Darden Student’s Consulting Firm Attracts Talent, $100 Million Investment
By Dave Hendrick
Roger Carlile (Class of 2016) has put more than a quarter century of hard work into making his consulting firm an overnight success.
Now, less than two years after its founding, Carlile finds himself managing a growing consulting firm with five offices across the United States as well as a new growth trajectory made possible by a recent $100 million equity commitment from the private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners.
Carlile acknowledges the appearance of a hot startup, but notes his lengthy stints at other similarly focused companies, including most recently more than five years in various C-level roles at the publicly traded FTI Consulting.
“I’ve been providing these particular sets of consulting services for over 26 years, and I’ve been in the professional services and consulting world for over 30 years,” Carlile said. “I’m fortunate to know a lot of clients and consulting professionals as well as private equity capital partners.”
Carlile said the idea for Ankura came after discussions with clients and competitors led him to realize that there was a market opening for a nimble, technology-enhanced consulting firm in Ankura’s service space.
Ankura offers consulting services in the governance, risk and compliance space, including services such as turnaround and restructuring; forensic analysis and corporate investigations, litigation damages analysis including expert witness testimony; financial fraud investigation; business valuation analysis and visual communication services, as well as headline-grabbing issues such as geopolitical risk assessment and cyber-security.
“We felt like there was a better way to do things,” Carlile said. “We believed we could create a better firm in today’s mobile technology environment than some of the firms that were conceived in an earlier era.”
The firm’s suite of services is made possible by the team Carlile has been able to coax over to Ankura with the promise of starting something new.
“The biggest trick is to convince people that there is something worthwhile here,” Carlile said. “You have to convince them that there is something better here that they want to participate in.”
One recipient of that convincing was GEMBA classmate Michelle DiGruttolo (Class of 2016), an intelligence specialist with a national security background whom Carlile said he never would have met if not for the GEMBA program.
The CEO said he recognized his classmate’s capabilities shortly after meeting her.
By the time the cohort traveled to their China residency, he had successfully pitched DiGruttolo on joining Ankura as a partner.
DiGruttolo said she started Darden with the goal of transitioning from a military intelligence career to the corporate world, and thought she had successfully made the switch after landing a senior position with a major defense contractor the day after the cohort finished its first Charlottesville residency.
After talking to Carlile and learning more about Ankura, however, DiGruttolo said she realized her ambitions may have been more expansive than she originally thought.
“I learned that I was not flying high enough to see over the horizon or even what was on the other side of those hilltops,” DiGruttolo said. “Instead I was being too conservative, and settling for mediocrity — limiting my optics to only what I could see at 1,000 feet.”
Coming into Darden a career “switcher,” DiGruttolo said she leaves as both a switcher — she’s now a consultant — and a climber.
Although he was not actively recruiting for a startup when he decided to enroll in the program, Carlile said the promise of meaningful engagement and interaction with professors and peers was always his top reason for coming to Darden.
In his previous role, Carlile helped put together a custom Executive Educationprogram with Professor Ed Hess, bringing roughly 100 employees through a course over five years or so. Over time, the Ankura CEO got to know and appreciate the School and its approach. As he contemplated a career transition, the GEMBA program seemed like a horizon-broadening step.
“You have a really interesting set of perspectives and conversations,” Carlile said of the GEMBA program. “It’s hard for me to imagine this could be recreated very many places.”
With the next stage of his career firmly in place, Carlile is pleased with his Darden experience, but also eager to focus squarely on his rapidly growing company, as opposed to working the phones until 3 a.m. following a long day of the India residency while also planning a move from Dallas to Northern Virginia.
“It’s been great,” said Carlile with a laugh. “And now it’s time for this program to be completed.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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