MBA Candidate at INSEAD / Ex McKinsey / Here to guide you from your very first steps
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profitability case structure product /customer /distribution channel mix


Hi everyone,

I've practiced a few profitability cases recently and I've noticed that how they all end up with different product mix/customer mix/distribution channel mix etc. As a result, I was wondering whether I should incorporate the mix into the framework. The standard profitability framework seems too simple and I would want to break down the cost further by customer/product/channel etc. Any advice & thoughts are appreciated!

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replied on 07/04/2017
MBA Candidate at INSEAD / Ex McKinsey / Here to guide you from your very first steps

Dear Alice,

the most important points in laying out your structure are: be MECE, be quick, be sensible. The breakdown that you are suggesting is a deeper layer that might not even be evident at the beginning of the case. Therefore I would suggest, as a rule valid on average, to bring it up only ahead in the case.

When the time to dig more into each element of your profitability tree comes, it is then a good idea to suggest that there are a number of dimensions you might use and then to pic the one that makes more sense in the specific situation.

However, each rule as exceptions and it might happen that the segmentation is easily understandable from the beginning. In this case, you can mention it with no disruption in the MECEness or speed of your structure. For example, if the case states from the beginning that there are two products originating income, you can already segment the revenues in 2 sub-branches correspondent to the products. Later on in the case, it might be necessary to create sub-brunches, splitting for example each product into different customer-categories. In this case, drawing a matrix might be a good idea to impress your interviewer.

Vlad replied on 07/05/2017
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School

Hi Alice,

I suggest to do 2 things while solving these types of cases:

1) In the beginning of the case, you should ask the clarifying question: "Could you pls tell me more about the business model and what are the revenue streams?". I suggest to ask this question with any case, even if it is not a profitability type.

Why do you need to know the revenue streams? Because it's one of the most critical pieces in understanding the business model. An example is Oil&Gas with up-, mid- and down- streams that are completely different businesses.

2) While you do your structure and split revenues into price and quantity - add proactively the 3rd box with the "Mix". Thus you show your business sense and demonstrate that you know the most common case traps.

Pls note that the "mix" can be anything - geography, customer, product, etc.

Good luck!


Danny replied on 07/04/2017

if it is a interviewee-led case, it may better not be incorporated. if it is interviewer-led, multi-layer framwork may show your deep thinking of the problem. And be cautious, profitability may not always end in that way. Best!

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