09 Aug Marc F., General Manager
A Day in the Life of Marc F., General manager of a business unit of a global consumer goods company; Paris, France.
MBA General Management
What I Do
I am responsible for operating our business in Europe. I have overall responsibility for the profit and loss in the European market and performance going forward. I interact directly with our manufacturing units on a regular basis, but I do not have production responsibility.
I oversee all brand strategies and marketing within Western Europe by linking into our global brand teams and making these strategies work in my market.
Our brands have the particulars associated with a restrictive legal situation (alcoholic beverages). Twelve people mostly report directly to me, and I manage an outside sales force.
I oversee sales in my country, with a regional structure of people responsible for their specific territories. I also have a finance director and a small project finance team here, which is slim support, but I can ask for more resources from our global finance team as needed.
What I Enjoy Most
As an ex-consultant from a strategy firm, I love the strategy and wide-open space, but now I get to apply it in practice. I enjoy seeing and living the results I am responsible for by my actions. When we have a great month, I love to celebrate with the team. I like working with great people and seeing people I have hired do well here and then move on to do well in other parts of our business.
What I Enjoy Least
Detailed paperwork. This is the flip side of coming from consulting, where I did lots of white boards but not the details. The historical and administrative reporting is necessary in a large company, but not fun. However, the beauty of working in a global company is that there are a lot of resources to go with additional rules and bureaucracy.
Why I Chose This Career
Coming out of consulting, I wanted a line position with a good path in a company that was big enough to take risks on individuals. Even though I didn’t have profit-and-loss responsibility, I was able to sell them on my energy, drive, ability, and willingness to learn.
I also wanted a global company—one with really great people and resources that could help me out on specific projects. We have center resources and big muscles—so, for example, we can go for a growth strategy and have the ability to fund it.
Desirable Traits to Be Successful in This Career
In a large company, one must build a network and be visible to the decision makers. Your first step is to do a great job in the responsibilities given to you. Be honest with yourself about your personal experience gaps and start to do projects that stretch the boundaries of your experience. Then, find some great coaches and mentors and get their help.
For a general management role, you need a track record of performance or the ability to show results. I did a lot of recruiting during my consulting career and this is what I learned: At the end of the day, it comes down to what job candidates can do in a business environment and what hands-on experience they offer. As the person making hiring decisions, I have to see beyond a strategy or an idea to see how a person can implement and take action. It’s the application or proof that you must convey, not just the learning.
Words of Advice If You Are Considering This Career Path
You can’t become a general manager in one big step; rather, identify the steps and start taking them one at a time. Get solid pre-MBA experiences, study for an MBA, test your skills through internships, and seek post-MBA jobs that stretch your problem-solving abilities.
Be international as early as possible. Learn what it means to be in a different business environment in a different country. Take every opportunity to work with people who aren’t like you, who aren’t from where you’re from, who are experts in areas where you are weak.
Don’t underestimate the jump from consulting to industry. Get exposure to some industry or service line first. Develop the record of success in that area.
What I Did Before This (Including Pre-MBA and Post-MBA Jobs)
I spent four years doing scientific research in biology and pharmaceuticals.
I was in the Army in between, where I managed a platoon of 30 people and four tanks—this is where I started to test my leadership skills. Military experience shows you just one way of leading, but it gave me the chance to see the pros and cons of this leadership style.
When it was time to get an MBA internship I asked myself, “What can I do that uses my skill set?” This enabled me to focus and get an internship as an analyst for biotech companies at Merrill Lynch.
While this experience helped me realize that investment banking was not what I wanted to do long-term, it helps me today to know how bankers think and how they gather and evaluate their information about my industry. And, I respect the power they have to impact my industry.
After the MBA, I spent three years working with Marakon Associates, a high-end consulting firm that specializes in managing for value. My specialty was consumer goods industries—including soft drinks, confectionary, cosmetics, etc. This experience set me up well for the industry I am in now.
Educational Background (Undergraduate, MBA, Other)
In MBA Programs, I’d Suggest You Look For…
Know why you’re doing it, then pick a top school in that area. Ask yourself, “How is this school going to help me develop my career better or faster?”
Because I had a research background, business school gave me the language to talk with business people. I needed a broad overview of everything (so I chose a general management focus), then a broad way to apply it (for which I chose consulting).
As for a line to general management long term, I knew consulting experience would help. I also looked at schools with international exposure—courses, students, etc.