the largest companies in the world. Most clients are #1, 2, or 3 in their industry
• Opportunities for international travel exist if you want them
• Staffing on travel projects can be minimized if you want it to be, though you take a hit in promotion potential
• Moderately smart consultants at entry levels (Associate, Senior Associate, and Consultant), though as was mentioned in another review, there are a lot of ‘second bests,’ especially in terms of communication skills
• Advancement can come quickly, though often it is a result of a person working very long hours for weeks/months to right a sinking ship
• It may sound sarcastic, but the bad management and communication skills that run rampant in the company actually provide a great opportunity to learn how to be a good manager by observing what not to do
• Good pay relative to non-consulting jobs (though below industry average within consulting)
• Poor management with complete lack of transparency. Basic things like relevant available data, cadence of meetings, and project deliverables may never be communicated and may be surprisingly hard to get out of your manager. Larger projects commonly see duplication of effort and people working for hours/days on obsolete modules, particularly with our soft drink client
• High volatility in hours compared to industry average. This stems from poor top-down communication, leading to a ‘hurry up and wait’ mentality that often ends with a mad rush before a meeting that could have been avoided through defined expectations and a project roadmap
• Complete lack of training: building a valuable skill set is a combination of getting lucky in whom you’re staffed with, recognizing your weak areas, and a lot of google searches. Some people never build competency in Excel, data analysis, presentation flow, etc., and you’ll be forced to pick up the slack if you’re staffed alongside them
• Office location is inconvenient: either commute 1.5 hours every day and live in NYC or commute 20 minutes and live in Stamford, CT
• A decent chunk of the organization is analytically-competent but socially challenged individuals, leading to dysfunctional teams and poor communication across managerial relationships
• Management attitude: from day one you’re made to understand that you are basically a disposable cog. Especially at the AC and SAC levels, your intellectual contributions are generally not welcome. As one VP put it, you’re there to be an ‘excel jockey.’ This attitude starves off any investment in the success of the project and any feeling of commitment to the firm
• No one seems happy. Out of ~40 people that I interacted with only 2 did not either say or demonstrate their unhappiness at Mars.
Advice to Management
The root of the problems begins with recruiting: consultants are hired based almost wholly on their raw analytic capabilities, with communication skills taking a very distant backseat. The poor communication is frustrating when that consultant is your teammate, but it becomes a serious liability if that person advances to a Project Manager or Vice President role, and since we only promote from within, that talent pool is the feeder stock for these managerial roles.
To solve this, give formal interviewer training (and no, a 10-minute discussion on how to run an interview is not formal training). Codify what you’re looking for and put less emphasis on math skills and more emphasis on good communication. The reason Mars has terrible managers is that the people you hire are bad communicators. These people are also bad at selling for the same reason.
Next, allow managers a framework for improving these abilities by instituting bi-directional reviews. Most managers do not realize how bad they are at organizing, delegating, and transferring expectations, and no venue exists them to get feedback and work on this.
Moreover, make promotions every 3 months versus 6. I understand that you don’t want promotions always looming in the air, but a talented and ambitious person that believes they should have been promoted in the last cycle is not going to wait around for 6 months to see if things change: they’ll just take another job instead.
And finally, stop viewing your employees as disposable assets. Yes, the turnover in consulting is huge, but so are the recruiting expenses ($20k per new hire by my estimate), and even then it takes several months at a minimum to make that new hire a useful consultant. If you can keep people even a few months longer you reduce the time and cost invested in getting a new hire that can sufficiently replace someone who left. Attempts should be made to improve morale and the sense of community among the staff. Admittedly, the return of monthly happy hours is a step in the right direction, but the rationale for canceling them in the first place (‘people will just complain about the company’) is highly reminiscent of the idea that ‘the beatings will continue until morale improves.’ This philosophy doesn’t work, and instead of trying to silence dissent, you should be trying to understand where it comes from and how you can solve it.
I worked at Mars & Co full-time (More than a year)
*Friendly and humble consultants
*Minimal travel requirements
*Good work/life balance compared to other firms
*One of the best firms for CPG projects
*Lack of transparency
*No upward feedback, 360 reviews would be welcome
*No formal training
*Managers who don't know how to manage
*Great variability between how work is done by VPs
*Tendency to "boil-the-ocean"
*Lack of leadership
Advice to Management
Push for strong leadership in the firm, push the brand, and grow you consultants
I have been working at Mars & Co full-time
Premium client base
Potential for client / executive decision-making exposure earlier in career
Lack of specialization by industry and function can lead to broader learning opportunities
High caliber strategic ability among senior leadership
Relative lack of Mon-Thu travel compared to peer companies
Potential for international experience
Low all-in pay relative to industry
Extreme lack of transparency. For example: unlike peer firms no year-end bonus discussion - you only discover amount when you check your bank account (hope it is higher than other months). Promotions process is a similar black box
No manager training - consulting experience varies dramatically based on assigned VP and PM
Adverse selection for management - lack of people skills among some senior leadership drives away those who might bring this skill set to managerial roles
The Mars brand is well-regarded by those familiar with it, but is not broadly known
Advice to Management
Consultant cynicism and turnover carries hidden costs and is needlessly high. Blind 360 degree reviews and increased transparency would yield easy benefits, improving stability and output
-Good work being produced: data/strategic analysis, data visualization and presentation
-Good peers: on average, smart people to work with
-Lifestyle: can be decent depending on project
-Below average compensation
-Non-existent feedback/transparency about career/promotions
-Bad location (should relocate to NYC)
This will replace the current featured review for targeted profile. Are you sure you want to replace it?
Are you sure you want to remove this review from being featured for targeted profile?