Red planet sees green
Mars & Co. is an international strategy consulting
firm that's all about exclusivity. The firm's "raison
d'être," it says, is to pour all of its resources into a limited
number of clients and to serve them, worldwide, on an exclusive
basis. Its founder and chairman, Dominique G. Mars, says this
makes the firm "the only consulting firm of any consequence to
guarantee 'fidelity'" to its clients. A bold assertion,
Many offices, one Mars
The stay-small-but-true firm employs approximately 250 consultants
who work in six offices in Connecticut, California, London, Paris,
Tokyo and Shanghai, although the firm operates under a "one-office"
concept. That means a client in San Francisco has as much
right to draw on the Paris office's resources as a French client
does. Chairman Mars, who founded the firm in 1979 after
leaving BCG, says he would ultimately like to employ 400 to 450
consultants with a portfolio of 30 to 40 clients.
Tough talk for tough times
Mars & Co's clients, likely shaken by recent market events, can
rest assured that their "Martians" mean to fight. The firm's
language, when it talks business, is a reminder that Mars was the
name of the Roman god of war, likening markets to "battlefields"
and its analysis as "ripping apart the economics and modus operandi
of the industry." It also promises to "dissect" the "enemy's
forces," as well as market forces.
True to its stated intention of acting only in the best
interests of its clients, Mars & Co keeps clients' identities
tightly guarded. Only very occasionally does one happen to
slip into the public eye-as it did early in 2008, when it emerged
that none other than French President Nicolas Sarkozy had hired the
firm to help develop criteria for "report cards" to be issued to
all of his ministers.
The eight levels of Mars
Teamwork is a big deal at Mars & Co, but everyone has their own
role to play on that team. There are eight professional
levels at the firm, which, in increasing order, are: associate
consultant, senior associate consultant, consultant, senior
consultant, project manager, vice president, senior vice president
and executive vice president.
Associate and senior associate consultants primarily do research
and data management, and are hired for their strong research and
analytical skills. Via Mars & Co's apprenticeship-style
training program, new entrants can be promoted quickly to the next
level and are always integrated as members of a project
team. Consultant-level staffers are responsible for
carrying out rigorous analytical tasks and for thinking out
practical solutions to solve clients' business problems. They
work under senior consultants and project managers, who design and
manage modules of projects so the projects are intellectually
coherent and useful to clients.
Project managers not only lead the project teams, but also are
expected to train more junior staff while providing value-creating
solutions for clients. Vice Presidents also work closely with
project teams, and have additional responsibilities in client
relationship development and concept development.
There is no predetermined promotion schedule at any of the eight
levels. As such, the firm prides itself on being a
meritocracy-promotions come only when they are