Stax Inc: the Entrepreneurial Firm Combining Strategy, Meritocracy, and Fun

Stax Inc is a leading consultancy serving primarily Private Equity clients. We were joined by Brett Conradt and Jeremy Wall, both Managing Directors in the Chicago office, to get an insider perspective on the firm. You’ll get a feel for the firm’s collaborative culture, the type of work it engages in, current job opportunities, and much more! Stax has been seeing explosive growth and are hiring across offices and levels. Listen here, read the transcription of the conversation below, or listen on your favorite podcast channel here.




Welcome back to another episode of Strategy Simplified. We’re so excited today, to have with us both Brett Conradt and Jeremy Wall. They’re gonna be telling us a lot about Stax – why they joined the company, why they’ve stayed, and why you should think about joining. We’re excited to have them here with us today. Welcome, guys.

Stax: Jeremy Wall


Thanks for having us.



Now, we here at Strategy Simplified, we love to start off with just some fun questions, get a chance to get to know you a little bit better on a personal level, before we dive into the information about your firm. So we’ve got three questions teed up. Jeremy, I’ll put the first one to you. What is one item from your bucket list?

Stax: Jeremy Wall


From the bucket list, I’d say one thing that I have never had any interest or desire to do, but that I’ve always wanted to just see how I would react is just something super high adrenaline, like jumping out of a plane. I’ve never done anything like that. I don’t do stuff like that. But I’d be super curious to just see what my reaction would be. I think, longer term, very interested in space travel, but not very practical right now.



Oh my gosh, I love that. Very optimistic. I mean, hopefully it’s sooner rather than later on the space travel, I would love to partake in that as well. Love it. Brett, what about you?

Stax: Brett Conradt


I like to keep my feet a little bit more firmly on the ground than Jeremy. I used to race in a lot of triathlons, but unfortunately, I’m a bit washed up these days. I never made it to Kona. I never qualified for Kona. And so that is definitely something that I would really enjoy doing and that still remains on my bucket list.



Oh, gosh. Absolutely. Love it. I love that, great answers from you both. Our second question we’ve got, Brett, I’ll have you go with this one first. What’s your favorite weekend activity?

Stax: Brett Conradt


For me, I really like spending time with the family. Obviously, the weeks are very, very busy. And so I’ve got a wonderful wife and two boys that are eight and five. And so I love spending time outdoors with them. And when we can get away, we love to go camping together, and just hanging out as a family.



Oh, lovely. And a good activity that hopefully you’ve been able to still engage in over the past couple years with all the other troubles. Fantastic. Jeremy, what about you?

Stax: Jeremy Wall


Yeah, similar. The work week is busy, we’ve been very busy as a firm and weekends are really precious both for me personally, and I think for a lot of people at the firm. And so for me, I have a daughter who’s nine and a son who’s 77. And kids sports, just like going to soccer games, going to baseball, softball, just getting to spend time with family outside, living vicariously through them as they go through their trials and tribulations in youth sports. But that’s for me, right now, the best part of the week.



Absolutely. Thanks for sharing that. Of course. Jeremy, I’ll push this next one to you first. So, who’s one person from history that you would love to get dinner with?

Stax: Jeremy Wall


Yeah, this is a difficult question. I think from a historical standpoint, it would probably be an ancient philosopher, like Socrates or something like that, somebody who would have been the original first consultant ever in the history of time. I think personally, though, it would be my dad’s father who passed away when my dad was two. And so he never really met him, I never met him, and none of my family met him. To get to spend time with him and meet him and just, you know, know who he is and to tell him everything turned out all right, that would be personally what I would pick.



Absolutely understandable. Brett, what about you – one person from history?

Stax: Brett Conradt


Sure. I think for me it’s hard to pinpoint one specific individual but I’m really interested in the development of our nation and sort of the evolution of the country and where we are today and I’d love to have dinner with some of the civil rights leaders like MLK Jr. or Harriet Tubman or Malcolm X to see how their vision compares to what the reality is today and to see how much progress they had wanted to see and how that has played out in today’s world. I think that’d be a really interesting dinner and conversation.



Absolutely. Thank you both for the depth in those answers. I couldn’t agree more, right? Wanting to dive deep into seeing the Socratic method and practice in the real world from the original creator or somebody from from my family tree, or somebody from the birth of our country and that progress we’ve made since then. I love it. Thank you guys so much, it’s great to take just a couple of seconds here off the top to get to know you a little bit better on a personal level.  We do now want to shift into learning about your company. It’s the core of why you’re here today. We’d love to hear more about Stax. And Brett, let’s start off with you. Could you provide a quick background on yourself? We’re interested in the high level steps on your journey that culminated in you ending up at Stax?

Stax: Brett Conradt


Sure, happy to share. So a little bit of a windy road, to be honest. I went to undergrad at University of Illinois down in Champaign Urbana, where I graduated with a degree in marketing. From there, I moved on to a role in Brand and Product Management. That’s where I thought I was really going to want to spend my time, I knew I was interested in the consumer and retail space. I really got a lot of good hands on experience bringing product to market, everything from sourcing in China to getting product on shelves with retailers.

So, that’s where my career started. From there, I started getting intrigued by the consulting world and I found a role at a consulting firm that was more focused on messaging, communications, branding, so more tied to my background at the time. And that’s where I really learned to do a lot of research, interact with clients, be able to tell a story, those types of things and analyze data, etc. So that was the next key stop.  At the time, I was also going back to business school, and was really getting more and more excited about the consulting world and was looking for different opportunities and came across Stax. And so I joined Stax in 2006 as a consultant, just a couple of weeks  after Jeremy had joined and we started our careers at Stax very closely to each other, and have just enjoyed the journey since then.



Oh, love it. Thank you. I appreciate that introduction there. And Jeremy, we’ve gotten a preview here that you’ve also been at Stax for about 15 years, but what about you in terms of your background and your journey to get there?

Stax: Jeremy Wall


I got an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Princeton, and had a very strong desire to understand the business side of technology, and the launching and development of new products and new ideas. After graduating, I started my career at the Nielsen company in their innovation group that’s very focused on new product forecasting.

There’s a very data-driven analytical approach to that, very research driven. I learned a lot about services firms and working in the client services side, about business, about product development. And I also learned a lot about what I was looking for in a firm for the next stages in my career and what I wasn’t looking for in the next stages in my career. And similar to Brett, I met Mark Bremer, who’s the president of Stax, back in 2006, and learned a lot more about the firm and it checked a lot of the boxes for what I was looking for for those next stages in my career.



Absolutely. Jeremy, let’s drill into that even a little bit deeper. What was it specifically about Stax that drew you to the firm?

Stax: Jeremy Wall


A number of different things. On a personal level, I had a great connection with the leadership of the firm 15 years ago, and then, as I thought about staying and continuing my career at Stax, it’s been a couple of different things. One, it was – and still is today – a very highly entrepreneurial firm. It’s something where you really have the feeling, and I have had the feeling along the entire way, that I’ve had the ability to write my own future at the firm.

And a lot of responsibility is given to people, and has been given to me and Brett over the years. And it’s been extremely rewarding to both get those opportunities, to deliver against the opportunities that we were given, and to continue to grow the firm.

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Absolutely. It’s a very enticing value proposition. Jeremy, we’ve heard it from your side. Brett, you actually did already start to allude to, from a topical concept standpoint, how your background had led you to Stax, but why Stax instead of another firm?

Stax: Brett Conradt


Yeah, that’s a great question and I think it all starts with the work. The work that we do is super interesting and you gotta love what you do. We get to solve complex business issues every day. That to me is a very fun job. It’s really exciting. So that’s what gets me up every day.

Along the lines of what Jeremy mentioned, I think there’s just a lot of opportunities for growth here. There are a wealth of opportunities for individuals, the firm continues to grow. And there’s not really a day that goes by without you finding yourself learning something new, and tackling a new opportunity. So that’s been really exciting.

And then the last thing I’d say is it’s just the people. We’ve got a lot of very smart people at Stax, but we also have a very open and collaborative environment. And so when a firm is growing at the rate we are, there’s opportunities for everyone. And I think that feeds into the culture whereby people are motivated and want to succeed, but also want to see their peers succeed here, too.



Absolutely. Brett, perhaps I’ll come back to you in just a second to go deeper into that people and culture element. But first, Jeremy, could you just kind of take a step back for a second and share a little bit more about Stax, the practice areas, the industries, and the type of work that you engage in?

Stax: Jeremy Wall


Sure. The firm’s about 25 years old, a little over 25 years old and we’re around 200 people in the firm. Practice areas are really centered around Private Equity as the nexus of all the different areas that we work in. So Private Equity funds and their portfolio companies, and we work with them throughout the throughout the deal lifecycle, and throughout the investment lifecycle.

We work in a wide range of sectors. So our top sectors are tech and healthcare, a ton of industrial work, consumer, and retail work. And so we have a pretty broad range of vertical areas of expertise. Different people within the firm major and minor in different areas. And then in terms of the services that we provide to the Private Equity landscape and the investor landscape, I’d say we have three main buckets.

First bucket is around the buy side part of the equation and commercial due diligence. So helping Private Equity funds evaluate companies that they’re thinking about acquiring, understanding the markets, understanding the company, understanding customer relationships, and going deep through a very research and analytically-driven approach.

The second bucket is value creation for the portfolio companies. After a Private Equity fund has made an investment, we work very closely with those portfolio companies and helping them with pretty targeted, reasonable time to value, good ROI, value creation projects, focused around top line growth. And that’s things like launching a new product, expanding into a new market, pricing strategy, just a variety of different areas that we focus on within that value creation.

So helping prepare management teams for going through that process, being prepared for the types of questions that they’re likely to receive from potential investors, and just helping them along as they work through that process. And then the last bucket would be exit planning and helping companies and their investors help prepare a company as they are thinking about selling it to a new investor or to another company. So, thinking about that both strategically – what are the areas that are going to be the most important for that next owner to be focused on in terms of the growth levers that they should be thinking about pulling over the next handful of years – and then pretty tactically as well.



Diligence, value creation, exit strategy, it really spans the gamut, the entire lifecycle.

Stax: Jeremy Wall


Yes, the entire lifecycle, and then it’s a pretty broad range in terms of the size and type of Private Equity funds and other investors, as well as investment banks, we work with. If you pull up a list of the Top 300 Private Equity firms in terms of size, we work with many of those. We work with most of the top 50 Private Equity funds. So that’s very large cap, 10s of billions of dollars fund size Private Equity funds, all the way into the middle market and into growth funds as well. So we span the range of Private Equity sizes.

That means that we’re also looking at deals and working with companies that are across a pretty broad range of levels of maturity and scale, which, from a personal level, and I think a lot of the team feels this way as well, is it’s pretty fun. It’s fun to be able to work with companies that are earlier on in their development stage and evaluate companies that have a 300% growth rate, as well as with very large, more mature companies that are trying to continue to optimize along the way. So that’s the pretty broad range of clients and companies we work with within that landscape.



Absolutely. You’re a leader in this space, working across all aspects of the lifecycle with a breadth of experience across different types of clients. And you both said that that type of work excites you and energizes you, but it’s got to be more than just the type of work you do, right? It’s got to be also about the people that you work with and the culture that you have as a firm. So Brett, I’m going to come back to you from that point that you made earlier – could you expand on that area? Could you speak to the firm culture, and why should folks want to come work at Stax?

Stax: Brett Conradt


Absolutely, happy to do so. So, tied to what Jeremy was saying in working throughout that capital cycle, it really requires fast-paced learning. And there’s a culture in which people come up to speed very quickly, dive in really quickly. And so there’s a big element of growth and learning in a very fast-paced and dynamic environment, particularly as it relates to deals. I think, in addition to that, the diversity and project types and industries, so you get a lot of exposure to a lot of different types of projects and industries.

Continuing onto the culture side of things, I think there’s opportunities for career development, fast progression, for growth. As Jeremy and I both alluded to, we give folks opportunities when they’ve earned those opportunities. And that includes exposure to clients, client interaction, etc. And so that career development is really an attractive part of the firm culture.

I think another point is just along the lines of a true meritocracy – we definitely pride ourselves on giving our employees responsibility early on, and this definitely leads to exciting careers and growth and learning trajectories. But it’s really based on people’s merit, and not tenure or politics or anything along those lines. It’s definitely based on meritocracy.

And then the last thing I’d mention is access to the leadership team, access to managers, the open nature of the culture. Given the size of the firm that we are, people know each other, and when you know somebody, you care about them. And so even if it’s not your project, or your work to do specifically, everybody’s very collaborative and open to helping one another in their work because they know each other and therefore care about each other.



I love that – it’s not that the firm’s too big or has too many layers that you’re so far removed from the leadership but, this team-oriented environment and nature, opportunity for career progression, opportunity to take on ownership and get exposure to clients. And these are all the things that anybody would be looking for as opportunities in a firm to join.

In addition to the things that Brett just went through, and Jeremy, I know that you’ve spoken to some of this as well in terms of the type of work you’re involved in at Stax, but what are some other things that you think may separate Stax from other boutique consulting firms?

Stax: Jeremy Wall


I think there are a couple different dimensions you can think about in terms of differentiation from other firms. So, in firms that do similar type of work to what we do, I think a lot of the cultural elements that Brett touched on are really at the core of that. We have people come over from other consulting firms where Stax is just a breath of fresh air for them in their daily lives and in their careers.

They feel like they don’t have to play games and they can just do great work and really focus on the work, and on getting better and learning and expanding their capabilities over time. We’re very proud of what we offer the team in that regard.  I think when you think about Stax relative to other boutique firms who do different things, who may do other types of consulting, consulting in other areas, I think the type of work that we do really can be exciting and powerful for somebody who’s earlier in their career. They get a lot of exposure to a wide range of different areas.

Our projects tend to be generally shorter in nature, and by shorter I mean a month or a couple of months. It’s not something where you’re working on the same project for 12 months, 18 months, something like that, and you just cross your fingers that you joined the firm and that you got on to a good project that you’re going to be interested in for the next 18 months.

At Stax, you get a lot of diversity of projects, a lot of diversity in terms of sectors as well, which, for the people who come on who are pretty early in their career and looking to get exposure to a wide range of things, it can be pretty exciting. We have people who come in not knowing or having any idea of what sector that they want to spend time in, who find a passion in healthcare or find a passion in software, and then, as they grow either at Stax or elsewhere, that they can take that on and learn that about themselves. I think we offer a really exciting opportunity for people who are looking to learn more about themselves.



Absolutely, I’m sure a ton of our listeners are going through this discussion right now thinking about, hey, all the pieces of the value proposition are there. This is what I want to get out of consulting. I’m looking to do something like this. So Brett, I’ll pass the mic back over to you. You know, I hear that Stax is hiring now. So can you speak to the open roles that the firm’s hiring for?

Stax: Brett Conradt


Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been fortunate enough to continue growing. And in the past 18 months have grown like gangbusters. It’s been really exciting, and we are hiring across the board at the Associate level for folks out of undergrad.

We have long established relationships with a number of different universities in the Chicagoland area for our Chicago office. Places like University of Illinois, Notre Dame, Northwestern, University of Chicago, etc. where we’ve really entrenched ourselves in those programs and have participated in case studies or Career Fairs or helping teach classes etc. And so definitely lots of opportunities at the junior level. And then from there, spanning all the way through Manager and Director.

We’re looking for folks to lead teams, we’re looking for folks to be critical parts of teams. And so just a wealth of opportunity right now and have seen folks come in from industry and succeed, have seen folks come in from other consulting firms and succeed. And I think our onboarding process is great and our talent development process is great, and so when we do have new folks join us, we have a very structured approach to bring them into the fold at Stax.



Let’s drill down on that a little bit deeper, Brett. What do you think are some of the skills and qualities that the firm’s looking for in an ideal candidate?

Stax: Brett Conradt


I think there’s a few things, and Jeremy could probably add on to this too. But one of the things that’s really critical is folks who don’t shy away from accountability. So in a project team, everyone’s pulling their weight, there’s really no place to hide and people who enjoy that really do succeed and do well at the firm. It’s a situation where people who want that ownership and accountability can certainly find it at Stax.

I think the other thing that I would highlight is just the idea that we hire folks with very diverse backgrounds. And so bringing that background into the problem solving, into the structured thinking is really valuable.  You heard that my background is in marketing, and Jeremy’s is in engineering, so we have very different ways of thinking, but both can be very valuable to the project. And if you look across the project team, it’s very much a mix of folks with different backgrounds.

And then the last thing I’d say is just folks who really want to dive in, folks who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty. We are big believers that nobody is above the work at Stax, and so everybody’s on the hook for delivering great work to clients, and we all play up and down in different roles. And again, everybody is a doer here and really wants to dive into the work.



A great list. And I think a lot of those things would be encouraging to many of our listeners who are worried that their non-traditional backgrounds may be evaluated poorly, let alone be valued at their future firm. That Stax recognizes the value of that and is looking to create that diversity of thought in their teams is fantastic. Jeremy, is there anything you want to add on there?

Stax: Jeremy Wall


A couple of things I could add. One thing that we didn’t really touch on is that we are a very data and analytically-driven firm. We have great analytics capabilities that we bring to our clients, we have specialist teams within the firm who are focused entirely on data science, data analytics, and we integrate all that into the teams and into the work that we’re doing. I do think it’s important, in the skills and qualities that we’re looking for from people, we are looking for people who are comfortable with data. We really highly value diversity of thought, diversity of experience, and diversity of background, but there is at least a common thread of people who are very analytical in their mindset – intellectual curiosity, standard consulting stuff. I do think data and comfort with data is pretty important.

And then, piggybacking on what Brett said, I think that it’s very important, because we give people so much responsibility along the way, we’re really looking for people who are excited to lean in and figure things out, as opposed to being told what to do all the time and being more of a TomTom kind of thing. We’re excited about people who just get invested in the projects that we’re doing, and are always thinking about, “Okay, what’s next? What’s next?” That type of mentality is really valuable to our firm, and is something that we’re looking for from people.



Absolutely – it sounds like, if somebody is really ready to jump in, get that opportunity to own something, have accountability towards that, and is excited about this space, I feel like there’s probably a lot of people listening now who would love to learn more and take the next steps. So Brett, I’ll throw it back to you. What would be the best way for folks to get to know you a little bit better? And what should be their next steps?

Stax: Brett Conradt


Absolutely. From a firm standpoint, going on to our website where there’s a lot of content is a great way to learn more. Going to sites like LinkedIn, where there’s a lot of good information that we post, things that we can we can communicate around industries, markets, etc. So that’s certainly a great way to get a better understanding and handle on the kind of work that we’re doing, how we think, how we interact with clients, etc.

And then just from reaching out to us, we always encourage people to ping us on LinkedIn. Like I said, we’re very accessible and open to talking to folks, whether they be junior level, senior level, etc. We just want to connect with folks in the industry, and so always happy to have those those conversations and connections with individuals.



Love it. Brett. Jeremy, we thank you both so much for being with us here today. Jeremy, I’ll put it to you first. Any other final thoughts here as we wrap up our conversation?

Stax: Jeremy Wall


No, I really appreciate you spending time with us. As you can probably tell, we’re excited about our firm! We love what we do and we think that there is a lot more growth opportunity going forward. And we’re looking for people who want to join us along that path. Thanks very much for the opportunity.



Absolutely, thank you! Brett, any final thoughts here?

Stax: Brett Conradt


Same Stephanie, I would just echo that. I appreciate the time from you today and the opportunity to participate in this. I think, important for folks who are looking for opportunities, the consulting world is a very big space and there’s all different types of consulting and all different types of firms, and so we just encourage folks to really dive in and understand what you’re getting into, the kind of work a firm is doing, and the culture of a firm. And, like Jeremy said, we think we have a great one and so we’d love to connect with folks who would be a great fit for the firm and for the culture here at Stax.



Brett and Jeremy. Thank you both again. It’s been great to learn more about Stax, how you’ve been growing and the opportunities that folks have to join your team.


Stax is hiring for various positions across the firm and is looking for data-driven, analytically savvy thought leaders who have an ownership mindset. The firm is interested in recruiting from all schools and backgrounds. If you think you have what it takes, learn more and apply here.

Filed Under: Consulting Firms