In cases, what are some standard benchmarks to know and then to compare the client with?

Bain & Company BCG McKinsey
Recent activity on Oct 23, 2018
5 Answers
1.5 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Oct 21, 2018

For example:

Operating Profit Margin (is below 10% bad?)

Fixed Cost proportion

Variable Cost etc

I know it "depends" on different industries and of course if its a start up etc - but generally speaking what do companies aim for?

Overview of answers

  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
replied on Oct 22, 2018
Collected McKinsey & BCG offers/ Ex-McKinsey consultant/Harvard/WBS/MSU

Hi A,

The best course of actions I suggest is the following:

  1. Benchmark a client across industry competitors (make sure that companies have the same business model)
  2. Find the historical standard deviation of the margins/costs to understand, what could happen in the future and extrapolate it
  3. Understand the drivers of margins (e.g. in metals and mining industry large proportion of EBITDA margins for companies is prices on metals in international markets. If they are high, then margins may be up to 3-5% higher.

Furthermore, if you want to compare companies the most universal metric is EBITDA margin for all industries. Specific metrics do exist, but you can use EBITDA margin as the most widespread and helpful.

All the best,


Was this answer helpful?
replied on Oct 22, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

I honestly couldn't tell you - industries, even regions or time periods, will have such a big influence that a standard answer cannot begin to be useful. One of my previous employers was in the utility business, which you'd normally assume would need a mid-to-high single digit return. Yet a sister company operated on the cost plus model, and the local legislature allowed a ~10% profit margin. For my own employer however, a bankruptcy even meant we had a 27% WACC - so any investment needed to return at least this much. Same industry, same geography and time period (and inflation / economic environment), 3 different answers.

Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on Oct 23, 2018
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

as commented by others, there is no universal metric you can use on this as there are too many variables that could have an influence on a key metric (industry, cycle, geography, stage of company etc..).

The best thing you can do if you get this question in a case is to benchmark with competitors - this should give you an idea on the positioning of the client.



Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on Oct 22, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Don't worry about the actual numbers. The interviewer would share the benchmarks if you ask for them (and if he has them)


Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on Oct 22, 2018

Agree with Guennael,

there is absolutely no way of telling.

There are some very, very general guidelines, like

  • inverse relationship between turnover velocity and return on sales
  • relationship between investment (capex) intensity and EBITDA margins

But I bet you can find counter-examples for each of them...

Was this answer helpful?
Egor gave the best answer


Collected McKinsey & BCG offers/ Ex-McKinsey consultant/Harvard/WBS/MSU
Q&A Upvotes
2 Reviews