Business as a force for good has become a bit of a buzz phrase across the business community.
But if there’s one company living up to the phrase it prominently displays on its website, it’s Ingeus. The London-based organization’s mission is to help people in vulnerable situations around the world find jobs—that includes those coming off welfare or coming out of prison, as well as recently laid off workers searching for a new career.
After a new contract in Asia, Ingeus experienced great success in South Korea, and as a result, hoped to explore the potential of expanding operations to Singapore’s thriving market. South Korea and Singapore are dramatically different markets in terms of who is responsible when a company wants to downsize. In South Korea, with its tradition of lifetime employment, it is the private sector that bears this responsibility. In Singapore, turnover is tolerated with the government playing a significant role in helping citizens who lose their jobs.
For help navigating those relationships, the company turned to Tuck, engaging students through the TuckGO OnSite Global Consulting course to analyze a potential path for expansion. While the company regularly hires management consultants to address strategy questions, for this project, “We never really considered another agency,” says Matt Umscheid T’01, senior vice president of Strategic Services at Providence Service Corporation, which owns Ingeus. He and Providence CEO Jim Lindstrom T’01 were roommates at Tuck and knew what to expect from a team of Tuck MBAs. “I thought back to the maturity, cooperation, and skills that my classmates had when I was at Tuck, and I knew they would bring both the soft skills and hard skills necessary to do a great job.”
The faculty adviser for the project was John Vogel, associate faculty director of the Center for Business, Government & Society, who has taught courses in real estate and nonprofits at Tuck since 1992, and led 10 global consulting projects in 14 different countries. Vogel encouraged students to use the planning phase of the course to reach out to experts in outplacement in the U.S. and schedule interviews beforehand so they could take full advantage of their three weeks on the ground in South Korea and Singapore last winter. Once there, the teams spent 12- to 14-hour days performing several dozen interviews and analyzing the data.
“We had to be focused every day on making sure we were using our time well and getting something of value from every conversation,” says Danielle Musa T’17, the project manager for the six-person team on the Ingeus project. The multi-cultural team, with students from the U.S., Korea, India, and China, frequently pooled knowledge about cultural differences and leveraged their career backgrounds and experience to help inform their recommendations. The team also applied lessons learned from their MBA coursework, including one lesson from Center for Business, Government & Society Senior Fellow John Lynch’s course “The CEO Experience” about defining quality in terms of customer needs. “In some areas they were over-delivering and incurring costs to deliver a service that wasn’t causing any noticeable increase in quality for their customers,” says Musa.
With Vogel as a guide, the Tuck consulting team was able to provide several actionable recommendations to improve the business, but after considering the market, they also had to break the news that one of the company’s major expansion strategies was unlikely to bear fruit. That alone was incredibly helpful to the firm, says Umscheid. “They brought to light a clear view of what our customers needed and helped us deprioritize one of the options we were considering, saving us precious time and resources.”
They helped us deprioritize one of the options we were considering, saving us precious time and resources.
After 25 years at Tuck, Vogel will retire this year, following his passion for affordable housing by taking over as president of the board of a nonprofit housing developer in Vermont. Director of OnSite Kerry Laufer is one of many sad to see him go. “In addition to his incredible work in the classroom, John has been a driving force behind the success of OnSite Global Consulting teams since his first project in India 17 years ago.”
Vogel counts the OnSite Global Consulting engagements he has advised as some of the highlights of his experience at Tuck. “One of the best things about the course is watching how quickly our students go from novices to experts on a particular topic,” he says. “I am often amazed at their brilliance and insight. As an additional benefit, as was true in this case, the six students barely knew each other at the beginning of the trip. By the end, they seemed destined to be lifetime friends.”