Growth, passion, and supportiveness could easily describe Bain & Company as well. Long known for its culture of camaraderie, Bain is a deeply connected and committed bunch who are as friendly as they come. “[It’s a] no-brainer,” writes one 2020 Bain survey respondent. “Whether or not you stay, you’ll never regret working here. The experience will enrich you professionally and personally, and you’ll have more fun along the way than anywhere else.”
For Bain, the 2020 Vault Consulting 50 results represent a step forward as much as a step back. The most striking element at Bain is easily optimism, a confidence fueled by growth. That starts at the top. This year, Bain ranked #1 when it comes to how their consultants feel about its current Leadership. For Keith Bevans, a Bain partner who serves as global head of consultant recruiting, the firm’s “assume the best” optimism has been intensified by the addition of Manny Maceda, the firm’s new worldwide managing partner.
“Manny has really generated a lot of excitement and raised the bar about what winning as a team looks like,” Bevans tells P&Q in an August interview. “People are excited about building on what has been a tremendous track record of growth, such as opening a new office last year in Seattle (with another home office coming to Austin). They’re seeing innovation and how we’re approaching our client situations, bringing new capabilities to bear…They’re also excited that we’re really doubling down on what I consider part of the secret sauce for Bain: how we team as a partnership and how we team as a global firm. I’ve been in the industry a long time and the way Bain partners and the way our case teams work together to deliver global solutions to their clients is unlike any other.”
“A BAINIE NEVER LETS ANOTHER BAINIE FAIL”
By the numbers, the year was slightly disappointing for Bain. In particular, the firm lost ground in 17 Quality of Life and Career measures. The Ability to Challenge, for example, slumped from 9.80 to 9.454. Compensation also dropped by .253 of a point. Bevans himself focuses more on the context, taking a measured, long-term, big-picture view of the results.
“We look at it with our scores over multiple years in terms of how our people are feeling about the firm. Overall, we’ve done consistently well for a very long time. We’re really proud of the fact that in any one year, things might go up and things might go down, but the overall arc of what we’ve done and how they feel about the firm have stayed remarkably positive.”
This year’s data includes plenty of silver linings, which show Bain could soon return to the top spot it held as recently as 2015 and 2017. Among the MBB, Bain ranked first in six categories – up from two the year before. Sweeter still, Bain displaced McKinsey in three of those categories: Firm Leadership, Formal Training, and Travel Requirements. At the same time, Bain continued to rank among the best cultures overall according to survey respondents. Along with its trademark supportiveness – where “a Bainie never lets another Bainie fail” – the firm is synonymous with teamwork where the goal is to simplify complex problems by drilling down to the main question being asked. It is a “results over reports” approach, one that demands persuasion and hand-holding as much as outside-the-box problem-solving.
“Real-world data is messy and ambiguous, and a lot of what we work on is so cutting-edge that the best data set or analysis that exists is the one we are actively helping to create,” says Faye Cheng, who joined Bain from MIT Sloan in 2018. “This is simultaneously daunting and empowering…At the end of the day, the best answer is not necessarily the one that’s textbook-perfect, but rather one that is feasible and best tailored to the client’s particular needs.”
A TRAILBLAZER IN TRAINING
Bain is also a place, in the words of another survey respondent, where “you always feel supported.” That stems from the firm’s commitment to training. In the 2020 Vault Consulting 50 survey, Bain & Company notched the highest score for Informal Training and ranked 2nd for Formal Training – par for the course historically. What’s the firm’s secret? For one, training acts as an extension of Bain’s apprenticeship model. One survey respondent praised how the training is so “experienced-based” because it is conducted by senior-level staff. More than that, Bain training is ongoing, consistent, and multi-layered.
“Bain enables rapid self-improvement,” writes one survey respondent. “Every other week you have a professional development discussion to assess your performance and identify areas for improvement. Beyond coaching, you have formal/informal mentors that actively help you navigate promotions, exit opportunities, and other major decisions.”
This fosters a sense of trust that filters across the organization observes another respondent. “Expectations have always been very clear as to what is expected of me, across dimensions and as I’ve progressed over time. The feedback mechanisms are robust and I always feel like I know how I am performing (backed up by specific examples).”
ENHANCING CLIENT SUPPORT
In other words, Bain consultants work with a clear direction and purpose. “Promotion is not at all a black box,” adds a Bain survey respondent. “It feels like Bain is trying to get me promoted—and retain me—which is a nice feeling.”
For Keith Bevans, this momentum demands that he continues to tap into a wide assortment of talent pools beyond the MBA market – as well as building the infrastructure to support these hires. That includes an Advanced Digital and Product Team (ADAPT) and an Advanced Analytics Group (AAG) that work inside case teams to provide more encompassing turnkey solutions to clients. That doesn’t even include client support like the Bain Advisor Network, which boasts several hundred executives with deep functional expertise, and the Bain Alliance Ecosystem, where clients can tap into thought leadership and specialized expertise particularly in the areas of data and technology.
“We’re building out those partnerships so we have the world-class, cutting edge expertise that we could bring all of those to our clients,” Bevans adds. “That’s what we are focused on right now, not just getting names and logos on the page but also making sure we can integrate them into a seamless experience for our clients.”