Q&A: Strategic Planner at F500 Industrial Company

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Hey Everyone! I wanted to post a Q&A to share my background, experiences, and answer any questions you may have regarding a career as a Strategic Planner. In short, I graduated from a non-Target with a degree in Finance and Operations and spent a few years at an OFS company in a Rotational Leadership Development Program and subsequent roles before joining another F500 industrial company as a Strategic Planner. For those that may not be familiar with Strategic Planning, my role is to support the President & GM of our region by helping to lay the foundation for our strategy to grow market share, profit, and expand into niche areas of our industry. This enables me to participate in high-level discussions with corporate and allows me to gain first-hand experience of operating a division at an executive management level.

Comments (17)

 
Dec 17, 2019 - 11:36pm

@[email protected]" hours and comp depend (at least for my company) whether you came in as a post-MBA student or non-MBA with previous background in a relevant industry. It also depends on what division you work in (obviously the more profitable one's will have better benefits and bonus will be substantially greater).

Comparing to PE, consulting, and IB your comp will definitely be lower but hours are significantly better. For most MBAs, depending on the projects and assignments its a typical 8-6 unless you're on the road traveling.

Just to give you some perspective, as a non-MBA I make $90K with no bonus and standard benefits working 8-5 for the most part in a low-cost major metro area. MBAs would be around $105-115K but there are some who have significant experience in similar industries and or have an engineering background that will make more (some also receive bonuses which varies but I wouldn't expect more than $25K.)

This may sound disappointing but I will point out you will have a better work-life balance compared to IB, PE, consulting, etc. Also, specifically for post-MBAs the expectation is for you to take on a Senior management position with a track towards VP/GM role or running a division after your 2 years are up (2 years is about average tenure for Strategic Planners before they move onto another role).

 
Dec 18, 2019 - 8:14pm

Thanks for the AMA!

What're the kind of projects you work on, which teams do you who you interact with on the day-to-day, any C-suite access at your level? Is it a lot of powerpoints, excel, meetings?

Also curious if people on your team or similar teams have sell-side ER experience if so maybe you can share how they managed that?

Personally quite interested in this kind of role. I'm currently a few years into an associate stint in ER and I don't see myself staying in it forever. The only issue is I'm not meeting with F500 companies, the ones we cover are much smaller, though I feel having F500 on a resume stands out and could have major benefits later on in a career.

 
Most Helpful
Dec 18, 2019 - 10:51pm

sdkhd12:

Thanks for the AMA!

What're the kind of projects you work on, which teams do you who you interact with on the day-to-day, any C-suite access at your level? Is it a lot of powerpoints, excel, meetings?

Also curious if people on your team or similar teams have sell-side ER experience if so maybe you can share how they managed that?

Personally quite interested in this kind of role. I'm currently a few years into an associate stint in ER and I don't see myself staying in it forever. The only issue is I'm not meeting with F500 companies, the ones we cover are much smaller, though I feel having F500 on a resume stands out and could have major benefits later on in a career.

sdkhd12:
What're the kind of projects you work on, which teams do you who you interact with on the day-to-day, any C-suite access at your level? Is it a lot of powerpoints, excel, meetings?

For pre-MBAs projects can include market analysis to understand how to position a new product, developing and executing a S&OP process for a business unit, assisting sales and product management on strategy development for turnaround efforts (for struggling product lines or business units) to give you some examples.

For post-MBAs your projects will be a bit more strategic and involve heavy interaction with C-Suite Executives. They can include M&A analysis and execution (owning the entire process from initial due diligence to integration), assisting C-Suite Executives with Investor Day presentations, or developing strategic road map for 2025 with plans of how to achieve profitability of X, market share gains of Y, and CAGR growth of Z%, etc.

In both pre- and post-MBA roles you will have frequent interactions with upper management. Post-MBAs however will have significantly greater interactions with C-Suite whereas pre-MBAs tend to have more involvement with division leaders and World Area Presidents. Its not uncommon for post-MBAs to work directly with the CEO whereas for pre-MBAs that would be very rare.

The above also depends on your location. If you are offered and are assigned to Corporate HQ expect greater access to C-Suite whereas with division HQ you'll typically spend more time with the division President and his/her immediate reports.

Also with my company specifically post-MBAs spend 2 years in their roles and will rotate to different business units or from Corporate HQ to say Regional HQ and their respective leadership.

Also its worth mentioning that a Strategic Planner is a Chief of Staff type role where you are expected to work hand-in-hand with your President or VP/GM and their is an expectation that you will not only take on special projects of sensitive nature but you will also be expected to be the "eyes and ear" for the President or whomever you report to which is interesting because you will be exposed to and learn about Corporate Politics.

The work will involve PowerPoint and Excel heavily so having proficiency in PPT and Excel will be immensely helpful (IB level skills will make you a God in front of everyone but being able to program and understand SQL or GRETL as an example will help you stand out and give you the ability to take on even more mission critical and meaningful projects).

You will also have the unique opportunity to lean ERP systems like SAP or Oracle, Salesforce CRM, Power BI, and other wider range programs which will definitely make you a more well-rounded employee which would be a boon for consulting if you decide to pivot to a career in that space.

Expect lots of meetings, events, and moderate to heavy travel. Its definitely manageable and will afford you a solid work-life balance with the occasional sacrifices but again, depends on what assignment you land and or who you report to (i.e. President of XYZ Division vs President one level below CEO).

sdkhd12:
Also curious if people on your team or similar teams have sell-side ER experience if so maybe you can share how they managed that?

None that I know of but if you're worried that it will shut you out of a potential Strategic Planning role, don't worry (I'll explain more in a bit).

sdkhd12:
Personally quite interested in this kind of role. I'm currently a few years into an associate stint in ER and I don't see myself staying in it forever. The only issue is I'm not meeting with F500 companies, the ones we cover are much smaller, though I feel having F500 on a resume stands out and could have major benefits later on in a career.

I wouldn't worry about your lack of exposure to F500. I found my current role simpily by applying on LinkedIn. Main thing for you to decide is if you want to do this pre-MBA or post-MBA.

For pre-MBA applying online and maybe getting someone on the inside to push your resume (no different than any other job) is the key. Once you land an interview you should focus on your ER background and be able to draw on your background as a way to explain why you fit. In ER you've done detailed research and have been forced to understand entire industries and business models quickly so having that background is definitely a plus!

For post-MBA the standard route is applying for an internship and then being given a full-time offer. The company I work for recruits at MBA programs at the alma mater of most of the C-Suite Executives. Also just like other F500s Harvard is prime recruiting ground for Strategic Planners and quite a few post-MBAs have come from Harvard, Yale, Michigan, Washington at St. Louis, etc. so quite a range of programs (being a Harvard MBA makes things MUCH easier).

Hope this helps

 
Jan 2, 2020 - 4:53pm

Thanks for the AMA.

Have you seen trends with people coming in from consulting? Interested in moving into F500 Corp Strategy, but not keen on a pay cut.

2ish YOE from undergrad with 130kish base in a high cost of living city. Have you seen companies matching or exceeding consulting offers, as I know most people don't take pay cuts when they leave consulting?

I'd imagine I would need to enter as a manager at least if I do not want a pay cut.

Also, interested primarily in life sciences (biotech, pharma) space

 
Jan 26, 2020 - 11:21pm

randomnumbers234238324353 sorry for the late reply. Specifically within my company no, I have not seen anyone with a prior consulting background coming into a Strategic Planning role. As such I can't answer matching pay but what I can say is that, for most industrial companies I can't imagine you being able to exceed or even match what you would make at a BCG or McKinsey.

The markets have been doing well but the industrial economy is struggling and this partially plays into the salaries offered. Great for post-MBAs or those coming from smaller consulting firms or boutique but probably not great for those coming from the Big 3 (although as you move out of your role into say a VP/GM role your pay goes up dramatically).

What I haven't found numbers on is if you came in as a Director or VP of Strategic Planning. I imagine most companies want to groom from within and then elevate to these types of roles but if you managed to land one, you could definitely get a good starting salary that can match or even exceed consulting (definitely better than $130K).

I can't speak for Life Sciences but the company I work for has niche business units that deal with Life Science customers for there are opportunities at various industrial companies where you could gain that exposure (albeit not 100% focused).

 
Jan 10, 2020 - 6:42pm

Really informative, sounds like a great opportunity.
What kinds of questions did you get on your interview, and what skills are best to showcase? Were you given any technical questions? Case studies? What do you think is most useful to know (aside from the obvious Excel/PPT), especially regarding ability to research/write or present?
Do you do presentations, for Sr. management, for example?

 
Jan 26, 2020 - 11:37pm

Shaynepunim

What kinds of questions did you get on your interview, and what skills are best to showcase?

Since I came in as a pre-MBA and reported to a VP/GM of North and South America my experiences were different than others. However what I can share is standard and expected across even post-MBA roles.

My interviews were heavily focused around my resume and discussing projects and initiatives that I was involved with as well as the outcomes. We also had extensive discussions around the business climate as well as challenges facing the industry (great opportunity to showcase examples of overcoming similar challenges or at least ideas you have that can solve XYZ).

Being able to speak intelligently about market conditions and typical business situations (i.e. post-M&A growing pains) is very good to showcase and discuss to enhance your profile as a candidate. Problem solving skills and being able to probe the interviewer for pain points he/she is dealing with and then using that info to present examples of past situations you handled is also a great way to demonstrate the value you would bring as a Strat Planner.

No technical questions for me and no case studies.

What do you think is useful to know (aside from the obvious Excel/PPT?

Glad you asked! Industrial's are notorious for having outdated and archaic processes and frequently use Excel where an ERP system would be more appropriate. Being able to leverage Power BI and present data in dashboards, being able to use tools within PPT such as Mekko Graphics to take data and build specialty charts, having basic knowledge of SQL or even Python helps with data analysis (Access in some cases).

Market analysis and being able to write case studies on niche and often difficult topics (e.g. Market analysis and strategic plan for penetrating machine vision industry, leveraging 3D printing to reduce MRO spend, etc.)

Do you do presentations for Sr. Management?

All.The.Time. Your job as a Strat Planner, especially if you are paired with a VP/GM or President is to be their right hand man and adviser so you will be doing a lot of presentations.

 
Jan 14, 2020 - 4:56pm

I know most want to stay anonymous here, but really curious which F500 you're at. We're in the same general industry, but def not the same company. If you're open to connecting shoot me a PM.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy
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