Punit Renjen didn’t set out to be a consultant, let alone to head the nation’s largest private consulting firm. But when he arrived at Deloitte LLP 26 years ago, he was so inspired by the company that he threw himself into the job and kept getting promotions. “It was so enriching. I taught myself to love it,” said Renjen, chairman of Deloitte’s U.S. board and former chairman and CEO of Deloitte Consulting LLP.
That passion helped him lead Deloitte’s consulting business to rapid growth despite a recession and a slump in the U.S. consulting market. Deloitte Consulting, the largest of four U.S. businesses in the nearly $30 billion Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited global network, grew more than 20 percent in both 2009 and 2010 and is on track for another robust increase this year, he said. The bottom line -- or earnings per partner -- rose during the same period.
“We must be doing something right,” Renjen told students at the Tepper School of Business during his appearance as part of the W.L. Mellon Speaker Series. “It is insanely competitive. Clients have choices.”
As chairman of Deloitte, Renjen set out to answer a question that intrigued him: What makes a company a top performer over the long haul? He thought of Deloitte as “an exceptional firm” and considered many of its clients to be exceptional, including Wal-Mart Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Apple Inc. and the U.S. Marine Corps. But what were the commonalities behind their successes?
He and his team started “The Persistence Project” to study what makes a company rise to the top over time. While the firms they examined were disparate, they shared some common features.
An exceptional company, Renjen said, is led by a “selfless servant leader” and has a clearly defined strategy of where it wants to go and a clearly articulated culture about what it is. Much like successful people who are comfortable in their own skin, so are successful companies. He cited as an example Wal-Mart, the retail giant that hired Deloitte consultants to help it reimagine its supply chain.
Renjen recently joined other Deloitte consultants at Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., where a Wal-Mart executive was leading the “Give me a W! Give me an A!” chant before a crowd.
“Who is the boss?” the executive yelled.
“The customer!” the crowd yelled back.
“The Deloitte consultants participating knew the chant too,” Renjen said. “The chant is incredibly important. I think it is one of the key reasons that Wal-Mart is an exceptional organization. Everyone knows what it is like to be part of Wal-Mart.”
He offered advice for students who were interested in becoming consultants: “You have to buy into the notion of reflected glory. We are successful only if our clients are successful.”
Tepper students selected to join Deloitte will continue their education through on-the-job mentoring. All new hires start their careers at Deloitte University in Westlake, Texas. “It is like going to college again,” Renjen said. “You have to achieve a set of core competencies at each level in the firm.”
He also told students they had to be prepared to work incredibly hard in the business world. “Find something you can love or teach yourself to love,” he said. “I view myself as a craftsman,” he said. “It has taken me 25 years to get good at what I do.
“I am not a great artist. I am not a great musician. I am not a greater cricketer. This -- and what my 8-year-old thinks of me when he becomes a man -- will define me. This is why I am absolutely committed to having a truly special, truly distinctive firm.”
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