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Boutique vs strategy shops

Anonymous A

Hello there,

What is it like to work for a boutique consulting firm and how is it different from working with a smaller generalist strategy shop?

Elias
Expert
replied on September 14, 2016
Experienced consultant, now running own consulting business

Hi there,

thanks for the appreciation.

So one example of a firm that really knows their stuff in a particular field is Horváth & Partners. I used to work for them and still know a lot of people there. They are among the best, probably even the best, when it comes to Controlling, Management Accounting etc. Would I hire them for such a topic? Definitely. Would I hire them for a strategy project? Most likely not.

Similar things can be said for LEK (M&A, Due Diligences), Simon Kucher (Pricing) or Management Engineers (acquired by Strategy&).

Then there are sector specific boutiques, like Berryls for Automotive or zeb for banking. They have incredibly deep sector specific knowledge, but would probably be lost on a project for lets say a media company.

The caveat for a relatively junior person is: If you join one of these firms, you are committing yourself relatively early on in your career. That is perfectly fine if you know that you want to stay in that field, but it can make switching later on harder. But you can really build strong knowlegde in a certain field relatively quickly.

As you might notive, I did not mention any bad examples, and I will not. I have a couple in mind, however. But as a general rule: If the list of covered industries and/or functional specialties is longer than the list of partner / MDs, that company does not have focus ;-)

Cheers,

Elias

Elias
Expert
replied on September 12, 2016
Experienced consultant, now running own consulting business

Hi there,

as someone who has worked in both kinds of companies, I'd be cautious when looking at smaller strategy shops. They just don't have the recources that some of the large ones have. So they often end up as "jack of all trades, but master of none".

So if you are looking at a smaller firm, it's more likely that a specialist shop will be more cutting edge and on par with the big ones - at least on one or two topics.

Good luck,

Elias

Anonymous A replied on September 14, 2016

Thank you very much Elias. Helpful advice indeed!

Could you probably name a view firms which are good or bad so I have a reference point? Or are there any criteria I have to pay attention to in order to judge which ones are good or bad? Thanks!