Search the Site

Big Firm v Little Firm

Senior ConsultantIn a consulting world dominated by the 'big players', it is often easy for employees (and indeed clients) to choose the 'safer ground' of large, established organisations, thereby ignoring the potential benefits the smaller firm can provide. When considering career options for 'experienced hires' (typically those with three or more years experience in the consulting industry), this difference is even more important to understand.

There are undoubted benefits to embarking upon a career in consulting at a big firm – it can be an excellent place to develop key consulting skills and build experience. Large consultancies invest heavily in the development of Analysts, attracting hundreds of top-end graduates each year to be trained and despatched to client site. The opportunities available to new joiners are alluring: quick client placement and responsibility, extra-curricular initiatives to further broaden experience – whilst enjoying the benefits of a big-firm brand, as well as potentially attractive travel opportunities.

As Analysts are promoted to Senior Consultant, some of these benefits can diminish. Training and investment in professional development can reduce with seniority. And finding ever more challenging delivery roles to match the development of the consultant can be difficult. This is where the smaller consulting firm can offer an attractive alternative; often set up by consultants who chose to leave behind the big-firm environment for those very reasons.

Small companies necessitate big ambition and drive to survive, and can provide considerable personal job satisfaction linked to an inclusive environment of like-minded individuals. Niche consulting organisations, by their nature, have a more focused set of propositions – allowing individuals to seek out the right firm for them, specialise in an area they are truly passionate about and develop real in-depth experience. With a smaller organisation often comes a greater responsibility, sooner. If you have the spark of a bright idea, you may well be able to take ownership and see it through to reality. Smaller firms can also provide opportunities to be involved in business management and 'running a company' in ways that are simply unavailable in a big firm. These opportunities range from direct contribution to strategy development, through client targeting and business development, to participation in the wider internal operations of the company.

Of course, there are differences which need to be factored into a new working environment with a smaller firm. A different way of working (including the need for better management of admin!); often being directly accountable for client relationships; earlier opportunities to manage teams; and having more responsibility for delivery, are just some of these. There is risk in leaving what some see as the safety of a big firm, but there can be significant psychological (and sometimes financial) rewards.

Appreciating the range of different options available outside the big-firm environment is often the hardest step for consultants of big-firm backgrounds. Overcoming the belief that 'big is best' can be difficult and seem risky. However, smaller consulting firms provide individuals with a very different range of opportunities and experience when compared to the big firms. The small firm route may not be the best choice for all consultants, but there are many benefits which make them just as, if not more appealing, than working for the big boys.

Article by Moorhouse Consulting, visit them at 



How we Support Clients


About the Author

About Raj

Join our Newsletter