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Small Management Consultancies

#1 Small Management Consultancies
07/06/2011 11:00


Does anyone work for a smaller Management Consultancy in London?

I've got 2 positions that I've been offered, one with a huge company, and one with a small, independent company.

Obviously, they are at the complete opposite ends of the scale in terms of size, but the smaller company's customer base is no less prestigious than the large one.

I'll be going into the Service Management Practice in both, but was concerned at the package on offer at the large place. I'll be at a high Consultant (C2/C3) level, but without a bonus or car allowance! Is that right?

I'm struggling to decide where to go. Take a chance and go with the smaller consultancy and get a (much) better package, or go with the large one to get the name, exposure and experience, but lower salary and no life.

Any advice?


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#2 RE: Small Management Consultancies
07/06/2011 11:54

Tony Restell ( to arun1uk (#1)

"No life" is a function of the PMs you are working for and the culture that pervades the practice - I'd say that you're as much at risk of being hit by this at a small firm as at a large one. In a small firm you'll have periods like this because in small firms everyone "pulls together" when needed; at a large firm it's just a function of the project you're on and how much this is considered "the norm" by those you are working with.

Given the above, I'd therefore say the decision comes down to earnings potential, risk and challenge / exposure. My take - not knowing the specific firms you are weighing up - would be:

- no surprise to me that earnings are higher at the small firm. I would also usually expect smaller firms to be able to fast-track the promotion of strong performers at a rate that larger firms cannot match. The latter are usually bound by time in service "promotion norms" that make it harder for them to make exceptions for exceptional performers. So assuming you are and continue to be a high performer, potential earnings in the next years are almost certainly higher with the smaller firm.

- the flip side of this is risk. Large firms do sometimes have to let people go if there's a really severe downturn or a particular practice (think public sector recently) sees its pipeline of work decimated by a change in the market environment. But by and large a strong performer is unlikely to find themselves made redundant if joining a large firm. By contrast, small firms are usually overly reliant on just a handful of key clients. If just a couple of these slam on the consulting-spend brakes for any reason, that can cause major problems at the firm. I can think of one firm I know that went a full quarter without billing a single billable day during the recent downturn - at which point job losses for strong performers become inevitable. So you need to do more due diligence on the strength of the client portfolio the smaller the firm you are considering - and accept that the risk here is invariably higher. Depending on your personal circumstances, this may or may not be a risk you're happy and able to take.

- challenge / exposure is not something that is so easily defined in broad terms. A lot of this will come down to the amount of practice leader / partner / client exec contact you'll have in the roles and the calibre of the key individuals you'll be learning from. There are also different aspects that firms may be able to offer. At a small firm your involvement in lead generation, marketing, proposal writing, etc. is likely to come at a younger age; but the scope to work on international engagements or projects outside your specialist sphere is probably more limited. The calibre of clients across the two firms may be similar but that doesn't mean the engagements being worked on are equally prestigious / challenging. This too needs full consideration.

Not a definitive answer either way I appreciate, but hope this helps you in considering your options - and well done on securing the two offers.

Tony Restell

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#3 RE: Small Management Consultancies
07/06/2011 13:11

arun1uk to Tony Restell ( (#2)

Hi Tony,

Thanks for your advice, it's very concise and useful. You raise a good point about the "risk" of each company, and it's obviously dependent on their customer base/pipeline etc.

I'm meeting with the smaller company tomorrow and will ask these type of questions then. After I get through that, they will tell me my total package, whereas I already know the package for the bigger company.

Could any one help with some further questions I can ask tomorrow please? I realise they are very subjective and it's going to be sales pitch from them, so I'll have to cut through the BS and make a considered judgement call.

It's a very exciting time for me, but I need to keep it in check and make the right decision!!! My aim in the next 3-5 years will be to break into one of the higher profile consultancies (Boston, McKinsey, EY).

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#4 RE: Small Management Consultancies
09/06/2011 17:24

Tony Restell ( to arun1uk (#3)

I'm meeting with the smaller company tomorrow and will ask these type of questions then.

Hope the meeting with the smaller firm panned out as you expected and all the best with making the right choice for you.

Tony Restell

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#5 RE: Small Management Consultancies
10/06/2011 12:28

Bob to Tony Restell ( (#4)

Was reading a supplement that came with the FT last week about 'Great Places to Work in the UK', and there was an interesting point in there about the fact that in general small and medium sized firms do better in terms of their scoring.

So to generalise, you would expect to find small firm more enjoyable places to work.

Comes down to what you value: more enjoyment at work, more money, or the brand name on your CV.

Re. your point about having better opportunities at a bigger firm I would tend to disagree (although obviously varies firm to firm). for one, in a smaller firm I think you'll have more opportunities to engage with senior client people since there won't be a huge hierarchy above you on your side to do this for you.


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#6 RE: Small Management Consultancies
13/06/2011 18:33

arun1uk to Bob (#5)


Thanks for the replies.

So....I received an official offer from both companies, which is obviously a fantastic position to be in.

I had to get an answer to the bigger company within 30 minutes of hearing from the smaller company. The recriutment guy was pressuring me, but it's understandable as they gave me the offer the week before. However, I did tell them that I had another interview and would like to attend it. They kind of ignored that fact and kept pressuring me for an answer.

I decided to decline the offer for the bigger company, rather than have it retracted. This way, I knew that I'm good enough to get in, so may go back in future. I just thought that if the offer was retracted, it may reflect badly on me.

I've yet to accept the offer from the smaller company, but think that I made the right move, as it will challenge me more and take me out of my comfort zone.

As Bob mentions, the thing that attracts me to them is that I will have more interaction with C level managers and more variety of work, where as in the bigger company I may be "pigeon" holed in a specific area....good for development in a certain area, but not so good for development as a general management consultant.

Decisions, decisions!

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#7 RE: Small Management Consultancies
21/06/2011 16:08

AnonAnon to arun1uk (#6)

Can anyone else who's had to weigh up this choice provide their thoughts, ideally with the benefit of hindsight and whether you made the right choice? Thanks!

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