The Cambridge Group: Interviews & Culture


THE CAMBRIDGE GROUP

The Cambridge Group is the embodiment of a “boutique” consulting firm. Acquired in 2009 by The Nielsen Company, a world leader in market research, and with only one location in downtown Chicago, the Cambridge Group has taken the most basic concept of “supply and demand” and concluded that there is a better way.

Rick Kash developed an inverted, but extraordinarily effective, ideology of “demand and supply” and applied it to all aspects of The Cambridge Group. In short, Kash subscribes to the philosophy that demand in the market should come first before a product or service is offered, instead of creating a product or offering a service and then trying to gin up demand. A solid concept; after all – isn’t it better to be interested in the needs of a client than to have an interesting solution to a problem that may or may not even exist?

One problem, however, with tossing traditional practice to the wind is that it takes a significant amount of success to prove that you’re operating on more than just blind luck. When a client has a choice between McKinsey’s prestigious and consistent – albeit not sexy – legacy of successful clients and concepts, or the comparatively young TCG that prides itself on doing things backwards, the prestige will almost always win.

However, The Cambridge Group has landed some massive clients such as Allstate, BestBuy, and Anheuser Busch.

One of the numerous benefits of demand and supply is that you control, to a much greater degree, pricing. Which – surprise, surprise – is a major pull for clients.

THE CAMBRIDGE GROUP KEY STATS

The Cambridge Group Website: http://www.thecambridgegroup.com/

The Cambridge Group Headquarters: Chicago, IL

The Cambridge Group Employees: 83 employees

The Cambridge Group Locations: 1 U.S. Office

The Cambridge Group Chief Executive: Jason Green

The Cambridge Group Revenue: $60M

The Cambridge Group Engagement Cost: $400K

THE CAMBRIDGE GROUP HISTORY

The Cambridge Group was founded in 1972 by Rick Kash, a Chicago native and graduate of DePaul University. Kash has founded and been involved in several other groups and companies, the most prestigious of which is The United States Senate Business Forum – 36 business professionals chosen by Senators to help advise and provide alternate options and opinions on economic issues.

In 2009 The Cambridge Group was acquired by The Nielsen Company. The partnership is fitting, all things considered. The Cambridge Group specializes in providing services and helping develop products for pre-existing demand, and the Nielsen Company IS market research. Is there anyone who hasn’t received at least 10 of their surveys? (participating is a whole other matter). The new TCG has brought the world products such as Bud Light Lime, which is a prime example of a beverage that was being asked for by consumers long before Anheuser-Busch ever developed it.

When two separate and unique cultures collide there is always bound to be some conflict. The still ongoing melding of cultures is sometimes described as awkward by some current employees, however, linking up with Nielsen has greatly increased the legitimacy and notability of The Cambridge Group.

THE CAMBRIDGE GROUP ORGANIZATION

The Cambridge Group is led by a team of thirteen individuals. Rick Kash, Founder, and Jason Green, CEO are assisted by eleven Principals with varying roles and responsibilities. There are about 70 employees that aren’t a part of the senior leadership team.

Practice Areas At Cambridge Group

  • Brand & Business Portfolio Strategy
  • Business Model Reinvention
  • Global Growth Strategy
  • Go to Market Optimization
  • Innovation
  • Market Entry Strategy
  • Pricing Strategy

Industries At Cambridge Group

The Cambridge Group works largely with retailers or specific manufacturers to increase market presence. This includes market research, qualitative and quantitative analysis, as well as strategic product alteration and branding.

Office Locations At Cambridge Group

There is just the one office, located in downtown Chicago, about two blocks away from one of Deloitte’s S&O offices. However, despite its small size, The Cambridge Group is quickly rising up the charts of consulting firms to watch.

Career Path At Cambridge Group

According to The Cambridge Group itself, a typical career path looks something like:

Graphic_Career_path1

Exit Opportunities At Cambridge Group

Exit opportunities are plentiful from The Cambridge Group. A particularly big one is a position with the firm’s parent company, The Nielsen Company. In addition, after working at TCG, you’ll have enough positive experience to jump over to a larger, more general-strategy firm, although you’ll really have to network to jump straight to MBB. Still, your chances will be buoyed by the firm’s reputation for versatility and acute creativity.

Marketing is also a natural next step from The Cambridge Group. Many marketing firms end up hiring ex-TCG consultants for corporate strategy firms. It’s a big change of pace from the consulting world, but if you’re looking to help craft strategy for a marketing firm, this is a good launching pad.

Internships At Cambridge Group

A paid internship at The Cambridge Group will last anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks and is only offered to a maximum of 10 business school students. Responsibilities range from qualitative and quantitative research and data collection to solution development and assisting consultants in client interactions.

Intern pay and training at The Cambridge Group are on par with other consulting firms, and prior interns have found it a good foot in the door for landing permanent positions. As with most small firms, TCG makes an investment in hiring and training interns – if you’re good, they would love for you to stick around!

THE CAMBRIDGE GROUP CULTURE

The ideal employee at The Cambridge Group is creative. The firm has a stated goal of seeking out people who can answer questions and develop their own about the world around them. Curiosity is a definite core value of The Cambridge Group.

Because of how small the firm is, the culture is more one of collaboration than delegation, which provides every consultant and analyst a more complete understanding of the business problem and the subsequent solution that is developed.

If there’s one word that describes the overall goal of The Cambridge Group, it’s the word “holistic”. The company actively encourages employees’ hobbies and promotes a balanced, healthy lifestyle. The firm emphasizes work/life balance, and believes that employees with balanced lives outside of the office will be more productive inside the office.

To prove that this isn’t just all talk, all employees are able to take all the vacation days that they are allotted each year, which is quite a rare occurrence industry-wide.

What helps with this work/life balance is that travel is not a big part of the projects at TCG. This helps with team collaboration on projects, and has helped the firm tremendously in building the tight-knit office culture that it has.

For an analyst position, compensation at TCG is very competitive. However, it becomes less and less so as you rise through the ranks, which is one of the reasons the firm has a retention problem at the more experienced levels. For a look at salaries at all the top firms, check out our latest Management Consulted salaries post.

Mentoring is a huge deal at The Cambridge Group, and is written into the fabric of the firm culture. Senior management is generally quite accessible, and we have heard that project leaders and experienced consultants are overall very willing to provide feedback and advice.

THE CAMBRIDGE GROUP INTERVIEWS

You’ve aced your case interview prep, you’ve got a killer resume and now you’re ready for the interview process.

The typical hiring process from application to offer will vary largely depending upon the position that you are applying for, but you can expect the timeline to take anywhere from 1-4 weeks. Be prepared for 2-3 rounds of interviews, the first of which may consist of connecting with a recruiter for a phone screen. This is where you make your elevator pitch to give a good overall picture of who you are. Nervous about giving an elevator pitch? Check out our Networking Toolkit so you can communicate your unique story in a compelling way.

After your phone screen, you’ll be called in to the office for 3 separate interviews – 2 case and 1 behavioral. Expect the case interviews to be about 45 minutes each, and the final behavioral interview to take about 30 minutes. These interviews will be with those at the Manager and Partner level. The case interviews will include typical case frameworks such as market entry, market sizing, profitability, customer segmentation, etc. As a heads up: TCG really places an emphasis on analytics and math skills, so be sure to brush up on your Mental Math!

Networking your way into a position at The Cambridge Group is not very difficult if you’ve got the right education and experience. The firm is young, growing, and currently looking to fill multiple positions. The firm hosts info sessions and career fairs at dozens of schools across the US. Access their events calendar to find out when and where you can network with someone from the firm and make sure you have your consulting-ready resume ready to leave with them.

Secondly, set up your LinkedIn profile and search for The Cambridge Group employees in your network. LinkedIn shows around 500 firm employees in the United States alone, so it’s possible you know someone who knows someone at TCG. For tips on planning your approach and delivering your elevator pitch, read The Networking Bible.

If providing strategic direction in a boutique firm setting is your passion, you’ll be a great fit at The Cambridge Group.

Target Schools

MBA

  • Anderson School of Management at UCLA
  • Kellogg Graduate School of Management
  • University of Michigan – Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Undergraduate

  • California State University
  • Dartmouth College
  • DePaul University
  • Duke University
  • Georgetown University
  • Harvard University
  • Northwestern University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Texas
  • University of Virginia
  • Yale University

THE CAMBRIDGE GROUP LINKS

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