BOUTIQUES CAN’T BEAT THE ODDS
Boutique firms have increasingly gone toe-to-toe with large firms in recent years. This is particularly true in Quality of Life and Work measures, where a boutique tops the list in eight categories. These include Culture (Keystone Group), Formal Training (Health Advances), Hours (Eagle Hill), Client Interaction (ghSMART), Ability to Challenge (ghSMART), Overall Satisfaction (ghSMART), Travel (Putnam), and Work-Life Balance (Insight Sourcing Group).
Among boutiques, Clearview Healthcare Partners led the pack, surging from 15th to 1st (along with climbing from 24th to 13th in the overall ranking). Sure enough, the firm’s rankings in Quality of Life and Work set it apart. Chiefly, it ranked #2 in four categories (Innovation, Interaction with Clients, Promotion Policies, and Relationships with Supervisors) and #3 in five categories (Exit Opportunities, Formal Training, Internal Mobility, Satisfaction, and Travel Requirements). Why is Clearview Healthcare Partners competing more with Putnam than McKinsey. Simple: It doesn’t even rank among the Top 50 firms for Prestige, an oversight that also tamps down the ranking of the remaining Top 5 boutiques (ghSMART, Insight Sourcing, Putnam, and The Keystone Group). In other words, boutiques will remain the perennial outsiders with Prestige’s 30% weight acting as an albatross.
That can be tough on a firm like Clearview Healthcare Partners, where consultants thrive in a home-based environment with limited travel obligations. According to survey respondents, the firm’s biggest attraction is a fast-track career pathing. “ClearView truly promotes based on merit, often pushing people who are strong through the ranks very quickly,” writes one consultant. “We have a number of very young principals in the leadership and manager cohort. This is excellent for our firm, and also great for each individual’s personal and professional development.”
SPECIALIZATION INCREASING IN APPEAL
This approach also leads to higher payouts sooner, adds another survey respondent. “Salary progression is unparalleled. Though the entry-level starts at market rates, the quick timelines to promotions means your salary rises substantially in short period of time – in-line with your development. There is transparency on earnings bands by level, and bonuses are all but guaranteed.”
The accelerated pace is one advantage that boutiques will continue to hold over larger do-it-all consulting firms. “We’re seeing heavy emphasis in the type of work a consulting firm offers being weighed as heavily as other decision factors like firm culture – if not more so – when consultants are accepting a job offer, says Stephan Maldonado. “While larger consultancies will always hold a certain appeal because of the opportunities they give consultants to move between practice areas, I think a lot of these boutiques that are more focused – more specialized – yet do really exciting work in their vertical(s), are gaining a lot of traction. These are firms like ghSMART and GE Healthcare, but also ones that jumped significantly in this year’s rankings, like ClearView Healthcare Partners, or those that actually debuted in the Top 50, like Blue Matter.”
Blue Matter, for one, is just a seven-year-old firm specializing in the life sciences. It is almost an archetype for the boutique firm of the future: small and fast-growing with a tech-driven mindset and an entrepreneurial spirit…not to mention a perk-packed compensation plan and purpose-driven, all-in-this-together culture.
DELOITTE FEELING THE LOVE
“If you want to come to a place where everyone, including leadership, takes care of one another, and you want to work on innovative solutions to challenging problems, come to Blue Matter,” writes one survey respondent.
That said, boutique firms are still struggling to make in-roads in particular industries. Outside the Consulting 50, Vault also ranks firms in 15 different practice areas. Like Prestige, Vault asks survey respondents to list the best firms in their respective practice areas (excluding their own, of course). Like the Overall and Prestige rankings, McKinsey came out on top. It posted the highest scores in eight practice areas: Economics, Energy, Healthcare, Management, Pricing, Retail, Strategy, and Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT).
However, the news wasn’t a slam dunk for McKinsey, which lost its top spot in two categories: Financial consulting to Ernst & Young and Operations consulting to Deloitte. Like previous years, Accenture remained consultants’ pick in IT Operations and IT Strategy, while Lockheed Martin held sway in the Aeronautics and Military field. It was also a banner year for Deloitte, which wrestled away the top spots in Human Resources and Public Sector consulting from Mercer and Booz Allen Hamilton, respectively.
Go to next page to see how Bain’s Kevin Bevans and Vault’s Stephan Maldonado see the opportunities and threats in the consulting industry.