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Small vs. Big Consulting Firm

When to choose niche vs. big consulting firm?

When considering different consulting firms, client organization may be tempted to jump to one of the familiar, renowned consulting brands. That might seem like the simplest and best choice initially, but other options may yield better final results for less expense. While the big consulting companies may appear like a known quantity and can draw from a large pool of consultants, smaller niche consulting firms offer their own set of benefits. Today, a majority of client organizations are more likely to consider smaller consulting firms for their projects. It's therefore important to look at the different advantages of these to basic types of consulting firms.


Small vs big consulting firms


What do large consulting firms offer?

Choosing one of the large, renowned consulting firms can provide these advantages:

  • Reputation & risk-adjusted value: Some client organizations may argue that "you never go wrong when hiring one of the big consulting firms", since the renowned brands of the large consulting firms are perceived as proxy for high levels of professionalism, quality and reputation.
  • Scope & reach: The larger management consulting firms have an international or global scope and reach, offer diversified services and can draw from a large pool of consultants, skills and expertise.
  • Expert pool: The large consulting firms recruit from some of the top schools globally and are well-positioned to attract a large pool of talented people offering extremely competitive salaries and benefits, career and learning opportunities.


What do boutique consulting firms offer?

Usually not being able to draw from a strong brand recognition, boutique consulting firms have to provide other value and benefits to their clients:

  • Focus & specialization: Smaller consulting firms are not as broad in their service scope than the large consulting companies, but are offering in-depth expertise in particular areas focussing  on specific industries or business Problems.
  • Pragmatism & implementation: Since boutique consulting firms are not organized as "pyramids" deploying a large number of juniors they usually are able to staff more senior consultants to their clients' projects with deep functional or industry expertise. Expertise based consultants at niche firms can utilize their knowledge and deep competency to quickly gain traction on projects, to develop practical solution and to provide strong implementation support.
  • Flexibility: Smaller organizations are more flexible in providing services targeted to their clients' specific needs. With a smaller consulting firm, clients usually work one-on-one or with a small consulting team and can connect with them more consistently face-to-face.


When to use a large vs. a smaller consulting firm?

If client organizations have to to decide whether to work with a large consulting firm or a niche consultants they have to answer a series of questions: Is the higher price which clients pay for the brand reputation and international reach of a large consulting firm always justified? What are the opportunities to increase the risk-adjusted value of the engagement? What disadvantages and risks occur when choosing a smaller consulting firm? There's not one right answer to these questions. There are projects for which a large consulting firm is the best solution: If the consultant's brand, its international footprint, the large pool of consultants and the broad and diverse expertise and skills are crucial. In some cases, however, clients will achieve better results by turning to a small consulting firm: Smaller-scale projects which require in-depth specialized expertise, projects which require creative solutions that can realistically be implemented or projects which require smaller teams of consultants and flexible delivery models and collaboration.


Deciding in the "gray area"

Not all projects are either designed to primarily appeal to a large or small consulting firm. In these cases, in developing a list of potential consultants, clients shoud avoid the trap og going only for the large, renowned consulting firms. Just because a consulting firm has a strong brand Reputation it does not mean that it provides the services and expertise required for a specific project or that it provides the quality of services needed on a cost-effective basis. For reasons of Efficiency and effectiveness, clients should also seek out more specialized consulting firms. Being smaller, they may be more responsive and cost-effective, being specialized they may resolve issues faster and possibly more creatively.


consultingsearcher® and Cardea provide assistance in finding the right consultants for your business and projects

Since its foundation in 1999, Cardea AG has been focused on optimizing the added value of employing consulting services for clients. By providing transparency in the consulting market, Cardea supports clients in making the right decisions when retaining external consulting services. Cardea has established itself as a recognized expert in all matters relating to the consulting market and the use of external consultants - across all industries and from large, international corporations to small and medium sized enterprises.

consultingsearcher®, the leading web-based solution for procuring consulting serives, provides perfect consulting market transparency by differentiating consulting firms based on their expertise and skills.

consultingsearcher® utilizes appropriate assessment instruments to ensure clients receive consistent, high-quality, distinctive, world-class service from consultants which are presented on consultingsearcher®. Our quality assurance processes verify accuracy and level of expertise, so you know you’re in good hands. Some of the consulting firms have also been awarded with our quality certificate cap (cardea audited performance).

consultingsearcher® offers clients a comprehensive overview of relevant prospective professional service providers and enables access to previously unknown consulting firms. In addition consultingsearcher® allows its users to distinguish among different providers and compare their distinct areas of expertise.

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