Boutique Consultancies Versus Big Consultancies

 Considerations when making a decision on whether to work with a small ‘boutique‘ consultancies or ‘BIG’ consultancy firm

When engaging a consultancy company, you will have options on whether work with a small ’boutique’ consultancy firm such as GreyRigge Associates or engage with one of the large multinational consultancy firms such as Deloittes, PWC, Ernst & Young, etc.  Organisations that have exceptionally strong brands that most people have heard of.  However, here are some considerations before making a choice.

1. Partners vs consultants – When you initially deal with a large consultancy firm, it possible that the proposal will be pitched to you by a partner, or at least a senior director.  However, once you have engaged it is common practice in some companies for ‘juniors’ to then be brought in.  Moreover, if they don’t have the right expertise, they may sub-contract out to external consultants (such as GRA or similar).   However, with a small consultancy firm the consultant who makes the proposal to you will likely be the person who will work with you unless they suggest another associate consultant with more relevant expertise for the task.  At GRA, this will never happen without your permission.

2. Experts vs Generalists – Experts will have great depth of experience in specific areas, focusing their efforts on that speciality. There can often be a higher cost associated with this expertise, but the likelihood of mistakes are significantly reduced.  Generalists offer a broader array and may not possess expert-level skills in a specific area but may have a much broader overview of the client’s business and issues.   However they will have greater flexibility and will likely be able to apply their experience to different areas of the client’s business and provide client’s with different solution options.  Where they lack the expertise, they may bring in associates or sub-contractors that have more appropriate knowledge.

3. Cost – The costs between boutiques and big consultancies are mostly similar, although on average big firms are likely more expensive given their greater overheads.  Furthermore, if the big consultancy firm needs to subcontract activities then the consultancy costs are likely to be higher in order to cover the sub-contractors costs, together with their own (limited) costs and the margin they wish to generate.

4. Commitment – while reputation is important to both large and small consultancies,  the impact of a poor reputation for a small consultancy can have a devastating impact upon their business.  Because of this, smaller firms can often be more invested with a clients objectives as a positive outcome will significant impact both the client’s and consultant’s businesses.  However, if dealing with a small consultancy firm, you must make sure that the consultant is a professional who has been in business for a number of years.  It has become quite common for individuals to label themselves as ‘consultants’ when in fact they have been laid off from paid employment and are simply in-between jobs and looking for temporary work while finding a ‘real’ job.  These individuals may not offer the commitment that you require.

 5. Execution of strategies – It is quite common for some big consultancy firms to provide proposals and strategies but not to be involved in the execution of their proposed strategy.  The danger is after you’ve already paid, if the plan doesn’t work then it will be your fault due to your poor ‘execution‘ of their plan.  With smaller firms, they are typically involved in both generating the strategy as well as helping the client execute that strategy.