Month: March 2014

Building a CAGR calculator in Excel

We already know that Excel is an incredibly powerful and useful tool, even if perhaps it is pretty pesky to get the hang of! One useful consultancy function to build in Excel is a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) Calculator. This is the measure of growth on an investment over a period of time, a particularly useful thing to find out if the investment fluctuates over time.

Watch this short video tutorial from this MBA e-mentor programme to understand the basics of CAGR and how it is calculated

Websites such as Investopedia have their own inbuilt CAGR calculators that can give you the numbers you need if you have the necessary information to hand. But to calculate the numbers from large sets of data you have collated in Excel, it is important to build your own CAGR calculator.

The following 8 websites will give you all the CAGR understanding you need

1) The best video tutorial to show the CAGR function input for a very basic table is offered by Savoir-Faire…

2) The Udemy blog gives a good simply explained introduction to CAGR. Also offers info on the more flexible XIRR function to achieve similar results.

3) However, as this video warns, XIRR can produce some incorrect results. So watch this to ensure you are not using wrong data – it really is imperative that the numbers are correct!!

4)  Chart Recipes offers a good breakdown of how the CAGR calculation works and includes a downloadable pdf of the page and an Excel template with the charts used in the example so you can test it for yourself

5)  A simple sheet that gives the spreadsheet CAGR formula too

6) Now of course CAGR functions can be used for bigger sets of data than these small tables. This Youtube video shows how to input the CAGR function in VBA format

7) This blog post explains the VBA format for the CAGR function

8) This article includes how to calculate CAGR on a financial calculator as well as on Excel

Finally, as CAGR is an advanced Excel function, it may be worth signing up to Udemy’s ‘Microsoft Excel Advanced Functions and Formulas’ course here:  You get a free trial and lifetime access to the 58 tutorials when you buy the pack. You also get a certificate of completion which is useful to add to your CV.


Enterprise Mobility Apps – Accessing Big Data on the Cloud

enterprise mobility app

Consultants are always on the go and it often feels like every second counts. These days, ipads and smartphones are becoming more and more useful in enabling us to continue our work lives at any point of the day. This may be slightly frustrating, but it is no doubt useful.

Being able to access all the Big Data systems such as SAP software from your smartphone means that whilst travelling you can continue the work that you would do on the office systems.

Smartphones are already becoming more powerful and capable of performing tasks formerly reserved for the computer. A recent amusing poster on the tube in London showed the new Nokia Lumia 925 with the full Office suit entitled ‘Excel in Bed’

excel in bed

No doubt this is a major development in how consultancies are working and will continue to work in the future. SAP has started to develop enterprise apps in 2014 and some of the options include:

  • BusinessObjects
  • CRM Service Manager
  • Rounds Manager
  • Strategy Management
  • MMX 365
  • Push 365
  • Cart Approval
  • Infrastructure rapid-deployment

But there is still a long way to go as Charles McLellan reports here

Let’s see how far the developers can take these EM apps!


Choosing the right MBA for you – Top 10 websites

Consultancy companies often encourage their employees to undertake an MBA (Master of Business Administration) at some point during their career. For those who went into consulting as a fresh graduate, this is a chance to put some business academic perspective onto the work that you have been working on over the last few years of your training. Companies like to encourage MBAs as of course for those who return, they are more qualified and able to take on more senior positions and offer better advice to the clients. And for the student, there are the benefits of career progression, networking and higher salaries.

Thinking about taking one? Take a look at these websites for some advice… Huge range of information here, including lists of all places in the UK and abroad that offer the MBA. Read the real life story profiles, how to apply and the benefits of taking one A ranking of the top ten MBA schools in the UK A nine step guide to choosing your MBA The Financial Times offers a list of things to consider when thinking about an MBA An article as part of the Telegraph’s focus on MBAs in their education section. Plenty of points to consider in these articles Here is a website offering profiles of the top MBA institutions in America Ten points to consider when looking at MBA courses This Guardian article sheds light on the employability of people with MBAs – often as consultants! Article from The Economist with more points to look out for during the MBA search

Thanks to the internet it is even possible to study the MBA entirely online or through distance learning. This could be useful if you are still going to be working rather than taking time off to complete it. The FT ranking of online MBA courses can be found here


Understanding Volume and Price

‘Volume’ and ‘price’ are two of the most important things in any business. If there is too much volume bought or sold at too high or too low a price, the finances of the entire company can rocket or plummet. Consultants often offer advice on how to cut costs and therefore drive profits up as well as analyse sales and stocks to work out the most efficient ways of selling products.

So what does the consultant need to know? Read the next 10 links and you should get a swift idea…

1) An article giving advice for start up companies on ways of pricing their business models – different models work for different businesses remember!

2) Not sure how to develop a pricing strategy? Read this great detailed account of how to do it with examples. If you sign up to the website for free, you can even get further step by step guidance on pricing strategy

3) The first in a ten part blog series on strategic pricing.

4) The director of Quanta consulting explains here why volume and price are so important for a business

5) Price management is majorly important to gain profit – Harvard Business School explains why

6) When is it good to offer discounts? Harvard Business School again, with an interesting insight

7) Not sure how to calculate your pricing? Harvard offers this flash tool to help you work it out easily!

8) What happens when competitors raise or lower their prices? This  important article from the Harvard Business Review in 2000 explains ‘How to Fight a Price War’ and gives varying opinions on what the best action to take.

9) Academic article from Indiana University on the importance of pricing in business.

10) A short pharmaceutical study on volume and price in this sector of industry – includes a BCG growth share matrix.


Tips for Calculating Market Share – the BCG Matrix

Market Share is an important indicator of the strength of a business within its industry. This is an important calculation for consultants to use in order to help companies analyse and allocate their resources for maximum efficiency and profit.

In the 1970s the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) developed a new way to represent market share by plotting a scatter graph which ranked business units/products against their relative market share (i.e. growth rate). For simplicity, BCG named the different quadrants the following:

• Cash cows are businesses that have a high market share (and are therefore generating lots of cash) but low growth prospects (and therefore a low need for cash). They are often in mature industries that are about to fall into decline.

• Stars have high growth prospects and a high market share.

• Question marks have high growth prospects but a comparatively low market share (and have also been known as wild cats).

• Dogs, by deduction, are low on both growth prospects and market share.


This method therefore provides a graphic representation for an organisation to examine different businesses that it owns on the basis of their related market share. This is now known as the BCG Growth Share Matrix and the following articles go through how to make one… An article that explains what the quarants mean and how to fill out the matrix along with an assessment of the pros and cons of using this matrix. Another worked through example of the BCG matrix Short Business Daily article that goes through the quadrants thoroughly

So now it’s time to learn how to make the market share calculations and graphs in Excel  (which as we know by now, is a consultant’s best friend…!)

Read this screen shot tutorial

And then have look at this useful Youtube video:

And you’re good to go, you Market share expert you!

Tips for calculating Market size

Market Size is the measurement of the total volume of a given market. In simpler terms, it’s the general size of the market in which a business is placed in. Consultants use this calculation a lot when doing research for clients and creating forecast reports and it is often a question asked in case studies and interviews to see how your financial head for numbers and business sense works.

There are several ways to think about approaching such market sizing questions and practice of course makes perfect! So get reading the help sheets below, follow the worked through examples and have a go at the practice questions!

1) This is a pretty helpful document from the Harvard Business School on how to tackle case interview questions. Includes lots of flow charts to try and visually organise your strategic thinking when having a go at the problems. Consists of a lot of questions to help train your pattern of thought rather than worked through examples though. Can also be downloaded as a pdf for printing

2) A slide show style document going through some McKinsey case interview questions based on market size. Includes a list of some of the common mistakes which you should be aware to avoid!

3) Here is the Wetfeet guide to Market sizing questions in the case interview that you can download for free!

4) Using an example of how many baseballs fit inside a Boeing 747 often asked in the case study assessment, this shows how to calculate market size.

5) Explains the ‘4-step approach’ to these questions and some worked through examples.

6) Another post with 5 useful tips on market sizing

7) This blog has several useful posts on the consulting case interview but here is a useful 3 step market sizing post.

8) Loads of worked through market sizing questions here, though to read them all you need to fork out a subscription of $6.99 a month

9) A post on a forum asking for help on prepping for the market sizing questions has some answers from those who have been through the process with examples of what they were asked.

10) A more technical look at market sizing here offering a new way to calculate and analyse this data.

Here an LEK consultant goes through the market sizing question in the case study

Finally, here is a video on tips about measuring markets – aimed slightly at start-up companies but still a short useful set of info


Top Tips for Motivating your Team

Being a good project manager is not simply about having a tight grip on the reins and chasing up colleagues to ensure work is done correctly and on time. It’s also about motivating the entire team to do a good job and care about the project and its outcomes. Consultancies are often full of bold personalities and so with a variety of potential clashing rivals, sometimes things can be difficult. But a good project manager will remain cool under pressure and ensure that everyone is united under the same goal – to solve the financial problems facing the company.

Take a look at the following 10 websites for helpful advice…

1) Loads of advice from Techrepublic on things you can do straight away to improve your team relations

2) A great printable pdf explaining how to be a great manager that can motivate their team

3) TLNT (Talent Management – HR) has a great article here on how to keep motivating people, even when times get stressful

4) 10 simople ideas from LinkedIn explaining how to keep up encouragement and playing to the strengths of individual team members

5) Take this Mindtools test to see what kind of project manager you are and how to improve your motivation techniques

6) A useful post to take heed of in the current economic climate – how to ensure motivation within a team is maintained cheaply

7) List of ten simple rules to keep your team engaged – including beer time and friday fun!

8) If you are working for a large consultancy firm with offices across the world, your team might not even be all in one place. This article explains how to manage an offshore team

9) Quite an academic article about unlocking motivation in staff – worth a read though as it is simply explained but using sociological theories

10) A great list of 14 ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ in management – take heed and don’t make the common mistakes!

Top Tips for Running Effective Workshops

Management Consultants not only travel and do analytics on Excel – they need to run good workshops to explain to their clients the new proposals that will turn the company around. This isn’t just a lecture and presentation, it’s about getting the people involved and showing them what actions they need to take.

And for those higher up in the business, you may be running workshops for those newbie graduates that have just joined, training them to be a consultant. This will require plenty of workshops…so how do you run the best one you can?

The following 10 websites will show you how!

1) Workshop wizard Ross Simmonds gives five workshop tactics here to ensure your audience is engaged

2) A great detailed post from Mindtools about preparing a successful workshop, including links to other useful related pages on the site

3) A detailed article on the website – lots of ideas on how to conduct workshops effectively

4) The ‘before, during, after’ of the workshop planning process

5) Bored of endless meetings? Why not throw a workshop instead!

6) Running an innovation workshop to come up with ideas and solutions with stakeholders? This post, aimed at IT consultants but still relevant, offers 10 ideas to ensure the outcomes are worthwhile

7) Another blog post giving advice for workshop planning to ensure goals are reached

8)  Sometimes find it difficult to get everyone engaged and talking to each other? How do you differentiate a workshop from a lecture? A useful document here full of ice-breakers to create a working workshop

9) Struggling to get the audience working together? Use some of these team building templates to help

10) 10 ideas on how to conduct a Business Improvement workshop

And if you’re looking for more, read ‘How to Run a Great Workshop: The Complete Guide to Designing and Rubbing Brilliant Workshops and Meetings’ by Nikki Highmore Sims

Using a Logical Framework Approach

A ‘Logical Framework Approach’ is usually used in consultancy projects to give them coherence across the ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ aspects of the problem at hand. So what is ‘horizontal logic’? It’s kind of what it says in the title really, a logical progression across a horizontal platform. So this could be picking up on the horizontal progression of your slides, to the structure of your research in search of the answer to a particular question. And ‘vertical logic’ is following upwards across the hierarchy of priorities you are trying to address.

This can be put into a ‘Logical Framework Matrix’ or ‘LogFrame’ like the one below

strategic project management   logframe white

The cartoon gets it pretty right in terms of the simple idea of the LogFrame approach. Check out the full blog post here and see how strategic project management can work better if using this structure.

For more general uses of horizontal and vertical logic, take a look at the following websites… A simple slideshare presentation here on making good presentations that conform to horizontal and vertical logic. When presenting your research findings and solutions to the client, it is important to ensure that they are understanding what you are saying. The audience may be comprised of top CEOs and stakeholders, or might be a broad range of workers from across the company. Regardless, using horizontal logic in your presentations will ensure that the key points will be retained by the audience and taken away to reflect on.  For a more thorough guide through the Logical Framework Approach, check out this 34 slide document (which you can also download). Includes plenty of diagrams. A good step by step guide to ensuring you fulfil the LogFrame. This help sheet can also be downloaded in pdf format at the bottom of the page. A more complicated diagram but the article is succinct in explaining that the LogFrame stage is important in ensuring your whole team knows what they are trying to achieve. This is an overview of Chapter 16 in the book ‘The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management’ and explains the IF and THEN arrows well that are shown in the graphic above. Includes a basic table template to work from.

Terry Schmidt also explains this with a thorough example in the following Youtube tutorial: This is a pdf document created by the University of Wolverhampton showing how to create a Logical Framework Approach. Includes a summary of the pros and cons of using this for a project. This is an interesting document which may be useful to browse through – made by the Government of Serbia, it explains how the Logical Framework Approach can be used to answer governmental questions. It is meant as a user guide to the project management cycle even though the topics covered may be slightly out of the business consultant’s field.  Similarly to the document above, this is a based on NGOs using an LFA platform to ensure projects are carried out well and to prove to stakeholders and donors that objectives are being achieved. However, the report shows that there are aspects of the LFA framework that have drawbacks.


Storytelling in Business

‘Storytelling’ has become a buzzword in the business world as a way in which to engage audiences. In a world where we are all confronted by so much information and a multitude of pictures and videos every day, it has become more important than ever to ensure that presentations are led by a person with the charismatic storytelling skills to keep the audience hooked. When a consultant has to pitch solutions about complicated financial problems, it is so important to ensure the clients are wanting to listen rather than switching off as soon as the ‘death by powerpoint’ begins. Hard facts, bullet points and directives are never going to be as memorable as a good story.

Take a look at this short animation explaining a case study from Malaysian Airlines on how storytelling engaged the audience and created change within the business.

Business storytelling experts Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu (see book below) explain that there are four forms of public speaking which can be plotted on a graph of Purpose against Engagement – The Avoider, The Reporter, The Joker and the The Inspirer.


The Avoider is neither engaging nor useful, The Reporter gives too much factual information and The Joker simply looks for a laugh. The Inspirer is therefore the most important and sought after speaker as they can give all the relevant information whilst ensuring that the audience is engaged and remembers the pitch.

Needless to say, it is really important to get your skills into the ‘Inspirer’ box and will make you an indispensable in any team. So take a look at the following resources for some helpful tips to improve your skills and reach that standard…. In this good article from The Harvard Business Review, Bronwyn Fryer talks to screenwriting lecturer Robert McKee on how skills used for writing engaging scripts for films are equally pertinent in the commercial business sector. An excellent article on how to start incorporating storytelling into your pitches including a list of six different types of story formats to use A great list of 42 videos on business storytelling and how to influence audiences. Includes TEDx talks which are always very insightful and lecturers from Stanford Graduate School of Business among others. Shawn Callahan from Anecdote, a public speaking workshop company, has put together this slideshow on how stories and quickfire Powerpoints can hugely help a presentation Microsoft offers seven articles here on ‘Storytelling in the Boardroom’ and how to make your presentations slick and efficient.

Of course books are always a good source of storytelling so take a look at the following recommended titles:

‘Business Storytelling for Dummies’ by Karen Dietz and Lori Silverman

Aimed at beginners, this is a recommended Dummies book covering several different business areas from compelling graphics to motivating people into action and tailoring stories to specific circumstances. Includes some real-life examples and a template in the appendix.

‘The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative’ by Stephen Denning

A great book for those in a leadership position about how to use storytelling to motivate your colleagues. Full of examples and tips on technique, this is the ‘how-to guide’. Denning writes some of the top points here:

‘Story telling in Business’ by Janis Forman

Recommended by Stanford University Press and winner of the 2013 Outstanding Academic Title Award. By conducting over 140 interviews with CEOs in a variety of companies, Forman gets to the heart of why this is becoming such an important part of presentations in today’s business world.

‘Hooked: How leaders inspire, engage and connect with Storytelling’ by Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu

They’ve spent 10 years together running leadership and public speaking workshops and this is their definitive guide to how to get people ‘hooked’ on your presentation. You can download the first chapter here along with some other useful papers:

‘Lead with a Story: A Guide to crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince and Inspire’ by Paul Smith

A business focused approach to ensure that clients are persuaded and engaged by your use of stories within your presentations.

‘Tell to win: Connect, Persuade and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story’ by Peter Guber

As a former chairman of Sony Pictures, Guber knows how to tell a good story in the entertainment industry. Uses the Trojan Horse as a metaphor for storytelling – an impressive and engaging delivery system for the speaker’s agenda.