Top 25 Consultants 2015: Mark Finlan

Mark Finlan
Censeo Consulting Group
Excellence in Leadership


When Mark Finlan’s six-year-old daughter asks him what he does when he goes to work, he says “I help people.” That’s truly how Finlan thinks about his job, he says.

“I help people from an industry perspective—helping improve student affordability and education access through my work with universities and non-profits like Higher Achievement and The Common Application,” he says. “I help people from a client perspective—helping organizations and client leaders achieve their professional and personal goals. And I help people from a Censeo perspective—supporting our talented team grow and develop into tremendous consultants and business leaders.”

Finlan has 14 years of strategy, technology and operations experience, including deep expertise with the federal government and higher education. The leader of Censeo’s Education practice, Finlan has been a pioneer in the field of higher education organizational effectiveness and operational efficiencies.

At Censeo, he has overseen organization-wide improvement projects at James Madison University, The College of William & Mary, Georgetown, and The Common Application.

“I had the chance to lead a university-wide efficiency review at William & Mary, which is my alma mater,” he says. “There were so many elements that were rewarding and exciting: getting a chance to work alongside the leadership including the President, Provost, and Board of Visitors; re-engaging with the community and other alumni; and giving back to a place that gave me so much. I have such fond memories of my time there from running track to meeting my future wife. It was an honor to work with them.”

Finlan says he can really enjoys being able to see Censeo’s work making a difference and it is more than just a stack of PowerPoint slides. “I can see Higher Achievement expanding their programs and reaching more at risk middle-school students. I can see universities slowing the increase of tuition by offsetting investments with cost reductions,” Finlan says. “And I can see Censeo growing and expanding our reach. And most importantly with the flexibility I have at Censeo, I can see my family happy I am spending more nights at home.”

As far as being named a Top 25 Consultant, Finlan says the award provides perspective. “Some of my mentors have won this award in the past. Amazing, impressive, and accomplished senior partners at top firms, and it never really occurred to me that one day I might win. So no matter where you are from, what school you went to, what firm you work for, or who your client is … you can have a big impact,” he says.

What achievements are you most proud of?

“My work within higher education has been very rewarding and includes some of the top universities in the world like University of North Carolina, Cornell and William & Mary. In 2010, one of the highlights of my career was when my Cornell project team won an internal award at Bain & Company called the “Results Challenge” for the most impactful project across North America. It inspired me to come to Censeo, a company that focuses on working with mission-driven organizations, and start a higher education practice.”

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