tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg October 9, 2021 9:00am-9:31am EDT
♪ david: this is my kitchen table and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i have been an investor. the highest calling of mankind, i often thought, was private equity and then i started interviewing. i watched her interviewing so i know how to do some interviewing. i have learned from doing my interviews how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked him how much he wanted and he said 250. i said fine. i did not negotiate with him. i did no due diligence.
david: i have something i would like to sell. and how they stay there. you don't feel inadequate being the second wealthiest man in the world now, is that right? one of the greatest businesses in the what is consulting. with more than 560 9000 employees and a market cap of over $200 million. julie sweet has grown it dramatically in the year she has been ceo. i had a conversation with her about why everyone uses consultants and why everyone should be a consultant. david: it seems as though everyone is a consultant these days. when people are being raised, they don't say i hope you grow to be a consultant. why does everybody want to be a consultant and what are these
consultants doing? julie: i think we actually defy the label "consultant." sometimes consultant seems to imply we only give advice. when you look at what accenture does, we are different than a more traditional version of a consultant. our clients like to us for two things, relevant, how to be relevant today and tomorrow, like in jaguar and land rover who hired us to help them dramatically transform the marketing of their vehicles and the experience of their owners. the other thing they look for his results, not just advice but actually how do things change and how do you execute, like someone who hires us for supply chain where we help digitize it and change their inventory results, their inventory turnaround. we don't sibley consult in a traditional sense. we are really about relevance and results. that is what is driving our business. david: let's suppose i am a large corporation and i have a problem. typically today, when you have a problem, what you do is call a consultant. they call you up and say will
you consult with me to help solve my problem. you then put in a team of people? francine: that's a -- julie: that's a great question. on the most import things, we always start with either the problem or the opportunity. we are very focused on repeatable solutions that get customized by the client but not trying to be the spolk. the old consulting has let me come in and bring a bunch of people and study it, but today, you can start with data. we serve 75% of the top 4500 companies. what we are bringing our solutions and we invest a lot. we will spend about 400 million and acquisitions, 800 million in r&d. we have over 7000 patents. patents pending. all of these things are assets to help our clients achieve their goals faster and with higher quality than they can on
their own. that is really the test. sometimes we say clients don't hire us because their business cases are ambitious enough that they don't need us. david: if i call you up and say solve a problem and give me a solution. how long does it take? six months, a year, or is it five or 10 years? julie: one of the most important things that has come out of covid is the need to move very quickly. not a lot of clients post-covid -- they say we move so fast, i want to keep going. i would ask a simple question, i would say what have you changed? oftentimes, they have not changed. we don't operate as big companies permanently in crisis mode. if you think about how long does it solve things, a lot of it starts with the company being willing to set aggressive goals. right?
so we are doing where, for example, with a large consumer goods company where we are going to, and 12 weeks, going to have a pilot to improve their manufacturing. that pre-covid would have probably been a six month project. not because of accenture but because of how the client worked. what we are trying to do now is work with our clients to work differently and to work faster. david: how do you charge? do you charge by the hour? by the project? is it a cost profit thing? what is the secret to your billing? julie: our preference is to either have a fixed fee or to have something that shares upside or downside, and the reason for that is we don't view ourselves as a vendor or a consultant in that we are keeping ourselves at arms length. we believe the best way to get success is to co-create solutions, have integrated
teams. the advice i often will give ceos is our team at accenture and the client's team should have the exact same performance objective, so they are completely aligned. not every client is willing to work that way, but we think it is really important. so we have plenty of clients that want to bill by the hour and that is their choice but that is not our preference. david: let's suppose somebody hires your firm and they have it -- have a one-year consulting project and at the end end of it, they say i don't like this consulting advice and i am not going to pay your bill. does that ever happen? julie: we are not perfect, so it may happen, butch a mona if it takes us a year to figure out if our client does not like what we do. one of the things we focus on a lot is working with the client, day in and day out, side-by-side and not throwing things over a wall to consultants. unlikely that this specific scenario would happen. david: without violating
confidences, can you give me an example, somewhere you advice some -- somebody and it turned out great for them, that they are willing to brag about the great job you did? julie: we have lots of examples of that. if you take the example of shiseido. we have announced a partnership there and we talked about compressed transformation. we are helping them digitize their experience of the end consumer, we are helping them redo their inventory and their systems. this is something we are both very proud of, the work we are doing. david: if you need a consultant, who do you call? mckenzie or one of your own people? julie: normally one of our own people. i will give you a great example. when i became ceo, i needed to put in a new operating model, and i wanted to do it faster than we had ever done in our past and any client had done to prove that you can move at scale. six months, the biggest change
in our history. at the time, our practice was completely sold out. -- out to do change management and new work design. the head of my practice at i think you should hire this small company. my leaders were like why are we hiring a different consultant? within two weeks, the same leaders came back and said we need them to be part of accenture and they are today. i'm grateful they took the call because i am sure it was a little intimidating to have accenture hire someone. the lesson for that is to have humility. one of the things i think that is so important, when we look at leaders and industry around digitization, it is those willing to not only build themselves who think they have all of the answers but look outside. accenture did the same. david: did you have mistakes you made or failures you can talk about so people feel you are not a superhuman? julie: people ask that question
as if the only challenges at work. challenges in a lot of different , packages. ♪ david: now there's a lot of ceos being asked to take stances on policy issues, voter rights, and things like that. do you think you should be taking this position on these or do you as a ceo, should you be taking positions were not really it is about the position -- or not? julie: really it is about the position being asked about. we start if we have relevance. are we willing to walk the talk? we are one of the largest employers in the world. we are very diverse employer. we have been systematically making sure that we have equal pay for equal jobs for about seven to eight years now in terms of robust systems.
when we were asked to sign a commitment, by president obama, a commitment, we thought we could sign it -- when we were asked to sign, by president obama, a commitment, we thought we could sign it. we were relevant and we were walking the talk. we look at whether it is relevant to our business and if we have something relevant to say. we have to make sure we are committed to take action, not just to say that something else should but at our own company. david: traditionally ceos of public companies are supposed to worry about their shareholders. there is a view that maybe you should think about other stakeholders, employees, your customers, your communities. do you focus on your share price and the stockholders only or do you worry about other constituents when running the company? julie: we look at our stakeholders as being our employees, clients, partners, certainly shareholders but also our communities. we have done so for a long time because we think that is good for business and also what creates shareholder value.
we think it is important for our shareholders that we take that broad view. ♪ david: let's talk about how you rose up to be the ceo. you grew up where? julie: i grew up in tustin, california. which has a little sign and it says "work where you must but live and shop in tustin." so southern california. david: i thought it would have a sign called home of julie sweet. [laughter] doesn't have that yet? julie: we will have to work on that. david: were you a star athlete in high school or anything like that? julie: i was a speech and debate star. when i was a freshman, used to do two kind of things. my dad would get into his vw and do the lions club and i'm greatly appreciated of of all the clubs because they help me earn money for college. then i was on the speech and
debate team. i really loved that. my parents did not love it so much at times because apparently i used the skills against them, but it was definitely a great way of creating a skill that i used today. david: if you are a debate champion, you can debate your parents? julie: yes. [laughter] david: where did you go to college? julie: claremont mckenna college in southern california and then columbia law school. david: did your parents say that you should be a lawyer or you went to become a lawyer because you are good at talking and debating? is that why you went to law school? julie: i wanted to be a lawyer since i was in eighth grade. i remember my senior year in college before i wrote and accepted going to columbia, one of my professors said have you ever met a lawyer? i said no. he said i am not letting you sign away -- i was barring the money to go to law school -- until you have met a lawyer. i met a lawyer integrates, i
still want to go to law school. and i went to law school. david: you went across the country and i don't know why you went to columbia because you like a place that begins with a c? what prompted you to go from claremont to columbia? julie: i looked back and i'm not sure why i had this at the time. maybe because i went to china during college but i grew up in southern california and i thought i should experience the east coast. i fully intended to go back to southern california but i fell in love with new york. so it was a deliberate decision that i needed to diversify my experience. david: if you graduated -- after you graduated from columbia, you went to work for crevasse. i was a summer associate at that and why did you pick them? it wasn't a place a lot of women had become partners at. julie: it wasn't. at the time, i remember when i came back and accepted my offer, all of my women friends said what have you done and my male friends were like
congratulations. it was definitely not at the time selective choice. it is now run by a woman and i picked it because i had no intention of staying a lawyer. it was the best in the world and i wanted to go there for two years and go off and make my career, at the time i thought, and asia. david: you stayed, became a partner, the third woman partner? julie: i was the third woman corporate partner and ninth woman partner history of the firm. david: so you are a corporate partner at crevasse, a known law firm let's say. where the people shocked? julie: i think they were surprised but i was leaving for a great role so they were supportive. i still remember being at my desk and picking up the phone when a recruiter called me about the accenture job. it was a few months after my
father had passed away. a very young age, 68. looking back, i think that is why i took the meeting. i basically said i am 42 years old and i could see my future. i love my future. i loved cravath. i think it was the last gift of my dad. david: did you think when you join the company that a female would be part of this giant organization or did you think it was going to be a male-run thing? julie: i didn't really think about it because i joined as general counsel and as the general counsel, in coming and where the average tenure on the leadership team when i joined was 30 years, i did not come in with the expectation that i would be ceo. really, when we think about how do you make a change in leadership and how do you continue to foster diversity in
david: you're one of the largest private employers in the united states, is that right? julie: that's right. that's globally, of course. last year, we are proud that we added a net 100,000 jobs last -- jobs around the globe. david: during the period of covid, you added that many jobs? why was business so good during the covid period? julie: when you think about what happened in covid, overnight, we all moved online. accenture, since 2013, has been building our capabilities in digital cloud and security. at the time of covid, we became relevant and critical for all of the world's leading companies. when you look at the fiscal year, which just ended, we actually had more clients that who had -- clients who had over $100 million in bookings over the first three quarters of our
fiscal year than all of last year, driven by what we call compressed transformation, the need to digitize all parts of the business. david: one of your competitors -- and you may not admit you have competitors but a company called mckenzie, you have probably heard of them, say we don't want to be a publicly traded company, we are a partnership. it is easier to do this when you are not a publicly traded company. you are a publicly traded company with a market cap of over $200 million. what do you think about the view that consultants should be privately owned as opposed to publicly traded? julie: it is an interesting question. for us, the markets are an important part of discipline. we give our results every quarter, and we think it attracts talent. our employee value proposition is a really strong one because of our stock. that is a huge part. we have to pay for a culture -- a pay for performance and a culture that is tied to creating value for all of our stockholders. it served us well in terms of
attracting great talent. david: not competing with private equity i hope. you are going to try to steal people from private equity to go into consulting, i hope. julie: they're actually acquiring a lot in professional services. david: that's why you see a lot of acquisitions there. you are doing this from washington, dc. washington, dc is a great place, the capitol of our country, but it is not a place known to run local businesses from. why are you headquartered in washington, dc? julie: we have not had a headquarters really since -- for 30 years -- three decades at least. pre-covid, we were probably the largest organization running itself remotely. our leaders are around the world and so the sort of defective headquarters has always been where the ceo is. so the last ceos in paris, it was in paris. before that, it was boston, before that, it was dallas. d.c. is a great place to be based. this is the first time in 30
years the ceo and cfo are out of the same office. i am very fortunate to have the cfo here with me in d.c. david: during the covid period of time, did you go into the office or work remotely? julie: i worked remotely. none of the things we are famous for is being very close to our clients. so our offices are not the center of our work and because we have a distributed leadership team, i literally -- even pre-covid -- would go beyond for these team calls. i wanted to make sure that our people felt comfortable working from home and did not feel pressure to go into the office. david: how do you meet your clients? you don't go meet them yourself so much because you have other people around the world. during the covid period of time i assume he did not meet anybody, traveling from your office to your home, if that. julie: right. pre-covid i did definitely travel a lot. i think we have all learned,
however, that during covid connections can be built remotely. certainly my fun fact was i became ceo september 1, 2019, and six months and 11 days after becoming ceo, covid, the pandemic was declared. i've had an interesting first couple years and i built really strong relationships by leveraging technology and really thinking about how do you build connections. i think one of the great learnings out of covid is this idea of omni connections. i think too many people focus on remote work and hybrid work at physical locations as opposed to how do you connect with people, when do you need to do it physically, how to be intentional, and what is required for connections. david: how do you keep up with what is going on around the world? you have so many consultants, and you know all of the big projects, do you get reports daily, weekly, monthly about
what is going on? if there are problems, do you have to woo the clients yourself to get the business? julie: first and foremost, i lead by example. our business is about clients. every quarter, i publish, for all my managing directors, how many client meetings i have had and how many meetings i have had with our ecosystem partners to reinforce that our business begins with understanding our clients. i called the proximity imperative. i spend a good piece of my time with clients, not just wooing them, not in a sales mode but understanding them and building relationships. that is what the entire situation with accenture is built on, the proximity with clients. with respect to how i run the business, one of the most important lessons that any leader has is you build a great team and you rely on them for what they have been asked to do. i don't micromanage. i focus on who is doing what and what do i need to know and
having a great team. david: let's suppose i go to business school and do reasonably well there and want to be a consultant and you interview me or someone interviews me. what are the skills you are looking for? is it hard work, integrity, brilliance, what makes a good consultant? julie: all of those are table stakes, but one of the things we really look for -- yes, you want people who work hard, who have performed well, but the most important skill we see is the willingness to learn because the environment around us is changing. we know from a skills perspective, skills in 2017, 30% of them are obsolete today. we test for learning. we ask basic questions like what have you learned in the last six months that was not in a classroom? so learning agility, curiosity are really core to hiring
philosophy. david: what do you do when you are not consulting? do you have outside interests? julie: i took up tennis during covid, which was pretty brave at 52. i can actually at the ball. i'm not great, but i can play a game. mostly, i focus on my two daughters who are 13 and about to be 15. david: have you thought about hiring a consultant for your tennis game? if you hire a consultant, that would improve your tennis game, right? julie: most of the time, i play tennis with a coach because that way i can actually hit the ball and get a little better. david: ok. if the president of the united states call you and said you are running a gigantic company, i need more women leaders in my government, why don't you come in and be secretary of something important, what would you say echo julie: i would say i am honored to be asked but have really important work to do in the private sector. david: so you would not go in
right now? julie: but is not my current aspiration. david: someone watching this can say someone has an incredible personal life, rose up and now she is the ceo of this gigantic company. can you cite something that did not work in your professional life so people can feel you are not a superhuman and make people feel good that they can see somebody made a mistake? do you have any mistakes or failures you can talk about? julie: people ask that question as if the only challenge is at work. for me, work has been a great place. i have had a lot of success and i don't have a spectacular failure. but in my own personal life, my father died when he was 68. i had breast cancer. we had drug addiction in our family, mental health issues. so of the things that i learned one is challenges come in a lot of different packages. to have empathy for people, you
know -- when someone is having a bad day, you don't know if that is because they have something going on at home or in their personal life. my challenges have not been about spectacular failures at work but there have been challenges. and i talk about that because i think that is true for a lot of people. ♪
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