Fun conversation with Matt Louis of Deloitte. Matt has a variety of experience in business and has had both a successful military and Deloitte consulting career. We cover a wide range of topics and spend a considerable amount of time discussing his book, Mission Transition (link: https://amzn.to/3c0MSHj). Be sure to connect with him and all that he’s doing, in addition to the book.
So anyway, really, really excited that you’re here and I’m really excited to welcome our guest this week. We have Matt Louis. Matt comes to us from the United States Army, had a great conversation with him previously about some of the work that he’s doing. So he’s had a phenomenal career spanning several different companies and several different opportunities. And I’m going to shameless plug his book that he is so kindly put out. It’s just called Mission Transition: Navigating the Opportunities and Obstacles to Your Post-Military Career. So I’m incredibly grateful that he’s authored that and shared it with me. And I hope that you’ll pick it up as well. So anyway, Matt, I just wanna welcome you, man. Thank you so much for being here today.
Thank you for having me, Aaron. I really appreciate it. Really looking forward to the conversation, and really, the honor is mine.
Fantastic. Well, you know, I love to open up every one of these with just a quick little history about who you are, what were you like as a kid, what inspired you to join the military? What was that whole process, that journey, like for you?
Sure. Well, I’m the oldest of six kids. Middle-class paternalistic family here in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I still currently reside. For me, growing up and being the oldest in a large family that didn’t have a lot of wealth, I knew that my collegiate experience was likely not going to be provided by anyone in my family. And so I did well enough in school and well enough in athletics – football, track among them. Then I was getting some looks from some fairly reputable schools. I also happened to live right across the street from a gentleman that was an American high school hall of fame coach and was a huge influence on not just my own father, but a good many of my extended family. And he’s the one that suggested that I look into the service academies or that my father had me look into the service academies.
And so that was the seed that was planted. And the more I looked into it, the more I saw a couple of things. One, for me, it was an avenue to number one, Ivy League caliber education, number two, full-time job upon graduation, which wasn’t a guarantee back in those days. And you know, three, the ability to pick up skill set and lead coming out. So you know, that made all the sense in the world to me at the time. And an opportunity to play football too, which was on my agenda then. That dream didn’t come to pass. But it was at least a bridge to West Point.
Sure. Well, I mean, that’s a terrific story. And I think that there’s a lot of people who just aren’t aware of the options related to service academies and ROTC and some of these other programs that are available to people. And so, I mean, the way that you articulate that is really neat because, like you said, you’re able to kind of knock several things off your list all in one shot. And it really does. At least in my experience, it’s been an experience, going through the military is something that just really sets you up for the rest of your life, the rest of your career, and kind of helps frame some of the things that you do and the thought process that goes into that. So share with us a little bit about then your time in and then your decision to get out. What was that journey like for you there?
Yeah, for sure. So I was on active duty and I had a long career after active duty. All total, including my time at the academy, about 25 years. So four in the academy, five on active and another 16 in the reserves. When I was on active, it would have been ‘91 through ‘96 timeframe. This was a post Persian Gulf War drawdown time period. Not a great time to be on active duty if you’re looking to have a lot of money thrown at your unit for training purposes and whatnot. Kind of the opposite was taking place. And because of that, from where I sat, I was in a position in an armor unit. I graduated as an armor officer and spent five years coming up through the ranks there. Various platoon leaders, tank leader, scout platoon leader, executive officer, regimental staff, et cetera.
There wasn’t a real bright future. Because again, just being the drawdown army as it was. And at that time, I was actually married by the time I was leaving active duty and I saw continuance on active duty was going to entail for the relocations. My wife is a physician, at that time was in medical school. And all of those logistics involved just complicated things for me and just life in general. And so I made the decision to leave active duty that is. And I saw the transition to the civilian world. I recognized enough in myself that having spent at that point almost a decade of my life in the military that making that hard cut to the civilian world wasn’t going to be an easy thing.
And so I saw graduate school as kind of a bridge, if you will. So I use that as my transition vehicle, two years full time to, as I called it at the time, D program and really do a couple of things. I mean, there was some truth to that. But, you know, truth of the matter is it did a couple of things for me. One, obviously allowed me to up-skill and acquire some things that I didn’t have at that point in time that I was going to need to be successful in the civilian world. And in the course of doing so was rubbing elbows with people that had worked in the civilian world. And so it could kind of become culturally acclimatized, if you will, to how the real world was going to operate. And, you know, definitely my book certainly gets into that. There’s some time needed for reflection on kind of understanding who you are and who you want to be and where are you and what you bring to the world is going to fit based on what those opportunities look like when you get out.
Yeah. I mean, I’ll shamelessly plug this for you, okay? So, you know, there are several sections I’ve marked in this book, but when you go to the Understand Who You Are section and there’s a phrase that you use in there. I’ve heard it used and maybe different frames before, but it was a great way to see this phrase the way that you used it, which is understanding your true north also helped you understand how to relate to others. And so I thought that was a great, great statement. And then you broke it down, you know, first who then what and then you had the self-discovery sequence. And I think that’s kind of right. That’s kinda what you’re talking about right now, right? You’re kind of going through this journey of, okay, I was known as and I was an armor officer. Now I’m in business school and it has given me some time to kind of figure out, okay, who the heck am I? What does this all look like?
Yeah. Just some context on that. I mean, the book is a product of 20, going on 30 years now of experience, and not only going through my own journey, but helping others make the same journey, which is not easy. When I left active, there was relatively little. There was a program by the name of ACAP (Army Career Alumni Program) was in its infancy. It was literally administering your last five days on active duty. It’s an exercise of the blind leading the blind. And I wasn’t alone. Every veteran in my generation went through the same thing. And we had to fend for ourselves. And necessity being the mother of invention, I used things such Dick Bolles’ What Color Is Your Parachute and a number of other guides to help undertake a series of exercises and do the self-reflection, come up with what needed to be done.
And so that’s purposely the way that I approach the book. It is a field manual. It is crawl walker on step one, two, three. You made reference to some of the exercises in there. It’s purposely laid out that way. So that those transitioning from the military can easily adapt to their way of thinking, their way of approaching a problem set and taking that on doing their own self-discovery and finding out where are their proper landing spot is in the real world.
No, and I’m going to jump back in here again. And again, for those that are watching this, please know Matt did not slip me a $20,000 check to plug his book. Like this really is a solid, solid reference. And he was kind enough to provide this to me in advance and I took the time to go through it and to pick out a few points that I thought would just be really awesome value add. And I don’t care where you are in your journey, whether you just got out a year ago, or you’ve been out of the service for 10, 20 years, I think there’s a lot of really great things worthy of kind of revisiting.
And so, Matt, one thing I was going to say about the book was I like how you laid it out. And that’s one of the things I noticed throughout the whole book was there’s a theme and it was very sequential, right? So we’re all very, very logical animals. I know coming from, I mean, you in armor, I came from a field artillery background as a field artillery officer. And so, I mean, everything is SOP and it’s not just limited to those similarities. I mean, everywhere in the military, everything is driven by SOPs. And so I liked the way it was laid out because it makes the people that are like – especially the people who just love checklists and procedures, it speaks to those people, for sure. Because it’s like, okay, I’m going to do this first then I’m gonna do this. But it does. It set you up. And then as you advance through the book, you know, kind of how you would lead off, like when it was like the section about a negotiating a job offer. You’re like, hey, congratulations, you’ve done all these other million things right to get to this point. There’s a lot of stuff that you had to do.
And so, you know, there’s a chart in here that talks about, which I thought was really fascinating. So it showed the transitioning veteran and it showed like all the different branches that they can go to. So it’s like non-government service, college/graduate school and then government service. And it just continues to branch its way out from there. So really, really, really awesome visual in terms of what’s available to you as a veteran or as someone who’s gonna retire.
Yeah. I think I call it the career decision tree and, you know, and I pulled it together kind of going back, putting myself in my 25, 26-year-old shoes. And folks pondering a similar decision today, yeah, the world is your oyster, but let’s break that down a little bit. Yes, you can and go do anything, but what are the typical paths that are available to you given the skill sets you’ve acquired through X number of years you’ve had in service today? So that’s why I did that. By the way, interesting that you’re artillery, which means that we’re both going to have hearing problems at some point.
If I get another comment over my shoulder here, you see the book, but just below it, just to give it a little street credit, it was just awarded a Silver Book Award by the Nonfiction Authors Associates.
Congratulations. That’s awesome.
There’s a lot written on this topic. A lot of good intent out there. I’m proud that it’s finally gotten some recognition.
Yeah. Well, I mean, again, I think it’s probably because, to me, it just seems like you took the time to put together a quality product, right? And so that’s my just initial from the hip assessment. It looks like this may have taken you a few minutes to put together, but I think it’s reflective. Like I think that the quality is there, right? And so I guess I’m saying it doesn’t surprise me that it’s picking up some recognition, which I think is terrific.
So let’s shift gears a little bit and we can revisit the book. I’m going to make sure we come back to it during our talk here. But talk me through then. So you’re in grad school or you’re in business school rather. You finished business school and then you’re now embarking on your professional journey. So was that like for you?
Right. So part of my own self-discovery sequence through grad school and doing my own set of exercises was maneuvering through what I want to be when I grew up. But coming out of the military, I initially had a thought that human resources was where I wanted to be. Coming from the army, dealing with a lot of people, people being the mission, et cetera. But I understood while doing some job shadowing and some other approaches that that wasn’t where my skill set truly was, which was more on operations. And so that’s where I ended up focusing on graduate school, operations and finance. And how I parlayed that into the real world is through some operations roles.
Initially at Procter & Gamble. That’s where I initially landed coming out of graduate school. I had at least in my mind and had been told I had an opportunity to have a broad-based operational series of roles at that organization but came to find out given again an introduction to various corporate cultures, Procter & Gamble corporate culture, its term for promote from within, they’re, I think, finally in the midst of trying to change that and that they’re hiring people from the outside. But forever and a day, it was you started at the lowest level and then worked your way up in that specific role or function in the business. If you want it to change roles or functions, you’d have to stop. In essence, forfeit whatever promotions you’ve gotten and go back to the bottom again in that new function. And in order to have that broad-based experience that I want, I would have had to forfeit some promotions and I wasn’t of the mind to do that at the time. More short-term than long-term thinking, but, nonetheless.
And so from there, I looked at this, now we’re talking the late ‘90s, early 2000s and these were the waning days of Jack Welch’s tenure at GE. And they were in the midst of the hiring their last wave of Black Belts. And so I interviewed for that. From an operator standpoint, what better skillset to pick up than that. And so long story short, hired on with General Electric initially in their aviation division. I should be down to Dallas, Texas working at one of their overhaul shops. And that’s when 9/11 happened. And you know what happened to the aviation industry. You know, not a lot of promise there.
But I did finish out my tenure as a Black Belt. They transferred me over to the medical systems division, moved me to Milwaukee. Quite a cultural shift in and of itself going from Texas to Milwaukee. But from an overhaul shop for jet engines to now running shop floors for x-ray systems, EMR systems CT systems, et cetera.
And did that for a few years. Then my wife and I started having kids. And then suddenly for the first time in my career, I was forced to make a decision as to whether or not location was going to drive the job decision, you know, whereas today it had been vice versa. I was going to go wherever the job was. And so we had a tough talk about that and ultimately decided to come back home, where I’m at now in Cincinnati, and decided we’d figure out the job thing, but we were going to come home and have a support network which we obviously have now. And our kids are much older now. But that resulted in me being at the work where I’ve been the past 17 years now.
Wow. That’s amazing. And you mentioned something earlier, I think it was when you’re talking about Proctor & Gamble. And I’ve seen this in other companies as well, but curious what your thoughts are on the mantra that a lot of companies adopt when it comes to hiring from within first. And so do you feel like there are inherent strengths? There’s some obvious strengths and weaknesses to it, right? But then do you think there’s a model that works clearly better than the other? Whether it’s, hey, we’re going to look within first, go external second or do we just go external? We weigh both of them equally and we just allow whoever shows up, the best candidate to show up. Have you seen that play? Do you have an opinion on it, I guess, is what I’m asking?
I don’t know that I’ve seen a blend personally just given my exposure. And really the cultural differences between a P&G and GE, they have been more stark. It was cultural whiplash. As I say, whereas, you know, P&G being very old school, paternalistic consensus-driven. Just to play that out, at the time, I was buying commodities, plastics. And the cap on your shampoo bottle, if it’s something that’s made by P&G, I was buying those for the globe at one point. And to simply decide who was going to make those caps for the company required about a dozen different signatures on a purchasing recommendation. That’s how consensus-driven they were in that organization. Which, I guess, is fine in terms of having consensus, but not so great in terms of speed the market. That’s why at the time, I think they took them at least seven years to get products to market.
And I spotlight that just to illustrate the differences that those cultures can drive. And part of that culture is driven by that promote from within. Whereas, and as of late, my understanding is they’re starting to hire at least in the executive ranks folks from outside the organization that do bring in different points of view, different ways to go about making these decisions and taking things to market, what have you. Presumably, that’s increased that their ability and speed to market for some of their new platforms.
Now contrast that with my experience at a company like General Electric, where, man, there are no loyalties. And I don’t mean to speak ill of them. It was a great training ground but the differences in culture couldn’t have been more stark in comparison to Procter & Gamble. It was clearly understood that the organization managed to the penny, to the quarter. And again, you got to consider the context. This is the end of the Jack Welch era and the beginning of Jeff Arnold. And GE was the star of Wall Street and it prided itself on that. It was perennially on the Forbes magazine, you know, best organization, I forget the name of the actual ranking that they did. But oddly enough, it was never on the best companies to work for list. Whereas, you know, P&G would make appearances there. So just a different dynamic. And anyway, I illustrate those points to highlight my opinion, I guess, and answer to your question, which is there are strengths to both of those things, but also weaknesses.
Yeah. No, no, that’s cool. That’s cool. So then you’re transitioning then into Deloitte. I mean, you’ve been with Deloitte for quite some time. How did you enter the company? What would have been your primary responsibilities? And what does that experience been like for you?
Yep. So again, I came from GE and I had in my hip pocket my Black Belt certification and an operations focus. At the time, Deloitte was in the process of hiring their own, I think, latest wave of Black Belts. People that have that certification, that background. So my initial entree into the firm was on the backs of that street credit, if you will, and that was what the focus of my initial projects. But that very quickly dovetailed into doing M&A and Restructuring. I think I did one or two operations-focused projects. And then I believe it was Sprint-Nextel merger that’s taking place, and they needed someone with a quality background like mine to help them do the post-merger integration work when those two came together in ’04 thereabouts.
And so that ended up, and it’s interesting, it’s one of those career threads, if you will, that has really taken me in a completely different direction than I hadn’t previously anticipated. That has been just a windfall in terms of my career and trajectory around the firm. I was suddenly working around, what I believe to this day, some of the most intelligent, hardest working well-connected folks in the firm doing great things, not only for our clients, but for the firm overall. And those things have been recognized and those folks gradually got pulled up to higher and higher positions. In the M&A world, if you do well and were recognized for it, you would kind of get pulled along with them. And so that’s the goodness that happened to my career.
The challenge with that, given the nature of professional services, especially in the consulting game, is you’re spending a good many hours, not only at the office, but somewhere around the country, in someone’s else’s office. So there’s a ton of travel involved. You know, three, four, five days a week, a typical week, and many hours, whether you’re there on the road or at home. And as my wife and I started to have children and as they got older and us making a conscious decision to be involved parents and making that our priority, I had to make some career decisions at the firm. And so as much as they wanted to continue to pull me upward and to the right, I kind of had to make decisions that took me off of that track.
But the great thing about a firm as large as Deloitte is that you’re able to have parallel paths and different careers and different roles within the firm. And so I moved from the consulting path to some more internal roles. And so I was working for our CEOs at the US level and then subsequently at the global level in consulting and tax and legal. So it’s led to a lots of wonderful places, again, I never would have anticipated back in the day.
Right. Well, I mean, it’s just a testament to how – and feel free to disagree with this, but it’s interesting though because oftentimes I think we can think that we’re going to pigeonhole ourselves into one corner of our career and that’s all we’re going to ever be known as. But the reality is, at least this is just my opinion, this is my observation, is I’ve seen people successfully, very successfully in fact jumped from something to something else because an opportunity presented itself. They were able to jump into it, have a great time doing so, and then it opened up additional opportunities. And now whether or not they want to continue into that is fine.
And then on the backside of that, kind of like your examples. You’re simply just aligning your priorities, right? Your family is taking a higher priority. And so you’re just simply keeping your priorities list the way it needs to be, right? And so you’re just making a couple of tweaks and adjustments and let your career go wherever direction it ends up going, but it’s a fascinating study to see where you think you started somewhere and then you’re able to go do other things and just how opportunities can just continue to present themselves.
And, you know, Aaron, the story’s not over. I’m kind of in the midst of making another one of those pivots. We refer to the book effort here, but it’s more than just that book. I kind of have real personal passion around really eliminating the civil military divide in the country. And I’m approaching that through multiple angles. The first book obviously is focused on the military side. Now I have a second book in draft. Harper Collins had also laid claim to it. It’s focused on the civilian side, trying to educate corporate leaders about who veterans are.
And how much practical way you go about identifying, recruiting, hiring, training, retaining this incredibly valuable talent pool that they likely don’t even know exists that these studies would tell us. But even if you do those, there’s still a gap in terms of the warm handoff from the services to local communities all around the country. And so I’m a big proponent advocate for veteran collaboratives as an optimal business model to enable that warm handoff. So, anyway, the point is, as I’ve gotten more involved and the books getting recognized, and the second book’s getting picked up, et cetera, it’s leading to a host of other opportunities that are going to lead me who knows where. But it’s other options that, again, tied to my own personal passions, what I want to do.
That that’s a great word: options. You’re creating options for yourself. And I think it’s important for people to realize that. They can go pursue other things. Maybe it’s in their off time, after hours, whatever the case may be. But there are unlimited opportunities for people. And if you just take the time to go pursue those, explore those options, you might discover you don’t want it. You don’t like it. That’s okay. But at least you went to explore it. Or you might go explore something else. You’re like, man, this is really freaking cool. Like I want to keep doing this. Like this is awesome. I just think that’s really great advice in that point.
And to your second book, I mean, this book, obviously, it’s phenomenal. I think that second book could be even more so because you’re giving tools to a group that may or may not completely understand or fully utilize or take advantage of in a healthy way the resources and the ingenuity and the drive and just the raw talent that’s available in military veterans. So I think that will be a great, great, great tool to help kind of translate that and put it in the perspective of companies and executive leadership and employers just in general. So I think that’s terrific.
Yeah. You’re absolutely right. I’ve got a couple of points on that to your veterans that may be listening. Yeah. I would highly encourage you to take advantage of any and all, call it internship, apprenticeship opportunities coming out of the service. SkillBridge, Hiring Our Heroes. Anything like that that enables you to get boots on the ground and to some civilian organization to prove or deny your career hypothesis is going to pay huge dividends.
My own personal story. My internship during graduate school was an abysmal failure in terms of, you know, I thought I wanted to go into automotive. My undergraduate degree was in automotive systems. I went and interned at a big three — I won’t name the company – auto plants in the greater Indianapolis area. And I learned within just a couple of weeks that no way in hell did I want to work in this industry for a number of factors, again, I won’t go into. So although that was a failure, it totally set me in a direction to where my career is now. And it prevented what would have been for me a false start had I not had that initial failure.
Anyway, the second point I would make to the point of – and Deloitte has been great in terms of supporting my own personal passion projects. That said, it’s all on kind of my time and my dime. And so in order to create options for yourself, you may have to work beyond the nine-to-five timeframe that your day job would have. It does take work, but the work has its rewards.
Darn right. And no one’s just going to come drop it on your lap either. I mean, if there’s something you want to go pursue, you got to go pursue it. You’ll get me hot on that one. Cause I’m very passionate about that. I can talk your ear off for days about that. But no, I want to shift gears a little bit. So there’s another – I feel like we’re starting to go there anyway. So it’s is kind of perfect.
But further into the book, you talk about networking, right? So there’s a specific chapter in the book called Document Your Network, which I thought was a really, really great read. I think it’s a great way to frame the way people think networking. Because you even talk about in here how – you don’t say it this way. I’m paraphrasing. But something about like networking can be a bit of a dirty word, right? It can have like a negative connotation to it. And you were talking about overcoming some of these negative perceptions, and then you get down to – you said it so well. And then I’ll give you the floor and you can just run with this, but networking is a two-way street, right? So talk more about that.
Absolutely. So those coming out of the military, I think, will appreciate that “networking”. I use the air quotes there. It was traditionally viewed as a negative thing. It was viewed as kissing somebody’s rear end to get yourself someplace that you didn’t deserve or that you didn’t earn. But you know, you kind of have to put that aside when you enter the real world. Because networking, it’s the way the world works. The difference is it’s not a one-way street where you’re kissing someone’s rear end to get ahead. The proper way to view networking is that it’s a mutually beneficial exchange. Now, initially coming out of the service, if you’re coming from the military, you may not have a lot to offer. But that said, it shouldn’t prevent you from offering at the end of a conversation with a networking target that you’re speaking with. You know, this is great. This is very helpful. Is there anything I could do to potentially help you? But as you get older and places like Aaron and I are in our careers, it’s absolutely something that you can do to help give back as much as you would want to ask for something from the other person.
No, it’s something that I think is just so important. And I think you hit it on the head. I think it can be misunderstood, right? And I think it’s important to clear that up. And there’s been one thing that I’ve encouraged folks to do and this only works if you have a good time horizon and applies whether you’re in service or if you’re out of service. It doesn’t matter if you’re civilian or foreign military, but it’s setting up informational interviews. So that’s not networking to be clear, but it’s a form of networking for yourself in terms of if you’re looking at maybe tasting and trying something else. And at the end of it, you know, again, if you’re taking away all the potential issues that somebody would have, because they don’t want to feel pressured to make an opening for you, they don’t want to feel pressured to have to do anything, so if you de-risk it for them and you’re like, “Hey, you know, I’ve always wanted to learn about what it’s like to work at a big consulting company. Do you got like 20 minutes, Matt, that I could talk with you? And I’d like to just understand a little bit about what you do?”
If you do it right, you’re going to have some amazing conversations. And then to your point just a minute ago, then you might ask, well, hey, is there something you’re looking for? Are you in the job market? And so it might create opportunities. You may have an opening, or you may have a buddy across town or another part of the country. And so you never know where those things lead to. And d it’s a great way for people, especially, again, if they have time, you’re able to de-risk it for the person that you’re approaching, but that’s one technique I’ve seen people use very, very successfully to land in some really awesome places.
Yeah. Worst case, you’re going to learn something. That’s a great one. The next step beyond that is job shadowing, where you’re literally following behind someone for a portion of the day, you know, a mile in their shoes, if you will. But yeah, I mean, approach it from that standpoint, you’ll be fine. What I would tell you not to do, and I have seen this in some instances where some folks come out and feel as if they’re entitled to something, to some role based on what they’ve done. That’s not the way it is, my friends. You will earn everything in the real world the same way you earned everything in the military. So come in with that understanding.
And then it goes back to some of the earlier points you made in the book about translating what you’ve done into civilian speak. That way, people understand it. I’ll say the rest of it. People can pick up a copy of this and read it. Cause you go a lot more into the tactical of the job offer or the closing the deal, the getting started, all those things. So again, it’s a phenomenal read. Thank you for putting it together. And I think it really will be a huge help for those that are either transitioned out. I still think it applies even if you’ve already made the transition. It may even be even more so because you’ve had the opportunity to look back. Like crap, I messed up, I messed those couple steps up. Let me try this again and let me use this as a blueprint to help me get from here to where I want to go. And so, anyway, I think it’s terrific, Matt. So thank you. Thanks for sharing that with me.
So it’s a great word: blueprint. And I appreciate that. It’s really been a personal passion project. And let me just add to your listeners, beyond the book itself, there was a huge amount of resources on my website under the Resources tab. Literally a quarter of the original manuscript is out there for free. The other thing that I’ve done is turned the book into a series of video courses there. So there’s 21 video courses based on the book on my website under Courses, all for free.
Wow. That’s phenomenal. So I’ll flash this up again here for you. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, guys, Mission Transition, go pick it up. You will not be disappointed.
Matt, let’s shift gears now. So I don’t want to end there. We still got time, so we’re gonna keep tracking. So let’s talk now a little bit more about the consulting world, right? So you’ve been in the consulting world for a number of years. You share with me an example of how you’re able to kind of parlay some of your opportunities into other opportunities and some of the decisions you’ve made. So for those that have always been fascinated by the prospect of working at a consulting firm, what are some things that people need to know, some of the great strengths and some of the things that you may need to be aware of?
Sure. And again, not to continue to point back to the book, but I do tease out some of these professions and some of the skills that are needed in there, challenges, whatnot. So you’ll find some of that in the book.
I guess let me start on what some of the parallels are. I’d mentioned that the nature of the consulting business involving significant amounts of travel, that’s obviously changed in COVID world. What it will look like when we come out of this thing remains to be seen, but I suspect it’ll still involve a decent amount of travel. There’s just nothing that replaces the face-to-face human contact. And when you’re making large changes at an executive level in the business world, it typically requires that in-person situation to make sufficient degrees of progress.
So what are you? As a consultant, you’re working as a member of a professional services firm. You were hired to help organizations solve completely complex projects that they couldn’t solve themselves. If they could, they wouldn’t be hiring you. So first, understand that the work isn’t easy, and it always tends to be complex. Also understand that your clients, I mean, put yourselves in their shoes. If they could get it done themselves, they would. And if they didn’t have to pay you, they wouldn’t. So you’re kind of under the gun from the get-go to get things done as effectively, efficiently as possible and as high quality as possible.
So there’s quite a bit of pressure just in general in the profession beyond the fact that you’re constantly traveling and on the road. That said, it’s also very personally rewarding. I mean, some people love to travel. So it’s great. It’s right up their alley. And as long as you make whatever agreements you need to with your better half and with your family members, what have you, that typically becomes the challenge.
The other really rewarding thing is not only seeing your work come to fruition, and I’ll tell a quick story just to kind of picture my corporate environment from the consulting skills. The other end in the consulting world, at the end of the day, the nature of these projects tends to have a large impact and so the result many times you’ll see right on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. So that’s pretty cool in terms of immediate feedback of the work that you see. Now, you won’t be named by name more times than not, but you at least get to see that the fruits of your labor there.
So for me, one of the big differences between kind of working in the big corporate environment, the P&Gs, the GEs and those like them, as an employee, many times organizations that large, they take on some level of bureaucracy. Just the nature of the beast. And so while you at whatever level you’re at in the organization may have a great idea, that idea has to go through its proper channels and be vetted and had struggles to see the light of day. I’ll just put it that way. Now, suddenly I found myself when I initially started consulting, one of the very refreshing things was I was putting forth similar ideas, similar thought patterns and approaching these business challenges, but now suddenly because organizations are paying to have me there and to put forth approaches to their problems that they’ve been struggling with it, they were all ears and they were suddenly implementing these. From just a very personal rewarding standpoint, it reinforced my own ego. You know, I’m not crazy and what I do have to say does offer some value. So that was personally rewarding.
No, it’s funny. So I do consulting, not nearly to the scale like Deloitte, McKinsey, all these other big names, but I get what you’re saying. You’re presenting ideas or a methodology or a framework with which you’re going to approach a problem and it’s amazing because what you say matters, right? Or if it’s not your idea originally, you’re at least facilitating those discussions and helping kind of draw to a conclusion at some point.
So with your experience, again, I’m asking for the benefit of those – because there’s a lot of folks that they’re just genuinely interested in, like, what is all those crap? What does it like? What is the inside? So are you working on projects as a team? Is it solo work? I know it’s generally teamwork. And then with that, though, what’s an example of a project? I mean, obviously, protecting people’s identities, but like what’s an example of a typical project, which I know there’s no such thing?
Yeah. When you’re coming up through the ranks, the work takes on multiple nuances and really, it kind of parallels the career path. And when I say career path, I mean, you can decide to focus over time on a given service area, whether it’s finance, marketing, operations, what have you, and/or a specific industry. Let’s say you want to focus on oil and gas and energy or healthcare or banking or whatever it is. So there’s kind of a matrix, if you will, about the economy in general. But also within whatever organization you’re in, they tend to be mapped similarly.
So anyway, the work will vary. To your specific question around projects, you know, my initial project was probably about six months and the scope of it was to help overhaul one of the air forces repair places out in Oklahoma City. And it was part of a combination of firms. It was Deloitte and a number of others that went in and pulled this thing together. And so it would involve – so one, I was traveling and living out of a hotel four or five days a week. You’d be at the client site first thing in the morning, typical business hours. Although, a good many days, you’d be working either at the client site for late hours, or you would go back to the hotel and continue working after hours. Because after all, you don’t have family and other things that you’re going home to. Everyone is traveling and on the road, and therefore at least theoretically, available beyond your standard nine-to-five business hours. So there do tend to be extended hours and time put forth.
So that’s example of one project. There’s another example strategy projects, where there’s less of a tangible product, if you will, tend to be much shorter duration, much higher burn. I did a global supply chain strategy project for big organization – won’t name the name – on the East Coast. You would know exactly who it is. But literally did it in less than six weeks. And we had to have boots on the ground in every single continent in their different supply chain sites. I’ve never pulled so many all-nighters within six weeks as I did on that project. Part of it is because the way, the nature of competitive professional service is we’ve all kind of bid ourselves down to doing the same work. The work doesn’t go away but doing for less dollars in less time. That’s the way we tend to win things these days. That puts the pressure, though, on those of us who’s actually charged with doing the work. And so it results in really a number of weeks that weren’t exactly the funnest in my career. But that’s kind of some of the differences in the unit.
Now I’ll contrast that. Those are consulting. There’s different divisions of professional services firms. Like the one I’m in, where we do people’s taxes, both on an individual basis as well as corporate taxes. And that work tends to take on more of an annual standard course, if you will. There are standard forms that need to be fulfilled or produced on a regular basis that obviously amps up on a quarterly basis, certainly on an annual basis. But the nature of the work in those divisions looks very different from say in the consulting world where it’s really project to project a couple of weeks or months at a time.
Well, yeah. No, it’s a genuinely fascinating thing to talk about and discover. And so one of the things I’d like to do on the show is help people kind of have a little bit of understanding behind the scenes of what that looks like. So, I mean, you’ve been there now, you know, you’re getting close to 20 years, man. You’ve been there for a few minutes now. So what are you working on right now? What’s the biggest challenges that you’re facing right now?
Sure. Well, just to explain the tenure and the nature, I mean, that’s not by accident. What I found in coming to Deloitte is culture is so huge and I spend the last couple of chapters of the book focused on exactly that. You would do yourself a great favor to spend some time trying to decode the culture of the organization you’re aspiring to join before actually starting work there. And I learned through my experiences at P&G and GE to do exactly that prior to coming to Deloitte. And so I found that the culture here to be as close to the culture in the military and joining it then since I left the military. And that’s what’s one of the great things that I really enjoyed coming up through the ranks in the consulting business.
So to circle back to your question. So the consulting ranks, working for CEOs, various levels at the US and then at that global for consulting and tax and legal. What led to my current position, now I’m back in the US working for the tax business. Again, the tax business and God love them. These are experts and can quote all of the rules and regulations for every single country of the world, know it by chapter, by verse. And that’s just not me. What I do and my strength is I can manage projects and whereas they don’t do that and would choose to not do that. And so they want someone like me to come in and help them manage their most complex and global projects that they have and so that they can go do their technical expert work that they need to do and help the clients. And I’m kind of behind them helping make sure that the left knows what the right’s doing on a global basis and keeping things coordinated. So without boring you on all the technical details, that’s kind of what I’m doing in our US tax business these days.
Wow. Yeah. Well, and it’s that time of year too. So I imagine you’re more than just a little bit busy right now,
They’re all good problems to have, right?
Yeah, for sure. For sure. Well, you know, as you look back on your career, and you may have already mentioned it, and if so, that’s okay. But has there been a moment in your career where you really feel like things just really made a lot of sense? You got tremendous amount of clarity as to where you were headed personally and professionally. I mean, did it come as you’re like writing this book out and kind of articulating all that? What was that moment for you when you’re just like, you know what, I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now?
There are two times I’ll call out. First was soon after I joined Deloitte. And I’d mentioned the cultural dynamics aspect of the firm, but more than that, doing work that applied exactly to my background and what I’d done, so I could apply my technical expertise. And more than that, working in small teams as you are able to utilize my leadership skills from the military, where again, you’re used to working in small teams and helping lead a team and influence others in accepting the solutions that you’re trying to proffer them. So that was one where everything kind of congealed. I look back probably within my first year or two in the firm. There’s a mental picture I have. We were home here on a Friday or Saturday and one of my oldest probably second or third birthday, thereabouts, and just looking out and giving a toast. Everyone just feeling that all is right with the world. This is kind of the way things ought to be.
Well, you know, fast forward. And I made reference before about additional work but getting additional options. And you’ve mentioned the book efforts and I felt exactly that way in the process of pulling that first book together. And truly, the scope of the first book is really just the first half of the book that I intended to write. But as I got through the book, a mentor of mine said, “Wait, wait, wait. Stop here. This is one book. There’s a different book here.” So really, these two books are what I intended the original one book to be.
But anyway, in the midst of, of doing all that, I found myself and I am – I would be the last person, I’d say, that would be at this point an award-winning author. I got a D in my freshman year in English. I’m as surprised as anybody.
But that’s it. Putting all that behind, I just thought kind of at once seeing this problem for what it is, but over time in working with individuals kind of seeing a way forward and through this all and having the passion for getting this solution as I saw it into the hands of people that are going to make a huge difference in the next generation of workers in the workforce. That’s kind of the next point in my career where things just really came alive and felt unified.
It’s got to feel great though. Doesn’t it? I mean, it’s a great feeling. So I’m making this point on purpose because guys like you and I, and I’m gonna take the liberty of kind of grouping us together. And if not, you know, you can say no. But, you know, we strive to have challenges in our lives. Like we’d like to tackle problems and things. And so I’ll own this one actually. So my tendency can be once I’ve achieved something, I’m onto the next thing. I’m just like, okay, I just completed this race, this project, this whatever it may be, right? And not taking a ton of time to recognize what that achievement is, because I’m so focused on like, okay, well, if that was good enough today, it ain’t good enough tomorrow. Let’s go.
And so I just think it’s so important. That’s why I like to talk about that sometimes with people because it’s important, I think, that we take the time to slow down every once in a while and just acknowledge what a victory looks like. Because we’re so focused on process improvement, continuous improvement, setting the bar higher and higher and higher and all these things and so on. That’s all good, but it’s important, I think, to just emotionally allow yourself to feel those things so that you’re able – I think it helps give you fuel for other moments. And I think it also gives you the opportunity to look back on that achievement and let it stand on its own, right?
You’re spot on, Aaron. And what you said is exactly me, much to my wife’s chagrin. Okay. And, you know, I’ve personally struggled with this – the old good, better, best, never let it rest. So you’re good gets better and your better gets best. That was kind of my mantra coming from life. But I read something recently. I’ll just share this with your audience. It may help others that have the same burden. A great saying. Better is better than best. And the point is since you’ll never reach that the precipice per se, that the focus should be on the continuous improvement aspect. So never be satisfied with what you have and continue to improve it, but never try to kill yourself to the point where you have to be at the top of the mountain per se. The old, you know, it’s a journey.
Yeah. Right. And again, it’s like appreciate the journey because life is as long journey. You don’t really ever arrive at an end destination, right? There’s this illusion that we’ll arrive somewhere where everything is just bliss. And I don’t know. I haven’t found it. I don’t think such a thing exists here on this physical earth right now. And so it’s one of those things you just gotta, you know, I think the best analogy might be, you know, it’s like you’re hiking along like a mountain ridge trail, right? There’s going to be peaks and dips in that. And so when you’re at the top of that experience, whatever it may be, to really appreciate, take it in, take the view in, take that achievement in, let it stand on its own two feet and appreciate it. Because those are some of the biggest moments of your life you’re going to look back and be like, man, I really did do something.
And I think for anybody listening or watching, there is always something to look back on and be proud of, regardless of how psychotically driven you might be. And I mean, Matt, no joke, I mean, I finished a triathlon one time. So I finished Ironman 70.3 Galveston several years ago. And I’m not even kidding. I’m like getting my bike out of transition area already thinking about where the next one’s going to be and how I can do better. And it’s like, that’s great, right? But it’s like, can we just enjoy what we just got done doing too? And so it’s an important point. I think it’s important for people to reflect and to understand what they just got done doing.
Yeah. But my own personal story in that regard, you know, for me, I’m an old offensive lineman. I shouldn’t be running marathons, but I went and ran a few. I did well enough that I convinced myself I could get my time down to qualify for Boston. But in the process of doing so, I blew out my hips. So, you know, again, you know, enjoy the better and not necessarily focus on the best.
Yeah. No, that’s awesome. Well, Matt, I just want to thank you again. Thank you for spending so much time with me again. How can people best get in touch with you?
Yeah. Again, Aaron, thank you for having me. And I mentioned my website earlier. The website is matthewjlouis.com. Louis as in St. Louis. So check that out. Tons of resources all over there. The video courses out there. Have at it and if you have questions, feel free to reach out. You’ll find my email on the website as well.
Perfect. And again, the book is Mission Transition: Navigating the Opportunities and Obstacles to Your Post-Military Career. Matt, I think it’s a phenomenal work. Thank you for writing it. Again, I just want to thank you for being with me today. This has been a phenomenal time. I’ve really thoroughly enjoyed speaking with you.
Thanks, Aaron. I’ve really enjoyed it too.