The five best boutique consulting firms to work for
When it comes to employers of choice in consulting, nothing has changed in decades. Bain and McKinsey are the top ranked firms on every list, every year, including the latest employee survey from Vault.com. It just depends on which one ranks first and which one ranks second. This year, Bain edged out McKinsey to take the crown.
What’s more interesting, frankly, is Vault’s latest addition to the survey: the top ranked boutique consulting firms in the U.S. These are companies with fewer than 750 employees that typically specialize in one main practice area.
While Bain and McKinsey are dream employers for most consultants, these firms may be solid alternatives, particularly if work-life categories are important to you. The boutique list ignores how prestigious a firm is – a major component of the overall rankings – and just concentrates on culture (25%), satisfaction (20%), work-life balance (20%) and other lifestyle categories.
Launched in 2002 by industry veterans from larger firms, including McKinsey and Deloitte, Insight Sourcing Group (ISG) specializes in procurement (supply chain management), sourcing and cost optimization for anything from consumer companies to banks. They also have a practice that works with private equity firms to reduce costs.
Based out of Georgia, ISG may not fit into the boutique category for long. The firm has been named to Inc. 5000’s fastest growing companies for every year since 2008. It was ranked seventh in the Best Places to Work by the Atlanta Business Chronicle in 2011 and has made the list every year since. Employees point to the firm’s culture and exposure to big projects as major pros.
“The consultants we surveyed literally did not have a bad thing to say about the firm, and went out of their way to praise it for the quality of life they enjoy there,” said Phil Stott, Vault’s Consulting Editor.
ISG plans plenty of team building activities outside of the office, according to its website, including white water rafting, poker night and golf and spa days. ISG has open positions for analysts and associates.
Based out of Washington State, Point B operates out of several different offices on the West Coast, including several locations in California and one in Chicago.
Point B specializes in a number of management consulting services, with venture investment and advisory being the highlight. The company actual runs its own emerging venture capital fund that invests in early-stage companies. It was recently named one of the top three large companies to work for in Washington State.
Employees say Point B offers significant leadership opportunities for people early in their career, but, on the other hand, the job can be tough on “less experienced hires or less self-directed individuals” who aren’t ready for it, one employee told Vault.
“If you want true work life balance then Point B should be your first stop,” added another. It was ranked the best consulting firm for hours in the office and work-life balance among all consulting firms, not just boutiques.
Point B is looking for associates, senior associates, senior business analysts and principal consultants. The firm is 100% employee-owned.
The second-highest ranked consulting firm in terms of work-life balance, Washington D.C.-based Censeo Consulting Group works with public, private, and non-profit to improve their operations. They specialize in technology, higher education, sourcing and procurement and workforce development.
With just 53 employees at last check, Censeo is truly a boutique. Pros of working at the firm include great culture, flexibility and low travel rates compared to other consultancies. Employees talk about the firm's incredibly low turnover rates and work-from-home opportunities.
Its downside appears to be its stature, at least according to some employees. “Limited resources of a small firm can be difficult to new employees with limited consulting experience,” said one employee. “Still figuring out policies and processes as a young company,” said another.
Censeo currently has eight openings, all in Washington D.C., according to its website.
The Brattle Group was the only boutique to crack the top 10 of the overall rankings, meaning it is seen as a prestigious company to work for by those outside the firm. It also ranked highest among all economic consulting firms.
Practice areas include antitrust, intellectual property, M&A litigation, securities and risk management, among others. Based out of Cambridge, Mass., Brattle Group has offices in New York, San Francisco, London, Madrid and Rome.
From an employee viewpoint, Brattle clearly does top other boutiques when it comes to their reputation in the industry. Employees talk about the high level of intelligence of their co-workers, particularly from a quantitative perspective, and the impact you can make when it comes to public policy.
"Reading about your work in the Wall Street Journal can be cool,” said one employee.
One possible downside may be the ceiling for those without post-graduate degrees. “Progression from the entry-level RA (research analyst) position is very difficult without a higher-level degree,” added another. “It is possible, but very unlikely.”
The Brattle Group currently has eight openings in Cambridge, Rome and Washington D.C.
Finishing fifth among boutiques, the Chartis Group sports some of the better diversity rankings among all consulting firms, ranking second overall for LGBT employees and third for women. It’s primarily a healthcare consulting company.
The main positive takeaway from employees is the impactful nature of the work. Nearly a dozen employees talked about the difference that the company makes in the world of healthcare.
Downers include travel and working hours.