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Blue Chips Fight Back . . . Fast

• volume 4 • number 2

In an effort to halt the "brain drain" from prestigious consulting firms to obscure startups, traditional consulting firms are resorting to radical new tactics. Those tactics include allowing employees to buy into Internet investment funds or into a pool of clients that have given their firm equity instead of cash, and to take as much as two months off every year (with benefits coverage but not salary) just to have fun. The idea is to attract and keep employees by offering them the security of an established firm along with some of the perks of a dot.com startup.

Among the companies rising to the challenge presented by dot.com competitors are McKinsey & Company and Mercer Management Consulting. McKinsey, which has seen its turnover rate increase and its base of MBAs from top schools decline, says it is trying to find ways to help its employees share some of the e-commerce wealth creation. To that end, it has begun accepting equity stakes instead of cash from promising young companies. Employees then have the opportunity to buy shares in these companies.

And Mercer Management recently announced that it will allow consultants to spend up to two months a year doing just about anything they want, from studying art at the Sorbonne to skydiving. James Down, vice chairman of Mercer says, "We have certainly lost some very good people to dot.com companies...but we're not devastated or panicking."

Panicked or not, consulting firms have responded to the e-commerce threat with incredible speed. To attract top talent, these tradition-bound institutions are radically overhauling the way they've always done things, and that's a major trend in itself.