James highlighted the strong value proposition that a position in consulting can bring to one’s career. His time at McKinsey offered him the chance to build strong networks and the access to high profile cases forces a consultant to be careful in thinking. Being a consultant also helps to hone stakeholder management and empathetic leadership.
However, he does warn that the excellent training in being a corporate manager with systematic and data-driven thinking does not hone the entrepreneurial mindset of failing fast and failing early.
Transitioning from consulting to VC
James notes that despite his own experience, consulting to VC is not a common path. In terms of occupations traditionally known for option preservation, it might be easier to transition from Investment Banking to VC, especially from the TMT department.
VC is a relationship business; deal flow comes in large part from referrals and personal introductions. In order to break into the VC space, it would be helpful to start building relationships through coffee chats, helping startup founders and publishing thoughtful pieces on Medium. Consultants aspiring to enter the VC world can also look for projects that involve implementation, such as those involving pricing.
Transitioning from consulting to startup founder
In deciding when to leave, a consultant should anticipate when learning starts to hit a plateau, possibly after 2 years in the firm or so. It would be helpful to have an MVP ready prior to leaving, which can be as simple as a Google Sheet that validate the startup idea. Work on honing your hiring instincts, as this is a critical part of being a founder and remember that entrepreneurs tend to have a more short-term time orientation so cultivate a bias to action.
James reminded the audience that it’s really difficult to have a passion until you build the skills and it’s a lot easier to find that passion after building expertise. Coming from an entrepreneur who has experienced life at some of the most prestigious firms, this is advice worth keeping at the back of your head.