If your employer was a team at the World Cup, which one would they be? Those of us who follow the beautiful game closely know that the difference in style between the favorites for the tournament are as pronounced as the cultures of top firms the world over. Given that I won’t be able to think about anything else for the next few weeks, I took the opportunity to ponder which of the countries competing in the world's most prestigious soccer tournament most closely resemble the consulting firms that I cover for Vault. Here is my (non-exhaustive) list, with some tournament predictions thrown in for good measure (and, let's face it, because ESPN isn't calling to ask for them):
This is an easy one: no team in World Cup history has been as successful as Brazil, and the country is the heavy favorite to lift the title on its own soil this time around. And while competing firms always know that they have a chance when facing off against McKinsey, the feeling of competing with them is akin to finding Neymar & Co. facing you down in those famous yellow shirts: reputation alone gives them a significant head start.
Bonus prediction: Brazil to make the final.
Other commentators will disagree with the following statement, but here goes: after Brazil, Argentina is the next-most-likely team to be hoisting the world cup trophy aloft on July 13th. What sets Argentina apart is similar to what Bain's employees tell us in our annual survey: players who are stars in their own right (Messi, Aguero, Higuain, Di Maria) coming together to work as a team that is somehow greater than the sum of its parts.
Bonus prediction: Argentina are my choice to win the whole thing.
Another outfit with a proud history of success on soccer's greatest stage, Germany is always in the running at the later stages of the tournament. Part of the reason for that: technical ability, organization and a willingness to outwork their rivals—which just happen to be qualities shared by the folks over at BCG as well.
Bonus prediction: Germany to make it to the semi-finals.
PwC, Deloitte, EY, KPMG: England
The past couple of years in consulting have been all about consolidation, with established professional services firms attempting to reinvent their consulting and advisory arms as they seek to build successful futures. Compare that to England—a country that won a World Cup back in 1966 playing a muscular, direct style, but which has failed to evolve that style much since and been left behind as a result. Recent years, however, have suggested that a more possession-based style may be creeping in, meaning that, while they're not the favorites this time around, they may well be one to watch for the future.
Bonus prediction: England will do well to make it out of a difficult group, and I see them going no further than the round of 16 this time out.
Simon-Kucher & Partners: Belgium
What's that? You haven't really heard of either? That's kind of the point. As un-thrilled as a German firm might be with the Belgian comparison (and vice-versa), both of these outfits have the kind of cachet among those in the know that deems them the hipster's choice. SKP is a firm that consistently flies under the radar in terms of general industry prestige, but in their niche (pricing) there is no-one more highly regarded. So it goes with the Belgian team who, despite not having a history of over-achieving at the World Cup, are tipped by many in the know to make a deep run this time around.
Bonus prediction: Belgium to exit in the quarter-final.
L.E.K. Consulting: USA
Like L.E.K., the U.S. this year has the unenviable task of trying to compete in a group of extremely strong rivals. While they may not go the full distance this time around, the U.S. is certain to make a strong showing based on solid teamwork, and hopefully emerge from the tournament showing signs of promise for the next four years. Similarly, L.E.K. is a firm that operates just outside of the elite group of players in the consulting industry, but which has lately been laying the groundwork for success in the months and years ahead.
Bonus prediction: I have a feeling that the U.S. will outperform expectations and make it to the quarter-final.
Booz Allen Hamilton: Portugal
Quick: Name one thing that you know about each of these outfits. Now, name a second thing. If you're like a lot of people, your answers were probably: Cristiano Ronaldo, public sector work, and, uh…
And therein lies the connection. While they both have proud histories and are always a force to be reckoned with, both Booz Allen Hamilton and Portugal are, at present, very dependent on their star asset. Which isn't a bad thing when times are good, but throw in an injury or a slowdown in government spending, and suddenly they look vulnerable.
Bonus prediction: Portugal to fall at the first hurdle.
Have a better comparison or prediction you'd like to make? Let us know in the comments.