How to: Understand The Pyramid

Most professional services firms (e.g. accounting, consulting, law, architecture, etc.) function using The Pyramid. This post will help you understand The Pyramid and the dynamics it creates.

The Pyramid: Grinders, Minders, & Finders

Grinders

This large group of less experienced team members main responsibility is to do the work.

Grinders grind. They “get into the weeds”.  They are the workhorses.

Hourly rate: Grinders are typically billed at a rate much higher than their take home salary.  Below is an example (assuming billable hour goal/achievement of 1,800 hours):

  • Grinder salary: $72,000 (hourly rate of $40/hr)
  • Grinder bill rate: $200/hour X 1,800 hours = $360,000
  • Firm profit: $360,000 minus $72,000 minus all other employee expenses (health benefits, 401k, computer costs, training, etc)

In other words, leverage is the name of the game.

As a result, not every Grinder can make it to the top

Minders

Minders bridge the gap between the Grinders and the Finders.

This group manages/oversees the Grinders. Minders review, edit, direct the Grinders. They make sure the Grinders are all swimming in the right direction.

In addition, the Minders perform more challenging technical areas and navigate team (Grinder) conflicts.   

Consequently, minders allow the Finders to stay out of the weeds.

In short, Minders’ primary job is make sure the Grinders can grind and the Finders can find. 

Finders

Finders bring in new and retain existing business. They are the rainmakers.

Above all, Finders have developed credibility in the market through a combination of relationships, technical ability, and professional experience. 

Moreover, if things go right (and in the Big 4, they typically do) Finders reap the benefit of The Pyramid’s leverage structure. They keep the “firm profit” derived from the Grinders (see calculation above).

Advice: Take steps to become a Finder (see How to: Win New Business as an Associate). Early in your career, develop an owner mentality. The Finder skillset is quite transferable outside of the firm.

In conclusion, learning to understand The Pyramid can provide meaningful insight to career growth (and team member roles/responsibilities). Particularly as you progress from Grinder to Finder.

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