Points and Per Se: Perks of the management consulting lifestyle


Models and bottles. You’ve probably heard this phrase used to describe the investment banking lifestyle. But let’s be honest – most bankers can’t date models. And most bankers rarely buy bottles, unless out with coworkers and the MD’s paying.

Introducing “Points and Per Se” – perks of the consulting lifestyle. For those who don’t know, Per Se is an upscale Manhattan restaurant.

In this article, we’ll discuss these perks and what they mean for you. The focus here is not the “serious” benefits of consulting (eg, training, mentorship) but the “fun” benefits.

1. Expense accounts

These come standard with most corporate jobs. But the generosity and extent of consultants’ expense accounts is worth discussing.

Note: things have probably changed for the worse in the current economic climate. My reflections are from pre-2008. There is considerable variation amongst firms, particularly between GMCs and boutiques

For this discussion, let’s focus entirely on expense accounts while traveling. Working from the office entitles you to Seamless Web dinners, but traveling is where it really comes together.

When you travel, you can expect:

-Full reimbursement for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – enough even to pay for room service meals at four-star hotels (where a glass of orange juice can cost $7) -A per-diem for laundry and dry-cleaning -Full reimbursement for all travel expenses (eg, taxis, trains, black cars, etc). We’ll discuss business-class flights later -The ability to reimburse all kinds of incidentals

2. Per Se – team events and team dinners

Consulting is teamwork-intensive. As a result, firms pour money and energy into helping teams build working chemistry and camaraderie.

For junior consultants, it means a bit of legwork in planning and executing team events.

It also means the chance to dine at Per Se and some of your city’s nicest restaurants.

That’s just team dinners. Team-building events can become full-day affairs. Here are just a few examples:

-A tour of Napa wineries in a chauffeured black car service -A day at Circus school -Cooking class and wine lessons with a top chef and sommelier

…your imagination is the only limitation. And these examples are probably the median on the lavish scale.

3. Laptops and Blackberries

While not unique to management consulting, it’s nice nonetheless.

You won’t be getting the latest MacBook Air, but you can expect a top-of-the-line corporate laptop (such as a Lenovo Thinkpad) plus all sorts of related gear (eg, wireless mice, portable USB drives).

Most firms also provide Blackberries and will cover a significant percentage of your monthly phone bill. Some people hate them, some love them. I certainly miss the connectivity, if not the inevitability of frequent work-related updates.

4. Business-class flights and significant others

Back to the topic of consulting travel. At most consulting firms, you’re entitled to business-class flights on longer trips (don’t expect it for a NYC-Boston shuttle). The benefits are obvious – more frequent flier points (to be covered later), vastly better food, and the ability to actually use your laptop without needing to grotesquely contort your body.

And that’s just for domestic flights. When you travel international business-class, the flight becomes a vacation in itself. One trans-Pacific trip via Singapore Airlines, and you’ll become a believer too.

The extra bonus here – depending on your ability to manage upwards – is the chance to fly your significant other out for the weekend. A work colleague was able to fly his then-girlfriend to Italy for the week.

It tends to compensate somewhat for those weeks on end where you don’t even get to see your apartment.

5. Points, points, and more points

Points are one of the biggest consulting perks, because consultants travel, and travelers earn points. From Starwood hotels to Hertz car rentals, from Amtrak rides to Continental flights, you’ll get to know points programs extremely well.

You’ll find yourself doing a detailed analysis of every credit card rewards program. You’ll know the member carriers of One World Alliance. You’ll sign-up for the American Airlines 10K challenge, because you know that’s the fastest way to hit Platinum.

One of the best rewards programs out there is the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Credit Card from American Express. The details aren’t important now, but consider this a reminder for when you start.

You can expect that for every “consulting year”, you’ll rack up enough points to cover several weeks of personal vacations. You’ll also get elite status with major points programs, which entitle you to additional free room upgrades, flight upgrades, and priority access.

6. Office events – from happy hours to training offsites

In addition to project team events, consultants’ emphasis on office camaraderie and firm networking means plenty of company events big and small.

On the small end, you can expect regular office happy hours (both in-office and at local bars), sponsored lunches and dinners, holiday parties, and more.

On the big end, you can expect periodic weekend-long offsites, conferences, and training events. The lavishness of these trips depends heavily on the firm and the office.

Regardless of which consulting firm you work for, at least 2-3 times a year there will be elaborate, weekend-long parties masquerading as something else.

Love the perks of management consulting? Want to emulate that lifestyle? Make sure you do what it takes to succeed to stay in the game. Our 3 Month Mastery will give you actionable steps that you can utilize to succeed in your career.

And if you’re a summer intern, your social calendar will be even more packed.

That wraps up our tour of the management consulting lifestyle and consulting perks! Are there any benefits that we left out? Please comment below.