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What is the difference between global management consulting firms and boutique consulting firms?

Anonymous A

In terms of

  • type of work & projects
  • travel
  • culture
  • salary
  • exit options...?
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Vlad replied on 07/14/2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School

Hi,

There is a number of differences:

  1. Salaries - Lower or similar salary on a post-MBA level but lower partner salary (although might be more tiers for partners)
  2. Career progression may be slower (at least compared to MBB)
  3. Subjectively, the quality is higher at MBB. However, the boutique consulting firms may have unique expertise in a particular industry / function and thus will be better
  4. Knowledge base- MBB knowledge bases are extremely deep and helpful. You have tons of materials on various topics. Again, the boutique firm may have more specific knowledge
  5. Support - at MBB you will have lots of people taking care of extra staff - doing research, the visual design of slides, sophisticated models, outsourcing for making surveys in the field. In the boutique firm, you'll be all by yourself
  6. Benefits - you will have better hotels, better dinners, better airline tickets, etc at MBB. This is important if you spend 90% of your life out of home
  7. Culture - the boutique firm may be like a small family. Thus it provides the great opportunities to make friends. On the other hand - if you don't like to work with the certain people - you'll have no other option. With MBB companies you have some space to make mistakes
  8. Exit options - in general MBB brands are stronger, however, in a boutique firm, you can develop a unique industry expertise that will be highly valued. However, you can always achieve the same effect by specializing in a certain industry with any firm.

Best

Lorenzo
Expert
replied on 07/13/2018
BCG|Accenture|Consulting boutiques|750 GMAT|Got full MBA scholarship

Hi,

basic differences are the following (keep in mind that for global firms I refer especially to MBB):

  • type of work & projects: Global firms usually do shorter projects and a higher level (e.g. industrial plans). Is it common that boutiques come after such high level projects to start the actual implementation phase. So often boutique have more "practical" tasks (e.g. PMO). Boutiques are often very focused on an industry (e.g. insurance) or a function (e.g. finance), so is unlikely to see many different industries in such firms.
  • travel: boutiques are usually very local, meaning that travel are usually inside the country where the firm is located. Global firms might require you to go wherever in the world, either because they need a very specific expertise which is only available in your local office or there is a shortage of resources in some specific, fast growing offices
  • culture: this is very firm-specific, so there is no systematic differences between boutiques and global firm. In general, boutiques are less policy-driven, with more familiar environment, but local office of global firms are usually quite independent and when size is not too big they can still act like a boutique, of course with some constraints deriving from being part of a global network (e.g. feedback methods)
  • salary: referring to MBB, salary in global firms is usually higher, I would say at least by 30% in low-mid levels (associate/consultant). Salary comparison at highest level is not very significant because is highly dependent on structure. Global firms usually have better benefits too.
  • exit options...? Global firms are well recognized by any employer, whereas for boutiques your exit strategy are basically limited by the industry/function where the boutique has its core business. Moreover, you are expected to be hired in a better contractual position exiting from a global firm.