We were talking with a friend of ours who works as a copywriter in the advertising industry. He works in a small boutique that principally does online messaging for the travel and leisure sector. As we spent time, we realized how his choice and our choice in careers varied by more than just the industries we chose. Read more…
That’s because although he became a creative executive and we went into management consulting, the structure of the firms where we worked couldn’t be more different. As someone who had a background in the small, liberal arts colleges in America, he saw the best fit in a small shop that targeted his interests. And that’s one option for management consultants as well.
The Boutique Firms and What You Get
At a smaller management consulting firm, you’re likely to find that the companies you focus on represent just one or two related industries. Furthermore, you’ll be solving specific problems related to one portion of their business activities.
On the bright side, you’ll also be working with top-level executives and in many cases be one of only a few people working on a given project. This means that you are making contacts with C-level thought leaders and will often be asked for input on many aspects of a project.
At the same time, you are less likely to be working on a variety of projects. Like our copywriter friend, you’ll be focusing on one industry or one management focus during the course of your employment.
The Big Names and Your Level of Involvement
A big consulting firm like BCG, McKinsey or Bain will deal with the management and business issues of a variety of top firms around the world. You will likely be one member on a larger team that attempts to deal with high-level concerns and promote system change.
This means that the number of people you will come in contact with will be much larger and span various sectors. At the same time, you might be working on very specific aspects of a project and not necessarily be as involved in big picture aspects of the consulting process. Your mileage will of course vary by both office and company.
Where Do You Go from Here?
Management consulting may be a lifelong pursuit for you, or it may be one way for you to gain experience with how different firms succeed given a set of variables, needs and capital. To delve briefly into what options both sides present can be a bit misleading, but we’ll try.
The gist is that with a larger firm, you have access to more resources across more industries than you would in a smaller boutique’s office. That can mean that you could transfer to another satellite office to satisfy your wanderlust, or leverage a network of co-workers to focus on a specific industry if you’re at one of the leading management consulting firms.
On the other hand, a boutique firm will gift you a contact list of some of the top names in a given industry, where you’ll be known more quickly than you might if you’re part of a larger group.
How you pick depends on what your goals are for your career, and what atmosphere suits you best.