Boutique Consulting Firms: Top Companies to Apply To

Boutique Consulting Firms Top Companies to Apply To

Boutique consulting firms are management consulting firms that tend to specialize in an area of expertise or have close connections to local clients.

If you’re applying to consulting firms, you’re probably familiar with the MBB firms (McKinsey, Bain, and BCG) and the Big 4 (Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, and Ernst & Young). But to have a good shot at landing a job in an industry as competitive as consulting, you want to be considered by more than 7 firms.

Boutique consulting firms are great firms to round out your recruiting list. In fact, these firms might even be a better fit for you.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What boutique consulting firms look like.
  • How some of the best boutique consulting firms differ from the MBB and Big 4 firms.
  • Provide an overview of 9 of the top boutique consulting firms.
  • Tell you what consultants say about working at boutique consulting firms.
  • 3 Tips on applying to boutique consulting firms.

Let’s get started!

What Do Boutique Consulting Firms Look Like?

If you search ‘Boutique Consulting Firm’ on Google or any other platform, you will quickly realize that the terms ‘Boutique Consulting Firm’, ‘Tier 2 Firm’, and ‘Tier 3 Firm’ are used interchangeably. This is because there is no agreed-upon and clear definition of this category of management consulting firms. For simplicity, we will categorize the management consulting firms into 3: MBB, The Big Four, and Boutique consulting firms.

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The Best Boutique Consulting Firms vs. the MBB and Big 4

The big global firms such as MBB and Big 4 are household names and as such attract a high number of applicants annually. They tend to be the first choice for new graduates and experienced hires looking to go into consulting. Boutique firms offer a unique set of opportunities compared to these firms, so they are well worth considering too.

Recruiting

Recruiting at MBB and the Big 4 tends to be extremely competitive. As an example, McKinsey is known to have one of the most selective processes with an acceptance rate of <1% of ~200,000 applications annually. Additionally, the recruiting process is rigorous with a number of rounds. In contrast, the recruitment process in Boutique Firms tends to have higher acceptance rates. Boutique Firms put more emphasis on specific industry/sector expertise. They also focus on cultural fit as this is key for them and key to how they operate.

Culture

Boutique consulting firms tend to be more informal with fluid hierarchical structures. Of course, this varies depending on a firm’s size and how long they have been operating. They focus more on embracing an environment of openness, team cohesion and collaboration. Consultants in Boutique firms are more likely to have a wider scope of responsibilities and this culture enables even junior consultants to work well with senior clients.

One of the unique selling points of Boutique firms is the personalized client-consultant relationship. The flat structure and close collaboration in such firms enable these relationships.

Boutique Consulting firms typically offer a better work-life balance than larger consulting firms due to fewer travel hours, though this can depend on the firm and the project. Since consultants tend to have a wider scope of work, they may put in more hours. 

Applicants to Boutique Consulting firms should investigate a firm’s culture and determine whether it is a right fit for them before applying.

Professional development and training

Boutique consulting firms may not offer as extensive professional development and training programs as the larger firms. However, due to the nature of their work, they offer great on-the-job opportunities. New hires are thrown into challenging situations right away. Though the consultants will have the internal support of the team and organization, they have to be resourceful and have a structured approach to problem-solving which are key skills for a consultant. It is easier to master these skills in the specialized work context, for example in a specific industry, that Boutique firms offer. Moreover, consultants generally have more exposure to more senior clients.

Consultants will tend to work on both back-end research and front-end client-facing work early on, giving them wide exposure. In contrast, larger firms will tend to introduce new junior hires more slowly to more client-facing work.

Career progression

It is easier for consultants in Boutique Consulting firms to advance quickly in their careers because these firms offer more specialized services and consultants get enough opportunity to build their skills. In contrast, MBB consultants tend to take a longer generalist career path before specializing which means the career growth may not be as fast.

This also opens up exit options for consultants in Boutique consulting firms. Similar to MBB and the Big 4, Boutique consultants can go into industry. One big advantage for consultants from Boutique consulting firms is that they are specialized experts and can more easily be offered a management or expert position in industry.

9 of the Top Boutique Consulting Firms

Boutique Consulting Firms

In this section, we will review the top Boutique firms based on where you, our MCO clients, are applying.

L.E.K Consulting: Founded in 1983 and based in Massachusetts, L.E.K is a global consulting firm with offices in America, South America, Europe, and Asia. L.E.K has experience in 14 industries ranging from Business Services, Media & Entertainment to Medical Technology. L.E.K provides a wealth of practical experience from multiple clients across multiple industries. That combined with their proprietary digital assessment tool enables them to provide clients with expert advice and performance data. They provide an excellent space to develop, with many reporting a variety of exciting projects and an open work environment, making this one of the go-to Boutique firms.

Oliver Wyman: With operations in over 30 countries, Oliver Wyman originally began with a strong focus on the financial sector. Through a history of mergers and acquisitions, Oliver Wyman has become a consulting powerhouse in multiple industries. Oliver Wyman prides itself on its entrepreneurial spirit that values self-started and free thinkers meaning consultants have opportunities early on in their career to truly engage in important projects.

Together with its focus on integrity, Oliver Wyman provides an excellent environment to gain experience in a variety of sectors.

AlixPartners: AlixPartners is most known for corporate turnaround management and restructuring as well as improving performance for healthy companies. It has worked with a number of Fortune 500 companies and governments. AlixPartners provides an excellent platform for driven people to achieve their goals with strong support from management.

PA Consulting: PA Consulting has a very interesting history. It was founded in London, tracing its origins to the WWII era; its first assignment was to train women to be placed in the assembly line for bombers, allowing more men to join the war effort. PA Consulting’s people-first orientation continues, with all employees able to buy shares in the company. The firm now covers multiple industries including consumer retail, energy, defense, and life sciences, working with the public and private sectors out of 22+ global offices.

Roland Berger: Based in Munich, this firm is steadily growing its presence in the US. It quickly grew in prominence across Europe and Asia, and its first US office opened in 1995. Roland Berger prizes its entrepreneurial spirit and continues to cultivate this culture in its employees.

ZS associates: This firm focuses on the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. Based in Illinois, it was founded in 1983 by two college professors after developing the first computer-aided territory mapping system. Since then ZS has worked with 40+ large drug companies and 15+ medical device providers. Steadily gaining recognition as they diversify into other industries from tech to finance, ZS provides training and diverse opportunities to its employees.

Putnam: Focusing solely on the Life Science industries, Putnam has 30+ years of experience working with global biopharmaceutical companies to startups and has built a name in this industry. Acquired in 2019 by UDH Healthcare, this US-based firm has offices in the US and UK. It provides an excellent place to work, especially for those looking to grow in this field and make a positive impact on people’s lives.

Simon-Kucher & Partners: Simon-Kucher & Partners is a global consulting firm with over 1,700 employees with a focus on pricing, sales, and marketing. With a strong emphasis on growth, they aim to improve revenue and profit for their clients. This firm has grown considerably in the last few years and has become a significant player in this sector.

Kearney: Kearney is a global management firm that specializes in sourcing, procurement production, and distribution. Kearney is a midsize boutique that has garnered recognition for its work. Founded in 1926, the firm operates on the principle of “essential rightness,” the firm’s core value of doing well and doing good. It has over 4,000 employees and operates in more than 40 countries and has been growing steadily. Kearney’s culture values passion and “a boots on the ground” approach.

What Consultants Say about Working at Boutique Consulting Firms

Here is a summary of what consultants say sets the top Boutique Consulting firms apart:

As you can see, the benefits of a career in a top boutique consulting firm include great growth opportunities and culture. You can also see that these roles can come with a challenging lifestyle, but you probably already know that about the consulting industry in general. If consulting is for you, the top boutiques offer a lot in exchange for your efforts.

*A note on Simon-Kucher & Partners: Historically has been noted for lower pay compared to peers, but recent reviews state that this has improved.


3 Tips on Applying to Boutique Consulting Firms

Boutique Consulting Firms: Interview

Planning to apply to boutique consulting firms? Here are our three top tips to help you land and ace that interview!

1. Show that you’ve done your homework on the firm

Boutique firms tend to place a lot more emphasis on their culture and values during the interview process. Read through the firm’s website, and network with current or former employees, to understand the culture, values, and type of work you can expect.

2. Have the “Why + Firm?” answer clear in your mind

As you do your research on the firm, identify what attracts you to that particular firm and why. Boutique consulting firms offer unique opportunities, and your interviewers will want to understand why you want to work at the firm.

3. Prepare, Practice, and have fun with the interviews.

Interviews are a good opportunity for you to determine whether the particular boutique consulting firm is the right fit for you. Use this as an opportunity to meet people, understand the team you will be working with, and get familiar with the firm and culture.

– – – – –

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • What are Boutique Consulting firms and how they differ from MBB and Big 4 firms
  • Why should candidates Boutique Consulting firms
  • The top 9 Boutique Consulting firms as chosen by MCO clients
  • What consultants are saying about working in the top 9 Boutique Consulting firms
  • 3 tips on applying to Boutique Consulting firms

Still have questions?

 

If you have more questions about the best boutique consulting firms to apply to, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s recruiters will answer them.

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