Reflecting on the Launch of Hilltop Consultants

5 May

Mini Hilltop Consultants LogoI was recently asked to contribute to a guidebook for new student members of Hilltop Consultants, a student nonprofit consulting organization that I started while I was at Georgetown University. I thought it would be appropriate to also post my thoughts here:

Starting Hilltop Consultants was an exciting part of my university experience at Georgetown. I had heard of other student nonprofit consulting organizations on other campuses, and was surprised to see that none existed in Washington, DC. Given the plethora of nonprofit organizations based in the area, the potential client base was huge. My peers, other undergraduates at the McDonough School of Business, were an ambitious bunch who were eager to find ways to gain real-world experience early on in their university careers. These same ambitions had led many to join The Corp and the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union, and I saw no reason why their energies couldn’t also be directed toward nonprofit consulting projects.

After returning from a semester abroad, in January 2004 I began working on the plan in earnest. A group of three other students answered my calls for assistance to start a new student business organization. We drafted a mission, vision, and business plan, applied for recognition as an official student organization, and recruited the first leadership board for Hilltop. By April of 2004, Hilltop Consultants was a reality. By the time I graduated in May 2005, we had served four clients over the course of two semesters, and hosted the first ever business strategy case competition at Georgetown University, the Business Strategy Challenge.

As a member of Georgetown’s case competition team, I had experienced first-hand the excitement of student case competitions, and saw a great opportunity to expand Hilltop Consultants’ activities into that area. By choosing a local nonprofit organization as the subject of the case study, we were able to further build upon Hilltop’s mission of both serving the DC nonprofit community and enhancing Georgetown students’ opportunities to learn about business by advising the managers of local organizations as they struggled to tackle real-world business challenges. Our first Business Strategy Challenge, in April 2005, focused on the obstacles facing the United Way as it adapted to a fundraising environment in which donors demanded greater transparency about how their donations were being put to use.

After graduating from Georgetown, I spent three years as a management strategy consultant for the Monitor Group. I was lucky to not only gain experience serving many impressive businesses in the United States and abroad, but also served several nonprofit organization. It was incredibly stimulating to work in a place where I was constantly surrounded by a group of people with such incredible intellectual horsepower.

Consulting is a valuable first-step out of an undergraduate education not only for business students, but students from all academic paths. It provides a strong analytical foundation which is valuable to employers in nearly all reaches of the economy. It also provides opportunities to build presentation skills and enhance a person’s professionalism as he or she is put into meetings with more and more senior clients. Finally, it provides excellent opportunities to explore a variety of industries and practice areas (e.g. marketing, finance, operations) to see where your passion lies.

I hope that Hilltop Consultants not only helps students find a way to contribute to the nonprofit community through a higher impact investment of their time than might otherwise be possible, but that it allows students to “test the waters” of a career in consulting. The long hours, the often grueling travel schedule, and your status as “advisor” rather than “decision maker” mean that consulting certainly isn’t the perfect career for everyone. As a first dive into the professional world, however, I can think of few better options available to a recent Georgetown graduate.

-Mitchell Fox

Founder and President, Hilltop Consultants, 2004 – 2005
Consultant, The Monitor Group, 2005 – 2008

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