Monday, April 30, 2007

Street Lessons of Management

Even before BBI starts, Indian streets are full of life lessons.

Actually, 2 courses seems to be in favour over here: the street version of Negotiations, and the street version of SCB (Shaping Consumer Behaviour).

Meet the Yogi. Just out of Imperial Hotel in Delhi, he selects his potential targets. Me for instance.

He wanted to have a fortune telling session, to which I replied I was not interested at all. To build trust, he proposed a short game. I agreed, on condition that I could take pictures.

On a sheet of paper he asked me to choose from one number and one colour. I chose 7 and Blue. Now guess what: 7 and Blue were written on the back. Now that should have most of us believe in his mystic abilities I suppose. To continue the game he suggests to reveal to me the name of my loved one, my year of birth and when I will make money. On condition that I tick among 100 200 or 300 (Euros) if he suceeds in that. Of course, payable in advance.

I guess I would, if I had those galore. But even then, the whole manipulation (framing, limiting options etc.) just bothered me. That's paying not for revelations (presumably, since you would know if Yogi is right or wrong, you would know the answers by yourself), just for the game play.
And I must add that I wore a great Blue t-shirt that day, and that 7 obviously is the middle option...

In Nego, I was trying to buy some local handicrafts. And all the basic tactics were just thrown out to me. How much would you pay for it (Dilemma between Revealing own valuation and Anchoring low)? Let's divide the difference. Etc. I ended up taking nothing. Am I overanalysing things?
Today the real stuff begins. In Bangalore, meeting serious IT entrepreneurs.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

The land of snake charmers and IT professionals

At last in India... Building Business in India BBI is one of three field trips organised at INSEAD: China, Silicon Valley, and India.

Plenty of pics to come, but first impressions:

- taxi drivers don't care about traffic lights, but are the king of horns
- it's scorchingly hot
- Indian food is much better in India (I guess it's because spices are freshly ground...)
Nothing very deep yet, I admit. Oh yes, I've already lost my credit card and had to spend hours over the phone to cancel it... It's going to be a tiring trip. Hope loads of fun to come though!
Will keep you posted. Cheers from Incredible !ndia

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

The MBA Hidden Agenda

Last day of P4.

Spring being in the air, hormones awakening from a long winter, stress vanishing after job offers pouring, it is a right time to tell about the MBA hidden agenda: Meeting Mrs/Mr Right.

I know many people would not admit that, but MBAs also are important for that kind of network. We're getting fast past our studly/sexy primes, we'll be needing strong support in our careers, so BSchools are natural places to find the love candidate. Now is that a realistic assumption at INSEAD?

Let's explore numbers.
Key assumption: we're exploring the long-term commitment market...
900 participants, of which 225 girls. Males are older, marriage rate or very, very, vey serious commitment (à la louche, roughly) 30%, meaning 470 of them are available. Girls are younger, of which 10% are married or totally out of the equation, meaning 200 are available.

- Yes, the ratio is still bad, but from 1 in 4, you end up with 1 in 3, which is not that disastrous.
- Yes it is possible to find your life partner, and INSEAD couples abound. I know of at least 4 (AP, MA, MA, NA), and I'm not in the Gods' secret circle...
- Yes everything is negotiable in life...

In the short-term market, let's say that we're all human beings, and Fonty is lost in the forest, its largest population groups being retirees and game animals. So many things are possible. I understand though that Singapore is a different story...

Hereunder a pic from the Slxts and SxperHeroes party. That should reassure Dean Fatas on the wilderness of INSEAD parties... (although the front group is from Singapore, and most of them thought the idea of a costume party was an April's Fool joke).


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Risqué Business

Today there's one of the last P4 parties. The theme is "Sxxxs and Superheroes". I know I should censor a little bit, otherwise Dean Fatas (whom I like very much) will jump on my back...

I must share a funny episode though. Hell censorship and PC.

As one girl went into the only Costume shop in Fonty (or it could have been another shop), she asked for several things to wear. Upon seeing what the saleslady suggested her, still not convinced it would match the party's theme, she engaged into the following conversation (faithfully reported to me):
Student: "Hum, not really. Do you have something more risqué..."
Saleslady: "Risqué? What do you mean by risqué?"
Student: "Well, hum, you know, something more Pxte..."
Saleslady: "Oops. Are you at INSEAD. This must be an INSEAD party..."

Obviously, if you don't have the slightest fluency in French, you will never get it.

Anyway, the party's theme is, in this record 24th day of sunshine in a row (they said it in the news), showing off boys and girls' visible assets.

D-2 before India.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Getting ready for India

I must say the myth about high-tech, super efficient India is each day becoming more and more of a mirage. First, the Indian Embassy in Paris was one of the worst in terms of queing. Then hotel bookings were all done via fax or email (even for credit card details, which I find more than questionable policy).

If everything is according to plan, I will be in Bangalore and Mumbai next week. If there's only one thing I would love to see, it's the dabbawallahs in action. We had them in POM, I really was impressed...

Today, we're also voting for July 07 Graduation trip. I have reservations about Antalya (Turkey), for having been there already. I'd be more inclined to go to Croatia (Hvar island). We'll see results tomorrow.

On the Dabbawallahs:

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Monday, April 23, 2007

A quick review of P4

As P4 is about to end, and the week is going to be quite frantic (term project deadlines), it must be the good moment to reflect on this period. In a nutshell: I liked the fact that courses were practical, real-life oriented; I disliked the fact that people were too stressed or busy with job search to take it seriously.

In the Entrepreneurship Path, REP was excellent, NBV was disappointing but not hopeless.
The good thing about REP is, it's rather unusual. When we think about entrepreneurship, we jump to "new ideas" and "start-ups". There are a lot of established firms, medium-sized, that are just waiting for MBAs to turn them around. And they are worth millions. Now if you don't have ideas, but are stronger in execution, this is a serious option. Of course, as there's no free lunch, there must be something tough. To succeed, you need to survive the search process, and to get down to management tasks. Tim Bovard used his great real-life experience, and several guest speakers to make this class lively and useful. On top of that, teams have to look for real companies to take-over, but I'll tell the story once my team gets the deal...

NBV is the classic "New Idea" start-up entrepreneurship class. It is very disappointing IF 1/ you have taken VOBM in Singapore and 2/ if your project is not mature enough. Presumably NBV is a transitory phase to carry a project from VOBM to Business Plan Workshop in P5 (which I will also take). Now Steve is a nice guy, but at times too urbane and too mild. Some dose of Fernando Bartholomé would really help, in his case (like, your project is crap, your business model is a sophisticated piece of BS...) Still, 2 ventures from the class are seriously getting funded so it's not all bad.

I also had Negotiations 2 with Ayse Onculer (she is Turkish, not French ;-) so beware of pronunciation). I was very enthused about Horacio, he is such a great communicator. However, I felt that his takeaways tended to evaporate quite quickly, and that it's fine to concentrate on value-creation, but if you don't claim it at some point, you're doing this for the Glory. Ayse's approach is the opposite: it's all about getting results. I liked it very much. The only problem is, by claiming value, you sometimes have to fight very hard, and it's not always easy to do so with INSEAD people. I mean, some reputations were seriously damaged, as were some relationships.

Real Estate, well I will pass on this one. It's just terrible.

Strategic Cost Management with Deigan Morris was very interesting at least for his brilliant and goldsmith's precision-like analyses. The counterpart of course is, at times it was not really fun... God I missed Igor -who, rumour has it more and more strongly, is leaving INSEAD. Great shame...

Brand Management, by Pierre Chandon, is alright. Easily one of the best Marketing classes at INSEAD. Not super insightful but still quite relevant. I mean, after all, it's Marketing...

Now the big star of P4, without a shadow of doubt, is Karen Cool. The guy created, polished ICA. He exudes ICA. He emits ICA radiations. It's just awesome to me. It's all about mixing economics, game theory, strategy, and some marketing. As someone said, this should be a core course. Karen is the type of Prof. I like: humble, bright, intuitive, challenging (his cold calls...), passionate. He did nearly kick out someone today, which is a bit tough, because that person was auditing, but it was more for the politeness of being asked for auditing rather than for the fact of auditing per se. That tells you about the man, all about manners and respect. A great, great INSEAD Professor.

My personal favourite though, in P4, was Fernando Bartholomé in PIM. In a rational way, I should prefer Karen's ICA, because of all the analytics, and strategic thinking etc. but I enjoyed so much PIM. It was so different from any other courses I've had, the guy was bloddy funny, and most of all, I think I'm bringing home a lot of takeaways...

Overall, a great period to enjoy your schoolmates (when they are not interviewing), Fontainebleau in spring, great different classes, and Paris... If like me you did not look for a job "seriously".

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Being an outlaw

I want to experience being an outlaw for 10 minutes. Today is French Presidential Election, first round. No polls are allowed before 8.00 pm. It's 7.50 and these are the polls estimates: Sarko 30%, Sego 26%, Bayrou 16%, and Le Pen 11%.

This week-end, I did nothing... Well, no INSEAD assignment, just INSEAD networking. Drunk on Friday night (so many people started to celebrate their job offers), hungover on Saturday, BBQ P2s/P4s Saturday evening, and catch-up with sleep on Sunday... And some sports... Housemates are either flying to London for interviews or studying really hard for exam retake.
Next week is the last week of P4. I just can't believe it. Time flies so fast. 2 months to go, and back to the real world. Actually, in theory I had one assigment in Real Estate. This is the worst so far, and by many, many miles, of INSEAD courses. I'll write a constructive feedback for the Prof., because on the one hand, I feel bad giving a 1 out of 5 to such a nice chap, but on the other hand, if people read the news, or even he does his text messages while guest speakers experiment hypnosis on us, there must be a serious problem...


Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Token question - my last post on McKinsey

I promised the answer to the Token question I had for the McK interview.
First you need to clarify the boundaries of the problem. You choose to either stock up tokens before the increase, or not. Stocking up depends on whether you're better of over 3 years, and if you want to maximise the payoff, you need to estimate the optimal duration.

Then, you need to assume lots of things in order to simplify the problem and "lock" some variables:
- no further increase of price over 3 years at least
- 2 tokens a day every day (constant demand is key)
- risk-free rate of 5% annually.

A simple comparison over 1 year tells you that if you invest in 1 token, your payoff will be 1.1 end of the year, to 1.05 for a placement. So it must be more than one year. Over 2 years, the payoff becomes 1.1 to 1.05^2 ie. 1.1025, so it must be less that 2 years. To estimate the "less", you compare .0025 or 0.25% to 5%, it gives 18 days or so... So the optimal duration is 2 years minus 18 days, and you should buy tokens now for your use over that period.

My theory about the Office recruitment strategy was fully validated. Roughly 25 INSEADs interviewed, only 1 accepted (from one of that country's top 3 schools). Now I know that 2 or 3 current MBAs max are sponsored, all from these schools. If you really want to go to McK with more probability of success, this year's success story is Dubai, which hired quite a few people.

Yesterday was Ibiza party, it was gigantic. I loved it. Although I'm a bit on a hangover now... Today is BBQ again.


Friday, April 20, 2007

On the Wharton Experience and INSEAD Weakness 4

Classes stopped earlier this week in Wharton, and people are starting to come back. The Wharton exchange is a 2 month-period. Because it is half a term in Wharton, you can only take mini-electives.

When I ask the question of how nice it was, and the person starts by "It's ok", I expect the "but".
What is the "but" of Wharton exchange programme?
Apparently, the whole experience is very different from INSEAD and per se very interesting: huge campus with students from theology, economics, to nurses (it seems there nurses schools location are correlated to MBAs as well, we've got ours too over here... but there they've got interactions...), inpressive history etc.
Ok, now for the "but". There seem to be of three kinds.
First, the minis selection is limited. It's ok if you're looking for a job in parallel, otherwise it's a poor ROI for so much hassle.
Second, the clique is small because for some reason you're not wholly part of the big MBA... It's ok if you go with close friends or if there are lots of INSEADs, otherwise you just end up with the same small group of people.
Third, and foremost, the culture. If you fit with INSEAD multicultural spirit, you head for a shock. It's all American -even so-called other nationalities are Americanized. Cases are American companies, participants are Americans, Profs take for granted that you are American. In one of the courses, apparently when the Prof. asked about the Brits to come forward, there was not a single one. Unthinkable over here. It's ok because the US is at the forefront of lots of things, and if you want to experience the truly American way, otherwise it can be frustrating.
Having indulge in a top 3 MBA bashing, I can now expose INSEAD's major weakness, to me: the (in)consistency of Professoral Excellence at Core Courses level (Electives, because there have different dynamics, consistently provide the Star Professors to MBAs). Now, let's start with some caveats. To claim it is a weakness vis-a-vis the rest, would suggest other Top 10 MBAs are consistent. I had a housemate in Singapore from Wharton, he too admitted to some inconsistency in excellence levels over there.
INSEAD combines the following disadvantages: 2 campuses, 2 intakes per year, and 3 semi sections per intake. That means you basically need 6 professors in a calendar year. Now you can stretch some to Singapore on top of Fonty, but you can't stretch them on a full year. As a consequence, levels are bound to be unequal: there are only that many Star Professors on the world market, and INSEAD probably has that many Euros to spend on them.
Again, I'm convinced other top institutions have "Wow" faculty and "Arf" faculty, but because their throughput has not the same pace, it might not be as serious.
Now, maybe I'm lucky, but all my P1/P2/P3 Core Profs were at least good, and I had a good chunk of INSEAD Core Stars: Michael, Thomas, Enrico, Igor, Theo, Pascal, Ivan, Tim.
To finish on a positive note, despite the fact that all Core Profs are not stars, regardless of your intake, you'll get the chance of this unique, admirable Course Structure. I can't help but to stay amazed and speechless in front of such an intelligent, dynamic, interactive, integrated, cohesive Core Courses structure from P1 to P3. The concentration of the experience makes the learning process even more profound. I've written about it in P2 Courses, but it's even more acute with time.
Ok, enough rambling, need to get ready for Ibiza Spanish Week Party. I have to say, the Spanish Week is a bit hit. Today was San Jordi Day: guys had to offer a rose to girls, and they had to offer a book to them. Smart people, they've invented reciprocation for girls too...

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My McKinsey interview

I finally had my McKinsey interview. It was an interesting experience, although at times genuinely painful. I mean, as we were introduced to the waiting room, and were able to check bios of our interviewers, it already started hum-hum: my 2 guys were engineers at heart, from the country's best institutions. I knew they would be particularly keen on playing numbers...

First interview. The guy seemed interesting in my CV, trying to understand the logic to McK. I did hint to my strong preference for OB over numbers, and in a way he was kind enough to come up with a simple case of profitability analysis, and in particular fixed costs solutions. Everything was about fine until we went down to numbers... Arghh. Simple calculation, excruciatingly painful delivery. Gosh, in what pains I would go through to report an interesting story in this blog... Of course I knew the game was over even before the moment when guy was supposed to give me his business card.

Second interview. The guy found the holes in my story. Like, "I don't understand why you would come to McK instead of doing blablabla". But that was not too bad.
Then, THE question. Not a case, just the question: You're in New York for 3 years, Subway authorities have announced a token price increase of 10%. What do you do?

I'll let you think over it overnight...

Again I was pretty alright in assumptions, and intuitions. But then we had to do the numbers. And that was tough. I tried NPV, schoolchildren maths... To no avail. He helped me out a little bit, and walked me through the solution. Again, one outcome was rushing to my face: no business card moment...

But, we ended up talking about his views about McK in that country. Really interesting. Basically, if he had the power to do one thing it would be to have McK at the heart of higher spheres of power. Presumably, McK in US, or Germany, is very influential partly because they have ties with Power. He explained to me how they were trying to reach the same thing in that country. Then I had a flash. Power, long-term strategy, network... No wonder all McKinsey guys from that Office came from the top 1 or 2 institutions (more than any other offices): to increase network externalities...

In conclusion: a cool experience that puts me bluntly in front of my weaknesses, which I already knew, but sometimes reminders are not bad...

It's funny how life can present yourself with Butterfly effects moments. After my 2 interviews, I went to the waiting room, and chatted with some people. One interviewee asked me about my cases, which I explained. I hinted at what I did, he understood that this was the solution.

He came to me afterwards bummed. If he were a barbarian, I'm sure he would have pursued me all over campus with his machette... Think about this Butterfly moment: he picked up "NPV" (which in my case was what I did, and wrongly), got the same Question, started head down and mistakenly on an NPV calculation. If he is not in second round, it could have been due to that very tiny misunderstanding... Frightening.
Anyway, the McKinsey experience is ticked, time to move on.

PS: Pics were taken when I went running. This is what sort of things you can bump into in the forest. I learnt afterwards that Fonty was the French capital of Horse riding... Isn't life cool?


Monday, April 16, 2007

The Dog that doesn't bark

I'm following lost of classes for fun this period. And also to report them to you...
Among the under-rated courses is Strategic Cost Management. This is a follow-up to Igor the Great in P2 Managerial Accounting. It is taught by Prof. Deigan Morris, and this guy is a little treasure. Granted, the first class was an absolute bore, worringly so. But now, all classes are incredibly good. There is one reason for that: Deigan is the best Case study solver at INSEAD. I've had tons of cases so far. None was as minutely solved as Deigan's. He admits being a follower of Sherlock Holmes, and tackles his cases accordingly. It's not just about exhibits, every single phrase, every single Executive's quote is analysed and dissected and interpreted. Frighteningly good... And it's not just the obvious, it's also the understated, the Dog that does not bark...

If you package that in some British humour, and delivery, you get the best mini-elective of this period...

Example of British understatement: "I understand you did not ask this question because you would not know what you are talking about..."

Also today, we had a panel of INSEAD alumns just fresh from their entrepreneurship experiences. They definitely were not as awe-inspiring as Andy, but it was ok. I liked the fact that they understood that chances were lower after INSEAD that anytime else to try entrepreneurship. I disliked the fact that one of them was a bit arrogant against Corporate world: I love entrepreneurship, because it matches my values, but the rest is not "BS" -far from it. I value my corporate experience a lot too.
It is still very refreshing to see grads making it to entrepreneurship. Some know they will fail (as one classmate confided "I love the idea, but there are holes in the business model"), but hey, better regrets that remorse...

Tomorrow is McKinsey interviews in a Chateau, for all offices but Paris... No wonder no INSEADs were present on campus for the Iberian Wine tasting event. Good luck everyone.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

BBQ Season has officially started!

We're having glorious sunny days right now. It's Summer 3 months ahead... As someone said, thank you global warming. On Sunday, I know of at least 3 BBQs scheduled at 1, 3 and 7PM. I was not invited at all of them :-( but on the other hand, I needed to work a little bit.
Typical conversations during BBQs: How was Singapore? (yeah, still some catching up to do with some people), or How do you find Fonty? (for Singapore people), How's the job search going on?, Who are you interviewing with next week?... Occasionally: Do you remember that we have this group work to do?
I like P4 with this sort of weather... To some extent, people are unconsiously realising that the year is ending, and that it's time to build ties for the future. P4 projects help that a lot in that regard. In NBV for instance, a lot of ideas are being exchanged, or experiences, or views on which business models worked in which countries. That's the beauty of INSEAD, when someone says: I like/dislike your model, I've seen something similar in Country X or Y, you should have a look at it...

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

INSEAD students vote Sarkozy

In Imperial town of Fonty, it makes sense.

In this period of French Presidential elections, while the buzz has not quite permeated the campus, it is something many foreign students ask the French ones.
My poll is as reliable as any others, I took a sample of representative students:
- one Dutch was overwhelmingly in favour of Sarkozy (pronounce Sharkojy, a Hungarian girl told me), as were the East Europeans (the Hungarian girl and a Slovak guy)
- the Anglo-saxons were largely for him as well -albeit not so enthusiastically (the English because of his economic policies, the American because he seems open to alliances with the US)
- the others abstained (one Indian, one Chinese said to me: I would not like to be French and have to vote, it's too complicated)
- the French majoritarily leaned towards him. Although many reckoned it would be close.

There is something fascinating in this man though. Very Napoleonic, in its good and bad aspects. His drive is admirable, and just like in corporate world, this scares some. If elected, what side will he show: Bonaparte or Napoleon?

On a lighter side, in Brand Management, we had a good laugh about Karcher being mad at French politics for the use of its brand name as a substitute to cleasing... A word coined by the man himself during the 2005 "riots".


Friday, April 13, 2007

Wicked game

Iberian Week 2007 must be either desperate for funds or very high on self deprecating humour. The concept of Tomatina is interesting: it's a Spanish festival in which people throw tomatoes to one another to recall some battle. Of course, it's all about release.
Now there are two assumptions: it's all against all OR it's you against someone you would want to release your energy on... Now, although I would like to participate in the game, I really can't picture myself throwing tomatoes on one of these guys. I have worked with some, lived with others, got drunk with most... This is a bunch of crazy funny cool people; it would be too tough to do it. Now, I understand there are some other Iberians fellows may want to throw tomatoes to, but there are not in the Student body ;-)

Anyway, some stress release will be more than welcome for most of us.

On the Tomatina tradition:


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wild, weird P4

P4 is strange. I'm not quite in the hectic job search, so have the luxury of observing my fellows. As said before, a lot of them are really stressed. It's getting slightly better, past the first dings, partly because a lot of INSEADs have never been accustomed to being rejected and are now accepting the fact that although competition is fierce, they are amongst the 1% top... It sort of soothes the pain of dings.

Also, some people are getting jobs. It's really cool to see them getting THE acceptance phone call. I like it. I must say though, that despite the importance of job search and professional calls, people should not lose the elementary etiquette in class. Today for instance, someone got phone calls presumably by a company offering her the job. Fine to me, she was radiating. Still, her taking calls in class 3 times bothers me. Just because class is class, and the Prof. and people like me care about a good learning experience.

Anyway... I can't wait for next week Iberian Week to get wild after a very serious week: interview with McKinsey (don't worry guys, I'm JUST experiencing it to report the experience, and because it will be useful to know how to interview candidates) -with little preparation, because I'm working hard on other projects. Notably a REP interview, and an NBV interview. The good old entrepreneurship shot...
A little log-off before leaving. It's not of the best of tastes, but people should be versatile...
"Tonio, my brother,

I have a special request for you.

Most of the P4 are quite excited these days, job search seems quite hot for these guys and I keep on hearing "ding", "dinged" from most of them while a few month ago, the only things that mattered to them were:
Booze, Champagne, Chateau, Hangover and for some guys the famous "OT" Vincent referred to in his previous email about body language requirements.

I've been told where the dings come from... What a shame the bell was removed from the garden. It was such a great way to celebrate INSEAD successes!!
On the other hand, the bell was so 90s.

Dude, I've got a proposal to bring INSEAD prestige back in the 21st century:
Let's have a cow in the garden, so that any eliminated candidate would pull the tail of the Cow so that we could a nice:


Tony, Frank, all INSEAD camarades, Let me introduce you to the INSEAD MOOO:

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Real (E)state of anaesthesia

It takes some efforts to have us hibernate in such a glorious summer weather in Fonty. Well, Real Estate managed it. I don't remember seeing so many people dozing off during class. Or worse, reading the FT or Les Echos (the two free business papers on campus).
True, the class started at 8.30. Yet I think there were as many people having a kip in the first session as in the second.
I'm always suspicious when a session has 3 guest speakers, on top of the Prof. All three actually are very successful INSEAD alumni in Real Estate, but that is not enough... To be fair, one was alright, as he hinted some case studies from his past experience. But honestly what did we take away from class 1 (out of 4): zilch. Ok, maybe some valuable contacts. But is it the purpose of an elective? Contacts should be a plus from the course, not the core of it...

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Meeting INSEAD's most successful start-up founder

Andy Phillips founded Active Hotels, a UK start-up, in 2000. The initial business model was to get independent hotels online, and share revenues with them. He sold it 5 years later for $160M+ in cash...

This pic summarises well Andy Phillips. Very commonplace, very modest. This by no means should be taken as derogatory. It is what makes his story so amazing. (Andy is the youngest of the lot, back row.) Andy's story makes the whole entrepreneurship path worth it, because he seems so similar to other INSEAD grads. Not about a genius idea. Not about (so much) luck. It's about execution, and perseverance. He did point out his key moments: when he had to fire a member of the founding team, when he had to motivate everyone, when he changed his key partnerships and his business model. What I liked about the story: very reachable, very realistic (like, the original business plan was very academic to me, 5 Forces 3Ps type), very insightful about the Angels and VC world, and very inspiring.

This was just was I needed. The NBV course, so far, has disappointed me, because of its redundance with VOBM. Now I feel super hyped-up on entrepreneurship.

Contrast Andy, willing to admit his limits, hire a team accordingly, and get out when he thought he would damage the growth of the business, with another alumn who presented his venture on campus last week. This venture could have been a role model 2, 3, or 4 years ago. Now it would make sense to be critical of the founder's moves. He believed so much in his baby, he was such a control freak, that he did everything from day 1: coding, sales, etc... As a result, the venture never really took off, despite the founder's claim that he was prioritising his lifestyle by not wanting to grow, and worse, it lost its competitive niche position and will likely be driven out of business by a bigger player.

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Consulting recruiting urban legends...

... are starting to abound.

Many people here have ample experience in case cracking. Yet it still is daunting to most of us. As Hallonman writes (see link hereunder), it seems that the brain stops working just when you need it.
Supposedly, cases are meant to illustrate your quick mindedness, and your analytical skills. Supposedly, these are strategy consulting's most required skills.
Well, these are not my forte. So instead of trying to compete on my weaknesses, I have devised a strategy based on my strengths. Basically it goes like that: "These are not my forte, but I can bring this and that blablabla, which not only are my strengths, but also can be valuable to you".

I talked about this to a great MBA participant (Dean's List), and he had me practice a case he got from BCG. I was "Humm, Hu, I see" all the way-maybe I had too much of this Rogerian thing- and he made fun of me when I did not pick up on one of his lines, which was something about a market share of 250%. To which I replied, that this is the value of Strategy Consulting, to have a 250% market share, ie. to "OUT-grow the market". I'm really not for Consulting...

I discussed with one guy, already a lock with BCG. He told me that he encountered 4 types of cases:
- the ones about cost reductions (diffentiating fixed to variable, to apply different strategies)
- the ones about operations management (identifying bottlenecks and solving them)
- the ones about market shares (estimating, sensing numbers)
- the ones about revenues and costs (identifying levers of both).
If you have more, please share.

He also told me that, after attending all company presentations and cocktails on campus, 2 things struck him:
1. Consulting firms seem to self-select. One person apparently told him that his niche consulting (read, not McKinsey BCG Bain Booz) selected people they think will not go to MK BBB, and that one proof would be the little overlap between them. The rationale would be to not waste time and money on sure bets to McKinsey and co. I'm not quite sure about this. One question would then be: how can you define these guys? One answer could be: Dean's List!

2. Apparently, participants change personality in cocktails. It's who can ask an insightful question, who can punch his tagline, who can make an impression to the recruiter... I don't know about this, and so have decided to attend some cocktails to watch that funny game.

Anyway, I need to get some feel of stress. I thought McKinsey interviews started tomorrow, it's a week from now. I though REP project finished in 3 weeks, it's in 2 months...

To have a view on Case cracking (courtesy of Hallonman in Singapore):


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thoughts on a great sunny day

In the past two weeks, I have received 5% of the intake at home... This is just Fonty spirit: dinners, good food, good wine, good chats. I like it.
I can't help to be amazed by people over here. Bright, funny, sensitive, caring, with a very good mentality. If I were a big, big company recruiter, I would hire them all! So much talent should not be wasted ;-)

To see how Paris can be great on a sunny day:,,3290020,00.html


Friday, April 06, 2007

Ding time...

It's interesting to see how people react to dings, especially the first one.

Unfortunately, some big guns are interviewing now, so that leaves very little time for practice. A couple of people really into Consulting were dejected to be out of the game for BCG... And McKinsey is already next Monday...

Industry is a bit tough as well, because firms are not as "interchangeable" as in Consulting.

What kinds of reaction have I seen (not representative):
- Feeling that you didn't prepare enough case cracking, so shutting yourself from the world
- Feeling not so down, sort of taking it as a proof it was not for you
- Feeling not so down, "less" options is easier to manage
- Feeling bad about yourself and your confidence
- Feeling bad about School for not "making it easier"
- Feeling bad about the Company, it not being that cool after all...

To me, it's difficult to blame anyone. Especially not the School. I don't think graduating from HBS or LBS would give any more advantage, or the Company would be pretty stupid to limit itself this drastically to potentials. Not the Company too. I'm a firm believer of some kind of corporate culture, so students' skills may not be at stakes. And it's better to be turned down now that feeling awkward inside the company...

Well, let's see the positive side of it. This week-end is the week-end of dings: it's Easter time. As you all know, this is a remembrance of life renewal, and hope. Happy Easter to everyone.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mass Therapy 5

Ok yesterday was the last session of PIM. As usual it was pretty emotional. I mean, the guy is so good. First, he puts you in the mood, with this: Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss feat. Jessie Norman. Then, he talks about expressing love to others. I don't want it to sound either sissy, or cult-like -so if you take it as such, you've missed the point (Fernando would say "F**k you!"). That was amazing: I honestly saw a good dozen of people crying. I'm pretty sure in the coming week, people will reach out their parents, their partners, their families, just to say that they love them, and why they care for them. Especially to their parents.

Now just to prove that I ain't a sissy, I got the Negotiations feedback from my peers.

- Would you like this person to negotiate on your behalf in a one-time negotiation?8.20/10
- Would you like this person to represent you in a negotiation in which long-term relationships are important?5.80
- Do you feel this person diligently prepared for the negotiation?8.60
- Do you feel this person acted in a manner consistent with your ethical business standards?8.20

Basically, I'm a tough ass in Negotiations, and better at claiming value than creating it (supposing that in one-time nego you want to claim as much as possible, whereas in long-term you want to share to trigger reciprocation). Now who said I'm a PIM sissy??

A word on Nego 2 (Negotiations Analysis). It's rather fun, a bit different from Nego 1 in the sense that you fight for the outcome, vs. you develop relationships. The z-curve grading on that is lethal. Ayse Onculer is pretty cool too. The best item on my grading is the 8.20 on ethical business standards. It's ok to claim as much as possible. It's not ok to be ready for a killing. By that, I mean that reputation is key, inside INSEAD. People don't fully realise that, but we're building now on a reputation that will follow us in the alumni network. Now if you lied, or screwed the other using very questionable tactics, you'll have that image for a long time. Same for group work behaviours. Compare being diligent and cooperative, efficient and bright, to free-riding. I'm a free-rider spotter. These people don't realise you can't fool all your life. At some point, your reputation catches up, and you're out... To quote Fernando again: selfishness is a sickness.

Last thing for interviews: yesterday was AT Kearney, Cambridge Consulting, Fidelity. I think Booz and Bain are today and tomorrow. McKinsey is next week. Main takeaways: prepare, prepare, and prepare. Be relaxed. Know what you want. And, there's less competition for positions outside of London...

Four Last Songs on Amazon (you can click to listen, and imagine the surreal atmosphere of the class):

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

McKinsey interview or not?

I have been selected for interview by McKinsey, on the basis of School's intranet CV.
I should be proud, that after so many years of atypical experience, I still have some value...

Now should I go for the interview? It's next week, I'm not going to Consulting after INSEAD that's for sure, I haven't prepared anything...

Maybe, just for the sake of saying "I've been to a McKinsey interview"...


Monday, April 02, 2007

Mass Therapy 4

Today we finished analysing "Ordinary People", a 1980 movie by Robert Redford. During the show, most people were very moved, some girls even cried. What fascinates me in this movie is how, when you dig deep, villains are not so much villains, and nice people have their dark sides too. Prof. Bartholomé summarised well the dilemma: you can either shy away from your feelings, and risk breakdown, or open up to them, and discover the positive and the negative ones.
Maybe I'm a perennial enthusiast, and find most of INSEAD classes awesome and insightful, but I'm enjoying PIM very much indeed. It resonates to situations I'm seeing around me, or have experienced before... Excellent stuff. And yes, I like most INSEAD Professors; yes, I've never given less than 3 out of 5 to any of them, and yes Bartholomé is a super awesome guy. As he recognised himself, he'll stay at INSEAD as long as feels welcome, so hopefully the School will not succumb to excessive political correctness (I have already mentioned a few examples for which I was in total disagreement to the Dean's caving in to some PC pressure).
Today, Fernando showed how changing patterns in marriage have made it so crucial to be in touch with feelings. Because you'll live with your partner for 30 years after the children have left. Because there's economic and social pressure to be selfish. He advocated motherhood for female participants, in a very touching way. Maybe I'm what the French call "good public", but I bought it, and I liked it.
Some quotes for today:
Prof: Can you tell me why you people don't want to share an experience in which you felt happy about yourselves?
Student: Because I don't want to dilute it.
Prof: Do you make love with yourself only then? You don't want to dilute it? Now that's a very sophisticated piece of crap...
"Being concerned for the growth of the other is a sign of love for them", Prof. Bartholomé making an analogy between wanting children to grow, and significant half too.
"Is she a lesbian??", my favourite Jordan student, on Fernando's hats off to Jodie Foster for making babies despite her being a lesbian, as a sign of courage.
On the Job search front, today was BCG interview day. Lots of cases cracked...

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How many Interviews do you have?

This must be the question of the Week.
Indeed, the great interview week is starting today. Selected candidates were contacted to schedule their slots, and invited for dinners.

I've never seen my fellow participants as stressed. Saw Olympian Cathy Freeman on TV this week-end, she said "Stress is the privilege of Champions"... Good luck, mierdas, merde!

As to me, I've just written to McKinsey and turn down the interview offer. I felt like saying adios to a girlfriend before she dumps me...

Now a real debate: some participants are missing a lot of classes for the interviews. Some even had to drop electives. I know they are looking for the job of their lives, and that equally they took some electives very seriously. Similarly, for Finance jobs in P2, some participants had to skip classes. In Harvard, they solved the problem by agreeing with firms on campus that they would interview outside class slots. Alternatively, INSEAD could have a free week just for interviews, or a morning-only class schedule...

As Prof. Bartholomé would argue ("If you think I don't know I'm being provocative after 35 years of teaching, then you must take me for an idiot", he replied to someone complaining), it must have been thought about before...


Sunday, April 01, 2007

INSEAD to open US Campus in 2008

I met Franck Brown yesterday in an event organised by the Town Hall.
We discussed about School's development, and while he said everything would be off-the record, he hinted at 2 major directions:

- A new Campus for INSEAD in the US, to enhance reputation, visibility, and attract more US participants and executives. Cities selected are Miami, New York and San Francisco.

- No more quotas for the US, Russians, and Indians applicants. Supposedly they are hot stuff on the market, so he does not want INSEAD to limit itself with some "company policy" that had been around for ages and for which nobody still knows the rationale. So guys this is your chance for a couple of years. APPLY NOW!

Here are the pics from the Event where I met Franck...