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North Highland Reviews

Updated April 19, 2018
458 reviews

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2.8
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North Highland President and CEO Dan Reardon
Dan Reardon
285 Ratings

458 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • Good work/life balance for a Consulting company (in 81 reviews)

  • Great people - dedicated to delivery high quality work to clients (in 51 reviews)

Cons
  • Work-life balance used to be a huge pro but that has deteriorated over the past year or two (in 16 reviews)

  • Roles can feel a little like staff augmentation rather than consulting (in 22 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (1)

    "Adults that act like it."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Atlanta, GA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Atlanta, GA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at North Highland full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    -Amazing culture and smart people.
    -Trusted to do what you're good at and deliver.
    -Renewed focus on career path and development.

    Cons

    The firm is changing. It is adapting to where it is in its life-cycle and making the changes necessary to meet its growth goals. Some people find the change challenging or see it as uncertainty.

    North Highland Response

    May 8, 2017 – Global Services

    Thank you for your feedback! We appreciate you sharing about your experience at North Highland.


  2. Helpful (21)

    "You’re probably better off elsewhere"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Manager in Charlotte, NC
    Former Employee - Senior Manager in Charlotte, NC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at North Highland full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    I left North Highland some time ago, but I wanted to post my experience here in hopes that it may help those considering it. I’ll try to be as objective as possible.

    I spent seven years there, long enough to fully vest in the ESOP and to experience the company going through significant growth and some big changes. I was in Charlotte, the second largest office in the company, which at the time I joined only had about 50 full time employees (plus a network of contract affiliates). Overall I had a very good experience in the day-to-day work, working on a variety of interesting and challenging projects, with good people from NH and the client, and I could probably count on one hand the number of days I was unstaffed during my entire time there. I spent nearly 10 years at a big 4 firm prior to North Highland, and I would characterize the projects I worked on at North Highland as comparable (though often much smaller) to what I did at the bigger firm. I should note when I joined NH a number of the executives came from the same or similar firms, and many of them talked about the relief of getting out their prior firm, how much they hated it, and NH offered so much more in the way of opportunities, culture, etc. I didn’t come in with any of those opinions; I enjoyed working for my prior employer, and was interested in NH for the local model (which was fully in place at the time) and also for what I perceived as opportunity to earn more via the various bonuses in the comp plan and the ESOP. NH rewards ability to sell work at any level, and the executives I met at NH were able to grow in their career very quickly and I could see how they felt stifled at the bigger firms.

    Looking back it seems I joined NH at it’s last stages as a growth company. When I was hired every interviewer talked about the huge opportunities with ESOP and the “greenline” (company) bonus. I later realized that people who had joined in the years preceding me had experienced exponential growth in the ESOP, and annual bonus payouts of over 100% (sometimes 200%, though the greenline target for most people was only around 10% of base). There were (and are still a few) people with ESOP balances in the high 6 even 7 figures. There was also apparently a big opportunity to earn a lot of money through the various sales bonuses paid out quarterly (I think there were 6 different types of bonuses at the time); and these would balance out the low base salary (my base was about 30% lower than what I left). The benefits weren’t all about money though, the company really did have a strong culture, almost like a family. New hires attended a multi-day off-site training in a small group led by the founder and the CEO, the entire company (including international offices) met in Atlanta for a weekend twice yearly, and the local office had an annual overnight social trip as well as a big party at one of the exec’s lake house for families.

    I describe all that to say there were some really compelling reasons to join, and I had a pretty good experience in a lot of ways. Throughout my time there the local model started to change, but I was only asked to travel once for a brief period, and it was made clear it was completely up to me if I wanted to turn it down (which I believe would have been true with no negative consequences). The affiliate staffing model held up during the ‘08-09 downturn, and in fact we stayed very busy during that time.

    Cons

    So I have a lot of positive to say about my experience at North Highland (and I do keep in touch with people there so I understand a lot of the positives I mention do not exist today), but in retrospect I really wish I had never taken the job, or at least left a lot sooner. It’s almost like I lost 7 seven years in terms of career advancement and compensation. I’ve been able to make up some of that in the time since I left, but I let myself get comfortable in a place where I didn’t really excel in what mattered, which was sales. I had very strong performance reviews at NH in terms of project delivery, but to really succeed there you need to be able to sell above anything else (and navigate an executive culture that was bizarre when I started and is apparently only getting more so as time goes on). Excellence in project delivery is expected (as it should be), but it’s not rewarded. And when you think about it, sales is the more valuable skill. Not every project manager is good, nor do they have the necessary client management skills that make a good consultant, but it’s a far more common skill than being able to sell consulting work. I know the compensation model has changed multiple times (during and since the time I was there), but I think a common thread through it all is to make money at NH, you need to be able to sell a lot of work and hopefully deliver strong results. That said, even for the best sales people I think it is very hard to make money at NH relative to the bigger firms because the projects are smaller and the bill rates much lower. My bill rate was easily 1/2 at NH what it was at the bigger firm. Granted overhead expenses are lower but still to build a perpetual stream of bonus income at NH you need to have your hand in a lot of projects and preferably running a big part of an account. Again, not unlike any consulting firm. If you don’t like to sell (and have an ability to do it), you’re better off as a PM in industry. It’s interesting the shift from when I started though, when the executives talked about NH being a refuge from the big firms. Notice how many of them have joined or gone back to the big-4 in recent years (which I applaud them for, if they’re doing good work they should be rewarded for it).

    Sales vs. delivery aside, the compensation is my biggest disappointment during my time at NH. I didn’t feel 100% sure about taking a 30% cut to base, but I liked the idea of joining a growth company with these opportunities. Part of my disappointment is my own responsibility, I didn’t reach anywhere near the sales goals I thought I could. My quarterly bonuses would end up being maybe equal to an extra paycheck, most of it based on billlable hours. The annual greenline bonus and the ESOP really never played out though. Of course no one could predict the downturn in the late 2000s or that NH’s growth would level off. I never saw the big greenline from years past, I think it went a little over 100% one year, and maybe under 100% in one year, but it was paid out (again 10% target). All in on a typical year the various bonuses made up 35-45% of my income. So it wasn’t like I wasn’t getting paid, but you really had to fight to all of the available income. Base salary increases were virtually non-existent. I think I got two in total while I was there, and one was literally a 0.8% increase. The ESOP, I don’t get it. They only deposited about $5k a year, and while it did grow during that time, mine topped out at $75k after 7 years. The worst was when it came time to roll it over after I left (which occurs about 18 months later), it had lost 25% of value. I could have left it with NH to see if it would come back, but I just figured I should cut my losses and move on. Keep in mind the stock is based on an outside valuation, so no idea what goes into that calculation and why they decided it lost 25% that year (by far the largest swing I saw over time there).

    The good news is there is life after North Highland. I recognized I stayed in consulting too long for me, as said I got comfortable there and it was a good place to work day to day. What I realized though as I explored industry jobs, is I had no idea how much these companies are paying people to do work that we with consulting backgrounds are very good at. Being in consulting so long I had lost sight of the opportunities in “the real world”. I left for an industry position where I am paid more in base salary than I made all in at NH, and my annual bonus target is 30% (this is by the way a very attainable role for a manager/sr manager - not an executive position). The bonus has been fully funded every year which I understand to be the norm. There is a full 6% 401k match paid every quarter (NH matched 3% and decided at year end whether it would be funded), annual equity awards, and profit sharing. Not to mention plenty of opportunity to move up. I feel very fortunate to have landed here and would encourage anyone reading this to look at the options available. If you do want to work in consulting, there are a number of similar size companies to consider as well. One thing I realize, is all my years in consulting I looked at industry as step down, like you’re missing out in some way. It’s true there are some opportunities in the consulting world that you won’t see in an industry job (though I think those are shrinking), but there are some real benefits to working your way up in a corporate job.

  3. Helpful (7)

    "Managing Partner"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at North Highland full-time

    Pros

    Competitive Salary and Health Benefits

    Cons

    North Highland used to be a great firm, but it has completely lost its way. It morphed into the most passive/aggressive company I've ever worked for. Extremely cut throat. I was literally giving myself a pep talk to get out of the car each morning. It was obvious that things we're quickly going down hill when the top performers started leaving in droves for other opportunities.

    Advice to Management

    There's no point because the executive team is unwilling to listen. I would highly encourage any one looking at North Highland to think otherwise. Life is short. There are plenty of opportunities out there where the leadership is sound, employees are valued, and the work is rewarding.


  4. Helpful (6)

    "Only recommend to certain people."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at North Highland full-time

    Pros

    Can find some friendly colleagues. Local travel is nice, but some of the "short" distances are still taxing. There are some good managers out there.

    Cons

    Executives and administration are all over the place. Some can not be attentive at all and projects suffer b/c of it.


  5. Helpful (20)

    "Unprofessional"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook

    Pros

    Cannot really think of any.

    Cons

    Management is unprofessional being that they are located in Atlanta, there is no understanding on how to communicate with employees throughout the business. Stressful job environment, every task was a fire alarm.


  6. "Changing to stay relevant"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at North Highland full-time

    Pros

    Shifting model to differentiate North Highland is taking us in a new direction that will lead to long term viability and success. Increased focus on Employee Experience and getting internal operations ahead of the curve. Excited about the future!

    Cons

    Change is never easy, and always going to be some collateral damage. While some talent changes are imperative to success, losing some "glue" people along the way.

    Advice to Management

    Stay the course. Listen to the team.


  7. Helpful (19)

    "I can't lie...it's really bad here"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Principal in Atlanta, GA
    Current Employee - Principal in Atlanta, GA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at North Highland full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Some good people here. I am amazed at how some of them even stay positive given the culture

    Cons

    Backstabbing, lying to the client, and abusing employees is the norm here. Not sure how they are still in business

    Advice to Management

    Improve your communication and be consistent

  8. Helpful (23)

    "A Shadow of its Former Self"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Principal Consultant
    Former Employee - Principal Consultant
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at North Highland full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    NH still has some good work with good clients
    Great colleagues - though many to most of the best have already left
    Low travel - though this policy appears to be changing

    Cons

    Constant churn in management, strategy, and direction
    Youth culture has promoted under-qualified youngsters over more competent older staff
    Under-qualified youngsters in leadership roles have been responsible for major client fails
    Hiring of dozens of VPs from larger consulting companies and changes to travel policies, employee ownership, compensation, and direction have eroded the once-excellent corporate culture.

    Advice to Management

    Figure out what you want to be now, and stick to it for more than a single annual cycle. Be honest with your employees about the direction of the company. If you can't do the above, sell the company to someone who can while it still has some value.


  9. Helpful (14)

    "Premier Staff Aug Firm"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at North Highland full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Great people who care about clients and are passionate about doing quality work

    Cons

    Premier staff aug firm, with most projects involving glorified PM work. There are a handful of premium projects, which are usually sourced by the employee getting recognized by the client and being promoted into a broader role. Biggest concern is the work life/balance, which has become increasingly poor as the company increases billable hour requirements and decreases support for other firm initiatives like business offering development, BD and marketing. Promotions require that you invest a lot of time in firm building activities outside of your client work, which can mean an average of 60-70 hour weeks for those that want to climb the ladder. The firm also has limited opportunities for those that want to work part-time schedules.

    Advice to Management

    Invest in internal positions that are dedicated to growing the business and stop using the failing strategy of asking employees to take on this work on the side of their 40+ hour a week client projects.


  10. Helpful (13)

    "Senior Consultant"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Atlanta, GA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Atlanta, GA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at North Highland full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Great people to work with

    Cons

    -Growing pains from trying to figure out "who they want to be". The model changed at least 3 times in one year
    -No clear path to be promoted, coaching structure is not effective
    -Not selling a lot of work, so you will be terminated if you are on the bench too long

    Advice to Management

    invest in the people you hire! Too many good people are leaving for a reason


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