Beyond Consulting

18: From Consulting to Private Equity M&A

On this week’s episode of Beyond Consulting, Ken welcomes Brad Eckerdt, a former consultant and current Director of Corporate Development at Wisconsin Stamping and Manufacturing. Brad joins us to discuss his experience as an investment banker, a management consultant, and his time in the military. Brad discusses the importance of relationships and networking to drive a successful M&A process, especially in a private equity environment.

 

The Beyond Consulting Podcast is hosted by Ken Kanara.

 

 

Ken Kanara: Hello and welcome to Beyond Consulting, brought to you by ECA partners, the only podcast dedicated to navigating your career after consulting. I’m Ken Kanara, host of Beyond Consulting and CEO of ECA Partners, a specialized project staffing and executive search firm focused on former management consultants and private equity. Each week I host guests that spent time in consulting and successfully transitioned out, going on to do more interesting things with their careers.

 

This week, I’d to welcome Brad Eckert to the show. Brad, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for joining us.

 

Brad Eckerdt: Hey, you bet, Ken. I’m happy to be here. Thanks.

 

Ken Kanara: Brad, first things first, I would love to have you give us some quick background information on yourself and your career and what you’re doing now.

 

Brad Eckerdt: Absolutely. I have to go back a couple of years, but originally, I booked my undergrad at the US Naval Academy. I was active duty in the Navy for about ten years. I was a naval flight officer and working on a carrier-based jet. After my squadron tour in the EA6B Prowler, which is an electronic radar-jamming plane—we protected the good guys when they were going after the bad guys, I then went to UCLA and taught Navy ROTC and while I was doing that, I got my MBA. At that time, it’s funny that this is a post-consulting career dedicated show because when I was getting my MBA, the last thing in the world I wanted to be was a consultant. I knew nothing about finance or the markets or anything like that. I’d been a military guy and I really wanted to get into some banking and capital markets because I really wanted to know about money flows and what makes things tick in the economy.

Originally, after I got my MBA, I joined a middle market investment bank headquartered out of Milwaukee at Robert W. Baird—a great firm. I spent my first three and a half years there doing stereotypical investment banking work, mainly on the sell side and some fairness opinion type things. Then I helped establish the Capital Markets Desk at Baird working with the bankers and the institutional salespeople and the research channels to help our public or private-going-public clients doing that. I spent about four years doing that. It was terrific and I really enjoyed it. Then I ended up having an opportunity, though, to experience another part of the markets, which was the wealth management side of things when I joined one of Baird’s larger producers before the market crashed in 2008.

My timing to move into wealth management was not the best in the world and the current market conditions remind me a little of that. Hopefully it doesn’t get that bad, and I don’t think it will, but I found quickly that the wealth management side really wasn’t as challenging of work as I was used to and I really wanted to continue on the path of developing myself professionally with my education and work experience, so I had the opportunity to move into consulting based off of a good friend of mine from the Naval Academy, who recommended that I look into the some of the consulting companies. I ended up joining Accenture in their M&A Growth Strategy Group in 2010. I was with Accenture for about four and a half years doing primarily acquisition integration work and a little bit of strategy. Accenture is a great firm, but it definitely has an IT focus. I would work with our clients in their acquisition integration and a lot of the work we did was to also try and get some of the IT work, some of the longer-term, recurring revenue type of work.

I did that for about five years, though it was interrupted by a stint in Afghanistan because I rejoined the US Navy reserve in 2010. I spent most of 2013 in Afghanistan running a drone unit working with the Army Special Forces. It was a terrific opportunity. If I had to be in Afghanistan, it was a great role and something I really enjoyed doing, and Accenture was terrific in supporting that. I came back off of that mobilization and went right back to work for Accenture. I then had the opportunity to join EY in their Transaction Advisory Services Group in their Financial Services Transaction Advisory Services Group and was with them for about five years doing a lot of work that was similar to what I did with Accenture, but EY did a little more across the board. They would do integration work, but they did a lot of separation where a company wants to carve out a division or even a new plant, or some aspects of the organization, we would help them do that. I gained some broader exposure to organizational development at the time, as well as some strategy work.

Then, once again, the US Navy tapped me on my shoulder, while I was with EY and I spent 2018 with the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, NC, supporting aviation operations, supporting a lot of the special forces, primarily in the Middle East, and spent a few months in a in a country that most people aren’t familiar with, Djibouti Africa, which is a which is a very unique place, but it is the location of the Navy’s only permanent base in Africa. I had some great experiences there working with the Special Forces guys and then came back, went right back to work for EY, and as many people hopefully in your listening audience are aware, right back on the road because this was pre-COVID. I was on a very demanding project in Boston, so traveling from the Milwaukee area to Boston every week, Sunday night, early Monday morning, working all week, coming back, weekend work. Pretty grinding. I had one of those life epitomes, just one of those life moments where I got back one week, Thursday night or it was a Friday, and I looked at my house and I thought, “What am I doing?” I’d had my head down, I’d been on the road, doing the consulting thing for most of the last ten years. My kids were getting older. I still had a couple of sons that were in high school and getting ready to go to college. I just thought, “You know what? I’m not going to do this anymore. I want to do something else with my career.”

I’d always been interested in corporate development type work, given my investment banking, capital markets experience, and then combine it with all the operational M&A work that I’d been doing in consulting. As I’m sure you, as well as other people in the listening audience are aware, you’re always getting headhunters or recruiters calling people up, wanting to go from one consulting firm to a next. It’s always a frothy market there, and for many years I’d been telling people when they reach out to me and asked if I was interested in moving, I’d say, “Unless you have a corporate development type of opportunity, at a fast growing or high growth type of an organization, that’s really the only other thing that I’d be interested in doing.” It’s a little bit of a longer story here, but I ended up getting approached by a good friend of mine who was also a Naval Academy grad, who, along with his brothers, who were who were his partners, owned an industrial distribution company, as well as a metal fabrication company and a motion control device. They needed help growing their organizations through acquisitions. All of the brothers were very actively involved in running the day-to-day and didn’t have time to go out and do a lot of the sourcing and deal-creation type of activities. It made sense. They were local, I’ve known the family for a long time, and so they brought me on as their Director of Corporate Development about mid-2019. I’ve been with them ever since.

 

Ken Kanara: Excellent. Let me start off by saying thank you for your service, over and over again, throughout your career. I really mean that.

 

Brad Eckerdt: Oh, you bet. Thanks.

 

Ken Kanara: Brad, the organization you’re with right now is Wisconsin’s Stamping and Manufacturing, is that right?

 

Brad Eckerdt: Correct. That is where I sit. There’s a sister company called Weimer Industries or Weimer Bearing and Transmission. They’re one of the largest, privately held industrial distribution companies in the U.S. They are located in about seven states and are a good-sized organization. And again, they’re serving OEMs through a distribution network. That company works closely with Wisconsin Stamping and Manufacturing. Wisconsin stamping has been around since 1958. However, in the last 15 years, since the family purchased the company, they’ve really grown it. Originally it was making a small, seamed, tubular product that was used in compression fittings in the oil and gas refining industry, but the family really concentrated on expanding the capabilities and skill sets and now we do about just about everything from smaller metal pieces, we do Swiss machining, laser cutting, robotic welding, welding, metal folding, some more traditional stamping, wire forming and we also have a faster distribution business called World Source, which is a very small version of Fastenal, but it fits in nicely with the type of components that we make at Stamping, and ideally we want to be a value added provider to our original equipment manufacturer customers. We don’t want to just make 10,000 of one piece, box it and ship it out. We want to find out what that piece goes to, learn if we can make the other parts to it, combine it, potentially kit some fasteners with it and send it out to really achieve some more value add and make a higher profit margin.

 

Ken Kanara: Brad you mentioned industrial distribution, fabrication, motion control…do you think about the business as a conglomerate? How do you think about…maybe the different business units altogether?

 

Brad Eckerdt: Yes, so the primary businesses are Weimer Industries and Wisconsin Stamping and there is some distinct commonalities between the two. Primarily, that they’re servicing OEMs.

 

Ken Kanara: OK.

 

Brad Eckerdt: Some of the parts or the equipment that Weimer, the sister company, is providing to the OEM’s are being provided by Wisconsin Stamping even though they are run as two, arms-length type of companies, but the family as operators are very intelligent, very smart operators. They know the OEM market and that is their sweet spot. Part of my job on a day-to-day basis is to look for companies or acquisitions that are going to be complementary to the existing businesses, but also to look for new investments, very private equity like, very much like a family office. “Are there any other potential investments in any manufactured product, engineer, design product that’s being provided to OEMs? We tend to stay away from the direct-to-retail type of manufacturers. That’s not where the sweet spot is, but it helps me out to stay in a particular lane, but at the same time it’s relatively broad.

 

Ken Kanara: That’s super helpful. Let’s talk a bit about corporate development and what that means because I think most of us that work in consulting leave consulting thinking that everything is about organic growth, and “I’m going to expand into new regions…,” but a lot of the growth strategies that are employed by private businesses, private equity, and family offices are inorganic and pursuing acquisitions the way you are. Could you elaborate a little bit more on what corporate development means?

 

Brad Eckerdt: Sure. Though it can mean different strokes for different folks, but in general, corporate development is identifying those areas that can—the name came from somewhere—that can help develop the corporation by either expanding its capabilities or offerings, potentially to markets. Really, the way I look at it is what’s the best way of doing that? When I approach the market or when I think about what I can do on a day-to-day basis to help out the company in today’s world, especially with COVID, from a corporate development function, I think of, “Okay, is there something out there that we can acquire that would take us too long to do in-house or that would be very costly and time consuming?” Then it’s better to buy than to make it, that sort of that thing. Are there markets that we want to get into? Are there customers that we just haven’t been able to penetrate and, quite sincerely, in the market we’ve been in for the last two years, we look at companies that are similar to the primary companies from an employee basis alone, because it’s been so hard to get employees over the last year and a half, two years. There’s that aspect. There’s definitely the acquisition mentality, the inorganic growth that I definitely spend a lot of my time on. One thing, when I’m reaching out to potential targets…ideally, I’m going to uncover something that’s not marketed, that’s not really brought to me by an investment banker or one of the smaller, brokerage type firms. When I reach out to folks, it’s not necessarily, “Hey, are you for sale, can I buy you?” It’s, “Let me understand your business…,” cultivating a relationship. It’s definitely not a hard sell, and it’s a, “Let me hear your story, what are your intentions? Do you have a time frame? Have you thought about a transaction, and if not, how can we help each other? Is there an opportunity for us to provide you with potential leads that that we’re not servicing and vice versa?” I’ve enjoyed that a lot over the last couple of years. I think it’s very well received. A lot of it is relationship building in the market and getting our name out there. It’s surprising…I think people always hear, “Hey, networking is so important in your personal career, but as a professional going out there representing your organization, your organization needs to network as well. I take that on and put that under the hat of corporate development.

 

Ken Kanara: I completely agree. If you think about your process in general, as it relates from sourcing a deal all the way to a transaction, what are some of the key success factors from your perspective?

 

Brad Eckerdt: One of the key factors in the competitive environment we’ve had the last couple of years is can you find something that’s not being marketed, and can you establish a relationship with that particular seller where they don’t feel compelled that they need to go out and shop something around. Now part of my job, when I’m going out and trying to do that, I will be honest with folks and I’ll say, “Look, if you want to go out and shop this, by all means, feel free to do it, because you can always get a top dollar, but it may not be the buyer that you want. It may not be the buyer that you really want to leave your company in the hands of. A lot of people that I talked to are private individuals or maybe a couple of individuals, and those folks tend to be much more concerned about their legacy and who they’re leaving it to, as opposed to potentially a private equity seller who’s not as concerned. They’re more concerned about getting a return to their investors, which is totally understandable. As much as I’d like to say that that means a lot in the market, it does mean something, but with the frothiness in the market we’ve had last year and a half, I’d say it’s about a half turn-to-a turn of equity at most, but that’s a lot of my approach too, that I think is one of the most important things, trying to find a deal for value for the businesses that I represent. If it’s not a good deal, if it’s too much risk for the potential return, then it doesn’t make sense for us to spend our time on it.

I think deal sourcing on the corporate development side is very important. It’s important to cultivate a lot of relationships. I certainly have relationships with a number of investment bankers and brokers, but I find I’ve gotten the most use out of a very wide range of commercial bankers that I work with. They certainly have their clients that they are close to, and they know what’s going on. The same can be said for accountants or insurance agents, those trusted advisors that business owners are going to have. I spend the majority of my day-to-day doing that networking, trying to identify a deal flow and then, when I’m not doing that, having a successful corporate development side means understanding the potential investment, understanding from a diligence perspective what’s important and what’s not, and understanding from the organizations that I represent, what’s important to them? What can they live with? What’s going to turn them off right away? In my role, I’m a one-man shop. I don’t have a lot of support underneath me, so I do all the valuation. The diligence I do primarily on my own. There are certainly areas where that I can get some leverage, but I need to be very cognizant of where it is I need to spend my time, what are some of the things that I can identify early on that says, “OK, this is why this isn’t going to work,” and then potentially be of some assistance to whoever I’m working with at the time, but moving on quickly to the next opportunity.

 

Ken Kanara: You mentioned networking and relationship building being a key element to your success. One of the things or themes of this show that has emerged, surprisingly to me, is that, for some reason, which doesn’t come easy to management consultants. My hypothesis is that we’re thrown into consulting and it’s almost forced networking and relationship building overload. So much so that…we’re given too much, too soon. We never had to work at it. How do you keep things going organically in your life and your career now from a networking and relationship perspective?

 

Brad Eckerdt: I worked with the gentleman a number of years ago. His name is John Murray, and he was a partner at Accenture at the time and he really impressed upon me, when it came to developing relationships, he always asked people what he could do for them. He was very giving with his time and with his investment of knowledge and what he could do for somebody. He very rarely asked for things. He really lived that approach and he’s been a very successful individual doing so. When it comes to networking, and you’re right, in consulting, you’re forced to be in a group of a lot of people and meet people, I just happen naturally, or at least you’re going to be introduced to a lot of people, so your network grows by the very nature of the project type work and moving from a project to a project to a project or to different industries or different companies. But I find that I have to be very aware of almost anybody that I have an interaction with. I try to make it meaningful and always make a good impression. You’re going to develop a real relationship when you’re not a taker. If you’re a giver or at a minimum, somebody who is willing to assist other people, because one of my favorite mantras is, “If you want to have friends, you need to be a friend, first and foremost, you’ve got to be a friend. When I look at my business, or the way I approach networking, it’s the same way. Either I’ll ask for advice, if it’s somebody that I want to connect with that I respect and would like to cultivate a deeper relationship with, or I’ll say, “Hey, it’d be great to connect, to see if there’s a way that we can help each other out.” It’s a very easy way to open up a conversation, and to me it comes naturally. It’s honest and it’s open, you’re not making any promises, but I definitely try to always keep in mind when I’m talking with people and say, “Hey, what can I do for you? I’m always impressed with people when they ask me that, when they say, “Hey, this is all great, but what can I do for you?” That simple statement really resonates with me. At a minimum, they’re taking the time to ask.

 

Ken Kanara: Sure.

 

Brad Eckerdt: And hopefully, it’s very sincere and there’s follow up. That’s my approach.

 

Ken Kanara: Excellent. If you think about your career in, I’ll chunk it into three categories prior to what you’re doing now, investment banking, consulting and then your years in service for the United States, I would love to hear your perspective from each of those categories, and if there’s more feel free to add what I’m missing, how that has helped shape your role now and how you approach things, and maybe different things that you took from each of those experiences?

 

Brad Eckerdt:  What I got from the investment banking and capital market side, was that front end deal aspect. It was, what are investors looking for what? What’s important to CEO, CFO, CEO, particularly if they’re shareholders in an organization? What’s being valued by potential buyers, either private equity firms or the public markets? It gave me a good sense for what is a value add. What’s the value generator for organizations that they want their company to look like or their other financials to reflect. That was all great. Then, when I moved into the consulting world, most of your listeners have probably heard the statistic that half of M&A doesn’t create the value that the that the original buyer intended it to. Most people listening could probably understand that there’s a reason why: because it’s hard. It’s hard to bring companies together or it’s hard to separate a company in a thoughtful, well-constructed manner that doesn’t disrupt organizations and doesn’t take people’s eyes off the ball. It’s a very simple, simple statement, but that whole, “First, do no harm,” that’s what always comes to mind when I think of transactions. Don’t screw things up, we have to keep the lights on, widgets need to come off the line, people need to be happy, we can’t have people leaving…There are so many aspects to a transaction that need to be addressed. I think that’s what I’ve really taken away from consulting despite the fact that again, I was a very hesitant, reluctant consultant. As much as some of the work was grueling and miserable, it was long hours…I always thought banking was bad, but banking was okay, honestly, compared to consulting. Sometimes I still think, “Man, bankers are doing it right,” because…

 

Ken Kanara: …because you add the travel in there and then…

 

Brad Eckerdt: Yeah.

 

Ken Kanara: At least you’re going to your own bed and banking, right.

 

Brad Eckerdt: That’s exactly it! When I kept seeing partners in consulting firms traveling just as much, working practically as much as the senior managers and the managers and the consultants and the analysts, I just thought, “This doesn’t seem like the right tradeoff to me at that level.” I digress a little there, but the one thing that helped me from my military background was that I had a number of experiences that the living conditions…it wasn’t the Marriott, it wasn’t the nice Sheraton, it wasn’t good meals and that kind of thing. I could always go back to some of my military experiences and say, “Well, at least I’m not getting shot at.” That Monday morning getting up at 3:45 AM to catch the 6:00 AM flight to go wherever, I would be pretty miserable. But I thought, “You know what? It’s alright. I got a Starbucks in my hand and life could be a lot worse.” The military gave me a lot of really good perspective and it definitely gave me a lot of good leadership skills and how to deal with people in a stressful environment. How to deal with the leadership, and many times, how to be a follower, because if you want to be a good leader you have to be a good follower. I’ve taken a number of things from the military and applied it to both the investment banking world that I was in, as well as the consulting.

 

Ken Kanara: Yes, and one thing from my own observations that I’ve seen, especially with the military guys that come into consulting too, is that there’s almost a dynamic assertiveness. It’s very evident that they’ve dealt with much bigger problems than the formatting of a PowerPoint slide.

 

Brad Eckerdt: Yes.

 

Ken Kanara: They don’t get easily rattled on things that admittedly I did as an analyst. And I was always impressed with that.

 

Brad Eckerdt: Yes. Most folks have gone through a little bit of trial by fire, in one manner or another, and it’s definitely good to have that background to leverage.

 

Ken Kanara: Excellent. Brad, I would love to talk about post-transaction. Say you’ve found a great deal, you’ve acquired a company, you’ve added it to the portfolio, completed the transaction, but I would guess now the real work starts with integration. Could you talk a little about what that typically means and some of the challenges that you guys have seen?

 

Brad Eckerdt: Sure. I’m sure everybody listening, or at least a majority have had experience with that day one…you have a closing checklist, you have your day one checklist, you’ve got your day 100 checklist and then your year one, or maybe a shorter period, a six-month checklist. But there’s certainly a lot of activities that need to get done because once the deal is closed now both organizations are aware of what’s going on. I’m always acutely aware of the HR or the employee communication type of environment. Do people have the information that they need to be successful in bringing these companies together? Are they personally invested? Are there issues that are going to arise? Right out of the gate that we need to Where they personally invested are there are there issues that are going to arise right out of the gate that we need to address? Just to try and make sure that that human capital is coming together as well as it can because then you’ve got to deal with everything else, the obvious systems integration, if it needs to be there. It’s almost like anything else. You can do your homework beforehand, you can do all the due diligence in the world, but you really don’t know what you’ve got until it’s done, and you start getting in there on a day-to-day basis and seeing, “Okay, is this organization really what we thought it was? Are we going to uncover anything that’s going to be an issue?” That’s really where you get to know your spouse. Once the weddings occurred, and then you’re living together, you find out what little things really bug the crap out of you, and you wish that they wouldn’t do, and how can I, either modify my behavior to make that tolerable or how can I get that behavior to be modified. There’s definitely a lot of time spent there, and from my perspective in the corporate development role, I am not going to be the guy that’s going to be there on a day-to-day basis because I need to continue the role I’m in looking for that next thing. Certainly, within the organization, we’ve identified people whose jobs are to go in, whether it’s operations, whether it’s HR, whether it’s finance, to continue to be the ones to oversee that and report back on a regular basis, whether it be to a mini steering committee type thing, who are overseeing how things are coming together. The work certainly doesn’t end there, as most folks listening understand, the big heavy lift is going to occur in the next 90 to 180 days to try to get as many things together and working as seamlessly as possible.

 

Ken Kanara: From your perspective, is the challenge more operationally focused when it comes to integration, or is it culturally, or is it something else? Is it anything you see on a consistent basis, or does it really depend on the dynamics of that particular deal?

 

Brad Eckerdt: I think it really depends on the on the deal because the more…if a seller is more open and they feel comfortable with you as a buyer, they’re probably going to allow you more access or earlier access, deeper access. Ideally, the employee base is going to be receptive to what’s happening. We want to go in and really talk about why this is good for them, give people comfort that nobody’s losing their job, we’re not moving the operations, everything’s going to be really status quo, only now we’re going to have more opportunities for you going forward. You want to try and really get in there early on the human capital side to get people on board so that isn’t the issue. Again, there’s so much heavy lifting that needs to go on outside of that, and we like to spend our time making sure that that really isn’t something that we need to care and feed as much post transaction. We’ve had employee meetings, and town halls so that people are prepared, and they know what to expect on day one.

More so from our perspective, it’s probably an operational type thing that you’re going to find out that, okay, this is this is really where the supply issues were coming from, or these particular managers may not really have the skill set that we hoped that they would, because you’re not going to have time to vet every person within an organization and a lot of times it boils down to how good the people are that are going to impact the efficiency and the well-being of the organization.

 

Ken Kanara: That makes a lot of sense. One of the other things that we ask the folks that join the show is what advice you would have, in general, for someone that’s currently in a consulting role and thinking about making a transition out of it, in this case, into a corporate development or an M&A focused role.

 

Brad Eckerdt: Sure. Obviously, in consulting, people are always talking about the M&A work and that’s…

 

Ken Kanara: That’s sexy, right? (laughs)

 

Brad Eckerdt:  That’s the sexy stuff, right?  “Yeah, that’s where I want to be.” Then, they get in there, and “Wow, this isn’t really nearly as sexy as I thought it was going to be. This is a lot of work too.” But for somebody if they wanted to roll into a corporate development or a private equity type role, I would say to try to get on as many different types of transactions as you can because even if you feel like you’re stuck doing one particular aspect of a transaction, you’re going to be, hopefully, post COVID, still sitting in a room with five, six, seven, eight other colleagues that are working on something and there’s a lot of osmosis that occurs. The stuff that you’re going to absorb is typically an issue or a problem that somebody’s going to have and you’re going to have to work through it, and you’re going to pick up little things like that as you go along. Whether you realize it or not, it’s going to be another arrow for your quiver. That’s probably the first thing I say is trying to get on as many different types of engagements as you can when it when it comes to M&A, whether it’s a separation project and acquisition integration, project management, organizational development type roles.

I found that some of the most interesting things I did at EY were separation projects where they didn’t know who the buyer was going to be. Is it going to be a strategic, or is it going to be a private equity? You really need to help structure the organization. If it’s going to go to private equity, that’s going to be a standalone and they need to be able to run alone on day one because the private equity firm isn’t going to have the systems that they need, necessarily. If it’s a strategic, what potentially could they have with some of the low hanging synergies that they might be able to accomplish on day one. Those were great experiences I had that I’ve definitely taken away.

I would tell people that as painful as some of this stuff can be, I always looked at consulting as basically, you’re getting three times the experience that somebody else who just goes out and joins a corporation is going to get. If you’re doing consulting for five years, sincerely, you’re getting ten to 15 years’ worth of work experience. It’s hard work, and hopefully you’re getting adequately compensated for it, but you’re definitely doing things that the average corporate type of employee is not seeing or being exposed to. At the end of the day, it is a great experience. It really is. You’re going to learn a lot. You’re going to get a lot from it. It’s a bit of sweat equity that you’re building up for yourself. It was probably about five to six years ago, I’d say when all of a sudden, I realized, “Wow, I’m a pretty strong utility player.” I wouldn’t necessarily say that I was the expert in any one particular area, walking in, but I’ve been through enough different trials by fire in consulting and banking capital markets that nothing’s really going to throw me too badly. I can at least manage a situation and bring in the right resources to help us get to where we need to be.

 

Ken Kanara: Brad, I know you’ve had experiences outside of consulting, but is there any area where you feel that consulting might have fallen short and there was something that you needed to develop on your own? We could throw banking and your years in service in there as well, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that.

 

Brad Eckerdt:  Yeah, to be brutally honest, consulting can be a harsh environment, as I’m sure a lot of people can understand. I felt that, many times, from a leadership perspective, a mentoring perspective, that’s where things fell short because a lot of these partners are under a lot of pressure to produce. They can get a contract signed and then they’re already thinking about that next contract and then they’re really not popping back in unless the wheels are coming off the bus and then it’s, hellfire rains from above and a lot of people don’t react well to that environment. I was lucky that I worked for a number of really good people, but I also had a couple of terrible experiences that, I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, this would not have happened in the military.” There’s a couple of mantras that I live by, and one is “Praise publicly and criticize privately.” Unfortunately, I’ve been in environments where people rose up through the ranks where they didn’t quite get that. Unfortunately, and I want to say this with some sensitivity, but when people are beat up as a kid, they grow up to be bullies and consulting, like everything, the military…is representative of society, and you’re going to get all kinds of folks. Hopefully many will be really good, but some people manage to rise up that really make things difficult for the people around them. I think that’s what drives some people out, is that lack of mentoring and leadership where that that can make a big difference in a project or an engagement, especially when it’s a difficult one.

 

Ken Kanara: That reminds me of a situation I was in. I was at a private dinner event, and everyone had to go around the room saying, either a quote a lesson they’ve learned throughout their career. One of the things that struck me was a gentleman that worked in private equity and previously, I think, in consulting and he said, “In consulting, we learn that shit rolls downhill.” And he said, “I think that needs to stop. If you think about it more broadly, you don’t need to perpetuate the cycle of trauma.” To your point, he was using the career analogy to talk more broadly about life, which is what you were doing. If you get beat up as a kid, you’re probably going to be a bully growing up. And his point was, you don’t need to do that. That doesn’t serve anybody, so stop that cycle. I think it’s a really good point and, again, we’re talking about the exceptions, not the rule in consulting, but there were definitely managers that I worked with that unfortunately, had those characteristics, but the majority were really good leaders, as well.

Thanks for sharing that. Brad, we also ask our guests, because we’re all a bunch of nerdy consultants at the core, for any books that maybe you’ve read in your life that have had an impact that you’d like to share with our listeners.

 

Brad Eckerdt: Yes, there’s an author, Peter Zion, he’s written about four books now, but the first was called the Accidental Superpower. If you’re not familiar with the book, this guy, Peter, writes about how the U.S. really rose to be the preeminent superpower in the world. He looks at economic and political drivers, and geographical drivers that I don’t think you hear about a lot in the normal day-to-day. But boy, if you read his book, you’ll look at a lot of things.

One of his big things is population base and the fact that China, clearly a big superpower, big economy, a billion people, they had a one child policy for a very long time and that’s going to come back and bite them because a lot of that population is now aging, and it’s being supported by a much smaller base. He takes a look at that all over the world, in Mexico, South America, India and how that ultimately impacts the economics of a country. He talks about the fact that the U.S. is very fortunate that we have these two great oceans that basically will always protect us from a land war. We will never have a Russia coming across the border like Ukraine is experiencing right now, simply because we don’t have that type of neighboring populations. We’re lucky we have plenty of natural resources between North America and South America, we’re not nearly as reliant as a lot of the rest of the world, on many other countries. It’s a very interesting book. He followed that up with the Absent Superpower. There’s another one on the UN that that he just came out with, and he just came out with his fourth book. They are really interesting, easy reads and the guy just offers a really interesting look at world politics, economics, the whole thing. He also has a free e-mail that you sign-up for where he does a weekly YouTube on current conditions. That’s one I’d recommend.

 

Ken Kanara: Excellent. That’s a really timely recommendation, given everything going on right now geopolitically as well. Brad, I really appreciate you joining us and the insights that you’ve shared with the listeners today. I would love to wrap it up by asking, if people were interested in learning more about your organization or you, are there any links or anything that you’d like to share, or information that might be relevant?

 

Brad Eckerdt:  Yes, sure. wisconsinstamping.com, then weimerindustries.com. If anybody has any follow up questions, feel free to look me up on LinkedIn. I’m the only one on there that’s going to be a corporate strategy guy with a Navy background. I’m happy to connect with anybody and follow up with questions.

 

Ken Kanara: Well, excellent. And I truly, truly appreciate you joining, as well as, as a fellow patriot, thanks for your service.

 

Brad Eckerdt: I appreciate that, thanks.

 

Ken Kanara: For those of you listening for the first time, be sure to subscribe either on Spotify, Apple, or Amazon. If you want to catch up on past episodes, you can do so on those respective channels or check out beyondconsulting.info. Lastly, if you want to get in touch with me, my contact info is eca-partners.com, you can go on the web and find me, I’m on the website there. Brad, thanks so much for joining and for everyone else, look forward to speaking next week.

 

Brad Eckerdt:  Hey, you bet. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

 

Ken Kanara: Bye.

 

 

Connect with Brad on LinkedIn and visit www.wisconsinstamping.com for more information.

 

 

The 2022
ECA Salary Report

Value-Creation Talent Solutions for Strategy, Finance, and Operations

Get in touch to find your next hire.

Get Started with ECA

Tell us about your hiring needs using the form below. One of our Managing Directors will be in touch to help.

Interested in joining us?

Enter your info to schedule an interview with one of our internship leads.