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Reimagining Work by Peter Maglathlin, Pat Petitti, Rob Biederman

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Introduction

We're sure there have been worse presentations in the history of business. But our first effort to sell the idea for the company we now call Catalant was memorably weak.

It was the winter of 2013, and we were halfway through our first year at Harvard Business School. HBS, as it is known in the vernacular, had only recently created a mandatory class aimed at giving every MBA student a taste of start‐up life. That January, the entire first‐year class of 900 broke into teams of six. The assignment: come up with a real‐life business idea and then spend the next few months proving its viability. The first big test came a few days into the semester, when each team had to pitch its idea to their fellow students, who would then bid up or down shares of the company listed on a mock stock market. It was akin to a classroom version of the hit show Shark Tank. We learned the hard way that becoming a start‐up rock star at HBS could be just as brutal as the television version.

Back then, we were calling our fledgling company Rent‐A‐Nerd. The concept was relatively simple. Small, entrepreneurial, mostly owner‐run businesses needed help with issues like marketing and strategy, same as their larger counterparts. These well‐known corporate behemoths were well accustomed to turning to the stalwart, blue‐chip business of management consulting for their solutions. However, the smaller companies we were targeting couldn't afford the services of a big consulting firm like McKinsey or ...

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