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Comments (22)

Nov 23, 2021 - 11:31pm

I don't have direct experience, but to the best extent of my knowledge, going from management consulting (MBB) to an upper-management role in a company (think 1-2 levels below c-suite unless you had a fuckton of experience in MBB), then working your way up from VP/Director to c-suite is the most well-trodden and linear path.

Nov 23, 2021 - 11:32pm

Keep in mind c-suite roles aren't the most lucrative in the world (PE partners outearn most CEOs unless they're a Fortune 50 company, most BB CEOs earn less in total comp than PE MF partner's all-in.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Nov 24, 2021 - 12:04am

CFOs typically have accounting or IB backgrounds. Lots of CFOs do a few years in either IB/big 4, jump into a company at some middle-management position in a finance role, and climb the ranks.

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Nov 24, 2021 - 2:43am

CFO - Honestly not that hard in the scheme of things. This path is prob the most well-documented and consistent. Also much less desirable and (generally) powerful than CEO and COO. Just go into accounting/IB and wait a long time lmao. It'll open up if you're looking for it. Be forewarned - most companies are not based in NYC. It's really not that glamorous.

CEO - Depends. As people above have alluded to, lower F500 CEO probably isn't as desirable on an input/output basis as something like PE partner, but this is easily the most feasible. Go to McKinsey for a while, eventually make the jump to upper management, be much smarter than the rest of upper management (probably a given if you could hack it at McKinsey for a while), eventually get CEO.

The hard part about becoming CEO is that it involves a lot of waiting, and time is certainly money in the scheme of careers. Becoming an upper echelon CEO generally involves a loooot of waiting and doing well in multiple CEO roles/extremely sustained corporate growth. Every year you stay in a role you commit further into that path, and lose optionality outside of the path. This is why there's a lot of capable people and only X amount of CEO's - competition whittles down, people become complacent/anchored by family, they lose the political game, etc etc.

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Nov 24, 2021 - 2:57am

There are a few types of C-levels. I've found the older guys in established industries are strangely underpaid.

IE I would expect a head of growth or CMO at a DTC brand doing $20m to $50m to be making about $500k a year all in. Usually they are well under 40. 

Senior dev roles at startup about 300k all in now if Series A or later. 

Conversely your standard 50 something year old C level working for a co owned by PE is getting $300k to $500k and potential for $5m to $15m at exit but they are running a co doing $200m+.

Typically PE hired execs come from very vanilla backgrounds. Consulting, IB, PE, strategy @ f500. 

To make good money quickly as an operator you need massive equity exposure IMO. Tons of it. Not 0.001% 

  • 3
Most Helpful
Nov 24, 2021 - 8:39am

Have three people close to me that have reached C-Suite (2 F500s and 1 private).

1. CFO of F200 - B4 (B8 back then), hired by client, Wharton paid for by employer, Finance org, CFO of a division, CFO of private co, CFO of F200 - makes about 2M/yr all in with 50% being stock.

2. CFO of F400 - Finance all the way, MBA at Chicago, finance org of F400 and worked his way up to CFO - makes about 2M/yr all in with 1.5M of it in stock.

3. CEO of private - UG Chem E, manufacturing job, HBS, McK, President of small division of major corp, CEO of private biotech (comp was less than previous with potential huge payday with equity...but company didn't make it - happens a lot as they ran out of funds and couldn't raise more - too early to market back in the genome sequencing days. If it hit, would have been worth over 25M upon exit). Several senior positions and consulting projects since. Comp about 1M per yr.

I mention the private scenario as there are way more of these situations than you think. Sometimes business comes down to luck or timing (almost always comes down to timing, especially for startups). Huge risk/ reward opportunities. He would tell you it was the best learning experience of his life and  was hired to run other companies that were partners of the failed venture. No shame in failing.

If you're really good, you'll make a lot of money. Focus on where you want to be and knock it out of the park.

Nov 30, 2021 - 4:05am

So on average how long has Candidate 1 & 2 spent at the firm. Must be around 20 years? 

Nov 30, 2021 - 6:55am

#1 spent 4 or 5 yrs at B8 prior to working for client. Spent three yrs before getting MBA. Spent another yr or two post MBA in fin org and was promoted to CFO of a subsidiary (well known, pretty decent size). I mention subsidiary because, yes you are running the show, but within the confines and construct of the holding company (so ultimately they fund you and have control). Still - pretty young (early to mid 30s) to be CFO. Spent a few yrs there and switched to a CFO spot of another co (this time the top job). Spent a few yrs and moved to CFO of a major co (private - household name). There he was CFO and head of global strategy. Eventually was tagged by a former colleague (CEO from his first CFO spot) to run the show at his present firm. All of these positions since leaving B8 have been in the same industry. That's important as you become expert pretty quickly with that background. 

Also important to know that the CFO role has changed over the yrs and is far more a partnering role with the CEO. Lots of corp development work (M&A) done at a high level with teams doing the modeling. I've listened in to a few quarterly earnings calls and the CEO takes lead but after a few minutes it's all CFO and he knows all the metrics and has the relationship with the capital markets.

He's a great guy. I remember him when he just started drinking beer in college.

Nov 24, 2021 - 10:40am

A relative of mine is a CEO of a few companies ($2-5 million size companies, maybe more) he started and is an independent sponsor for a handful fo small LMM companies (wide variety of industries too - consumer/retail, healthcare, tech). His first job was not glamorous at all. He was hired as a temp for a no name consulting group within a F500 company. No story to the C-suite is linear. Everyone comes from different paths. My relative still pulls ~80 hours a week and travels constantly but doesn't answer to anyone.

One of my former mentors is a C-suite for a small public company and makes $1-2 million w/ a good amount in stock. Operational background who started working with the founder early on. One of those few people who became a millionaire while being an early-stage company employee.

  • Analyst 1 in IA
Nov 26, 2021 - 12:15pm

Worked as an analyst at a tech company with ~3k employees. What I noticed is that people are too pussy to bring up what they want out of their careers, and management won't go out of their way to assume. If I wanted to be CFO, the logical path at that company would be to be communicative to management, probably want me to get my CPA, manage a specific area in FP&A, then keep moving up the ladder. Note that this would take lots of time, 10+ years, if at the same company the whole time. It's definitely doable, but you need to be the best at what you do to get that recognition and be extremely vocal on where you want your career to go. The senior director of finance at that company was head of IR for a few years and just keeps moving up the ladder and managing more people, so a more direct path.

What I notice for the CEO route is also vocalizing this interest, but you end up working in different areas of the company. One talented woman who is definitely CEO-worthy worked in Sales for a specific vertical, moved into management for that vertical, then moved into a finance role, and now leads customer retention/customer success. Gives you a lot of exposure to most of the company to be able to lead all parts. However, she will definitely need to leave and either start her own company, or become new CEO of a much smaller company. That's usually how it goes, it seems.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Nov 27, 2021 - 11:35pm

Depends a lot on industry.. CEO typically come from P&L ownership GM positions:

- Product led companies will usually groom future BU / Product Area VP&GMs from the product / R&D org.

- Sales led companies will usually groom GMs from Sales leadership.

- Marketing led companies will usually groom GMs from Marketing leadership (esp. in CPG).

- Services companies will usually groom from Service BU leadership (think global head of IB or S&T, Global Head of Audit, head of a clinical group at a hospital, head of XYZ insurance line, head of NA commercial banking, head of WM, practice head in architecture etc). 

- Nat Res (mining, O&G) is usually engineers / geoscientists who switched to management

- Media & Ent is usually from content production roles

- Hospitality usually from branch operations (i.e. restaurant GM or area manager or VP Ops)

- Retail / Wholesale companies will usually groom from the buying / merch orgs or from retail operations. 

- Consulting -> strategy -> GM is a good way to kind-of bypass the come-up within the org but not every company takes super likely to ex-consultants. Sometimes you still have to do a tour of working in the "incubator org" first before getting the reigns.

- Also just founding a startup or standard cash flow company and taking the CEO position is another way. 

CFO is pretty standard - LDP / direct entry-level / post-MBA start or time spent in public accounting / high finance / consulting then lateral in and climb up.

CMO is also pretty standard - LDP / direct entry-level / post-MBA start or time spent at an agency / in consulting then lateral in and climb up

CTO is mostly rising up in the engineering org of a tech company (think: Jr IC -> Mid IC -> Sr IC -> Manager -> Director -> VP -> CTO) or being a technical co-founder at a startup

CIO / CISO is again either starting out (LDP / direct entry) or lateraling in (consulting / outsourced services firm) then rising up in the internal IT group at a non-tech company

COO in mfg heavy industries is mostly again starting in (LDP / direct entry) or lateraling in (consulting / logistics co / contract manufacturer / warehouse mgmt co) then rising up in the Ops function.

COO in high finance is mostly again either starting out or lateraling into a back office function and climbing the ladder. 

Trend goes on and on for stuff like "chief customer officer", "chief product officer", "chief revenue / commercial / growth / sales officer", "chief HR officer", "chief risk officer", "chief compliance officer", "chief audit executive", "chief accounting officer", "chief strategy officer", "chief content officer", "chief creative officer", "chief investment officer", "chief medical / nursing officer" etc etc etc

Nov 27, 2021 - 11:52pm

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