north of neutral dialog

December 1, 2009

by anne lueneburger

Olivier Tardy, Senior Partner & Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Paris

I first met Olivier Tardy in 1998 at an INSEAD reception in Fontainebleau, France. Already a partner with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) at the time, he had made the one-hour car trip from Paris to meet with faculty. Three things struck me about Tardy. First, his modesty, despite his accomplishments; second, his sincerity, especially in listening to others’ points of view; and third, his inclination to find a lesson in any situation, good or bad. Currently, Olivier Tardy is Senior Partner and Managing Director at BCG Paris. In a recent conversation, we discussed the ingredients of his success.

The journey

Olivier Tardy grew up in a family of entrepreneurs in construction and design on one side and medical doctors on the other. Following a typically French path for gifted math students, he enrolled in one of the country’s elite engineering programs at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris. Following an 18-month training program as a naval officer and a four-month stint in private-sector accounting, he subsequently attended UCLA’s MBA program, with the intent to move into investment banking.

While he admired the eclectic mix of smarts and unpretentiousness of leading banking specialists such as George Boutros, one of his classmates at UCLA and today Managing Director at Credit Suisse, he felt that the finance industry was dominated by a fairly aggressive, self-absorbed culture that did not appeal to him.

He vividly remembers a business school lunch, hosted by a leading investment bank. The firm’s representative proclaimed: “If you do not get a hard-on reading the financial columns of The Wall Street Journal, don’t join us.”

It prompted Tardy to take a very close look at what type of industry and organization he would thrive in. One of his passions had always been sailing. As a result, he signed up for a summer job with Lear Siegler, a consortium owning renowned yacht manufacturers such as Jeanneau, Cal and O’Day. Over that summer, he got to know Xavier Fontanet, then CEO of Beneteau, a leading sailboat builder whose President Annette Roux was an industry legend.  Fontanet, a former partner with BCG, strongly encouraged Tardy to explore the world of strategy consulting. He saw a natural fit in Tardy’s training as an engineer to solve complex problems, his keen thirst for knowledge, as well as his unassuming yet competent approach to interactions with others.

“After meeting with the top three strategy consultants at the time, I fell in love with the personality of consultants I met from BCG—their diverse backgrounds, their collegial attitude as well as their entrepreneurial and visionary approach to work truly inspired me.”

The payoff

Olivier Tardy has been with BCG for 23 years, one of the less than five percent of consultants who start out in top strategy consulting firms and make it to senior partner.  He is highly regarded in the firm and worldwide topic co-leader on Sales and Channels within BCG’s Marketing and Sales practice. He continues to enjoy the core of his work: “client service—to build trust, to reflect on a client’s challenge and to help decision-makers move towards sustainable solutions that have a real impact on bottom line, ultimately creating business value.”

Moments of pause

Not surprisingly, over the span of nearly a quarter of a century with BCG, there were moments when Tardy thought about leaving: “It seems to happen every four to five years,” he chuckles. More often than not, the stimulus was external: Clients impressed with his work would make tempting offers. There were also a few internal changes in BCG’s culture over the years that gave him pause. For example, he recounts, “Some years ago a number of key thought leaders and mentors retired from the firm, and it took me a while to regroup”. But he stayed because of the continued excitement coming from working with clients and younger team members, as well as the seamless fit between his role, BCG’s culture and who he is. Having said this, Olivier Tardy will leave BCG one day … no doubt. Part of his plan: “Do a bit of teaching as well as build my own boat and sail the world.”

Why he did not change employers: organizational fit

Possessing the right educational degree, knowledge, skills and industry experience only partially explain why people succeed in their job. More often than not, individuals thrive because their values, interests, and communication styles fit within their organizational culture. In short, it’s good chemistry!

Olivier Tardy’s natural curiosity and passion for learning aligns well with BCG, which views thought leadership as the defining nucleus of its business model. He thrives in an environment composed of diverse and highly educated peers and demanding client cultures that promote his dedication to excellence and keep the learning curve steep. The “intrapreneurial” structure of the partnership furthermore meets his desire for independence. He appreciates the lifestyle that he has thanks to his firm. More importantly, however, he thrives on seeing that his work makes a difference for his clients and their organizations. At the intersection of these elements, Olivier has found a partnership model that resonates with his desire for a collegial culture.

Organizations have recognized the importance of person-environment fit, which offers an employer substantial benefits, such as talent retention and tenure. Tenure of top talent, not surprisingly, is positively correlated with ROI for hiring talent. As a result, these firms are moving beyond conventional hiring models to take a holistic look at their hiring practices. Getting this fit right is the secret of leading corporations. Olivier Tardy’s experience with BCG is testament to the power of organizational fit.

3 Responses to “north of neutral dialog”

  1. I guess there is always an easier way …

  2. Stephanie Says:

    I was curious if you ever considered changing the page layout
    of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got
    to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way
    of content so people could connect with it better. Youve
    got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 pictures.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

    • northofneutral Says:

      Hi Stephanie,

      Loved your feedback, thanks! We know we write sometimes very long blogs and you are right, breaking it up with more visuals is a good idea.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: