Bain & Company | University of Cambridge | CV/Resume writing | 770 GMAT
Book a coaching

Tips for developing business acumen

Serdar

Hello,

I am new to case interviews and I have a Computer Science background. While I am studying frameworks and Bootcamp articles, I am struggling to grasp some qualitative factors and they simply do not come to me intuitive. Do you have any advice for how to develop business acumen and literacy.

Thanks,

Serdar

  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Alessandro
Expert
replied on 07/13/2018
Bain & Company | University of Cambridge | CV/Resume writing | 770 GMAT

Broadly agree with Jonathan. A couple extra suggestions:

1) Subscribe to Finimize: They will send you daily updates with recent business/finance news, and explain what is happening (and why) in Layman terms. It's an excellent way to both stay up to date with most recent events in a couple of minutes (e.g. on the commute to work) and also improve your business acumen.

2) Read up on some basic business/microeconomics: Any decent first year of University or even advanced highschool economics should do - to get the basics and understand some key terms (e.g. economies of scale, breakeven point, etc.)

3) Also read through cases to further improve if you run out of cases to watch/listen to

Hope this helps!

Jonathan
Expert
replied on 07/12/2018
McKinsey & Company | University of Cambridge | 50+ cases in various settings

Hi Serdar,

Coming from a politics / philosophy background, I can very much relate to your question. Next to case books etc. these are the things I would recommend:

  • listen to or watch case interviews: there are videos of case interviews on Youtube, and also Victor Cheng audio recordings of cases, which can help you understand how other people act in terms of qualitative aspects during case interviews specfically
  • get involved in startup events: there's this old selling juice on the street thing, but I think startups are a very good option to develop business acumen esp. with your computer science background - maybe try to apply for business plan competitions at your university etc.
  • watch pitches or interview of CEOs and founders: oftentimes founders or CEOs are tasked with presenting an audience of the appeal of their business (model) and they will often do so qualitatively (via eliciting emotions, using metaphors, "proving" with anecdotes etc.)

Hope this helps!

Best wishes,

Jonathan

Vlad replied on 07/12/2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School

Hi,

There are no specific requirements and the recruiting process is the same. However, although officially most of the companies would say that you don't need any specific business knowledge, in reality, it is hard to solve a case purely based on common sense. So the lack of business knowledge becomes a very common problem among the people with various backgrounds

Business Acumen is actually about building proper industry and functional knowledge.

Focus on the most common industries in the following priority (sorted by probability of geting a case): 1-retail and CPG; 2-airlines; 3-Telecom; 4-banking; 5-natural resources; 6-tech

There are several sources of information that will help you develop the business sense:

1) Cases - you simply solve 50-70 cases and get a broad knowledge of different industries, common pitfalls and questions. The key here - find good partners who already had case interviews with MBB companies

2) Company reports, equity reports, IB roadshow docs - usually have a good overview of company and industries.

3) HBS cases - quite useful, but not sure if lot's of them available publically. Probably worth buying

4) Industry Books - one good book about airlines with numbers and industry analysis can give you all needed industry knowledge

5) News, Industry blogs

For each industry, you should understand:

  • Revenue streams
  • Cost structure
  • Margins
  • Key performance indicators
  • Key revenue drivers
  • Industry trends

I strongly recommend drawing the typical structures for each industry - profitability, value chain, etc

Then I will switch to getting functional knowledge:

  • Marketing (Brand and trade marketing tools, etc)
  • Supply chain (Ops metrics like cycle time and throughput time, distribution and delivery specifics, etc)
  • Operations (Process optimization basics)
  • Finance (Very basic Finance and Valuation)

Good Luck

Francesco replied on 07/13/2018
#1 Expert for coaching sessions (1700+) | Ex BCG | 850+ reviews with 100% recommendation rate

Hi Serdar,

the major issue I find people have with developing business acumen is that they cannot make it a daily habit.

There is one simple process that can help you to develop business acumen in a time-efficient way (that is – spending 20mins per day). This is based on understanding first which are the most challenging concepts for you, and then work specifically on such concepts, instead of reading general literature on a topic. To do this, I would recommend the following:

  1. find some good consulting MBA handbooks. You can easily find several good ones online for free (eg Insead)
  2. do/read a minimum of one case every day. Chances are you find more challenging one specific industry. Try to skim through the handbooks looking for that particular sector (eg healthcare). Don’t focus on the structure (usually they are not particular good in these handbooks) but rather on the concepts present in the case. Track all the terminology/concepts that are challenging for you.
  3. once identified concepts you don’t understand, look for more specific resources on that online. If for example you identify it is challenging for you to understand how the typical value chain for an industrial goods company is structured, you can easily find a good structure for it in a 10-minute online search. If you start from reading a book on industrial goods companies, you will of course cover that as well, but also tens of other topics that are not of interest, and spend 4-5 hours instead of 10 mins. This will allow thus to pinpoint the exact areas you have to improve in terms of brainstorming in the case.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

Related BootCamp article(s)

Getting Up to Speed

In order to repeatedly demonstrate prerequisite skills under the pressure of a real case interview, you need to learn the basics and practice cases.

3 Comment(s)

Related case(s)

Bain case: Asian lubricants producer

Solved 66.7k times
4.7 5 25983
| Rating: (4.7 / 5.0)

LubricantsCo, a very successful Asian premium producer of lubricants in their native region, would like to further increase their revenue and profit. The product range ranges from lubricants in the automotive sector (e.g. motor and gear oil) to industrial applications (e.g. fats, heavy-duty oils). ... Open whole case

Deloitte Consulting case: Footloose

Solved 40.2k times
4.5 5 12164
| Rating: (4.5 / 5.0)

Duraflex is a German footwear company with annual men’s footwear sales of approximately €1 b. They have always relied on the boot market for the majority of their volume. In this market they compete with three other major competitors. In the fall of 2013, Badger – one of Duraflex’s competitior ... Open whole case

Your client, large automotive OEM WyCar, has developed its first fully electric vehicle (EV) and introduced it as a pilot on the Austrian market last year. However, sales have been far below the expected numbers. The management has engaged you to support them in understanding the reasons and advise ... Open whole case

Roland Berger case: Light on!

Solved 32.5k times
4.7 5 12833
| Rating: (4.7 / 5.0)

LumCO, a company producing injection-molded components for lighting applications, has operated successfully in its native European market. The company wants to open up one production facility each in China and the United States and establish their own distribution network in both countries to serve ... Open whole case

DHL Consulting case: Bike Shop

Solved 30.1k times
4.3 5 10378
| Rating: (4.3 / 5.0)

You have been hired to support the owner of a bike-shop as a business consultant. The bike-shop has suffered a significant revenue decline during the last year, and now the owner would like you to assess the situation and options for the way forward. They want to know last year’s profit, i.e. how i ... Open whole case