#1 McKinsey – an overview of the top four consulting firms 2008

APPLYING for a job as a consultant can be a difficult and daunting task. Consulting jobs are highly sought after and the competition is intense. The process of polishing your resume, writing applications and preparing for case interviews can be exhausting and time consuming. Over and above the time actually spent in interviews, each consulting firm you apply for will require hours of research and preparation. Before you set out along that long are arduous path, it is probably a good idea to know who the top consulting firms are and understand a little bit about them. This will help you to focus your effort.

In 2008, the Vault Guide ranked the top 50 most prestigious consulting firms in the world. I have provided an overview of the top four firms, ranked as follows

  1. McKinsey & Company
  2. Boston Consulting Group
  3. Bain & Company
  4. Booz Allen Hamilton

All of these firms have significant global operations and have a strong presence in Sydney. All the information here was obtained from the Vault Guide to the Top 50 Management and Strategy Consulting Firms, 2009 Edition (Vault Career Library), Wikipedia and the respective firm websites.

1. McKinsey & Company

Organisation type

Private company

Headquarters

New York, New York, USA

Key people

Ian Davis, Managing Director

Size

7,500 consultants (13,000 employees) in 90 offices across 51 countries

Revenue

$4.37 billion (2007, Forbes estimate).

Mission

To help clients make distinctive, lasting, and substantial improvements in their performance and to build a great firm that is able to attract, develop, excite, and retain exceptional people.

Operational structure

Although being a private company, McKinsey operates under a decentralised partnership structure.

McKinsey organises its business into six functional practices and 18 industry practices. Functional practices include business technology office, corporate finance, marketing and sales, operations, organisation and strategy.

Clients

McKinsey works internationally in a broad range of industries with large private sector institutions, governments and other non-profit institutions.

Culture

The core guiding principle at McKinsey & Company is professionalism.

Maintaining client confidence is very important. McKinsey does not trumpet the names of its clients or highlight its major engagements.

Career development is intensely feedback oriented.

McKinsey operates under a practice of “up or out,” in which consultants must advance in their consulting careers within a time frame, or else leave the company.

The firm has an endemic ‘long hours’ culture.

Consultants are often required to travel to work with a client in another city.

Publications

Periodicals: McKinsey Quarterly (published six times a year); McKinsey on IT; and McKinsey on Finance.

Books:
– The Alchemy of Growth: Practical Insights for Building the Enduring Enterprise
– Creative Destruction: Why Companies That Are Built to Last Underperform the Market–And How to Successfully Transform Them
– The War for Talent
– In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies (Collins Business Essentials)

Brief history

1926 Firm founded in Chicago by Prof. James McKinsey

1933 Marvin Bower joined the firm in 1933 and served as managing director from 1950 to 1967. He is widely credited with being the founder of professional management consulting. Bower established many of McKinsey’s guiding principles.

1959 London office opens

1990 McKinsey Global Institute established

2001 The McKinsey Institute on the Non-profit Sector launched

2003 Shanghai office opens

Nota bene

Vault consulting firm rankings:

· Ranked most prestigious consulting firm in the world in 2008 for the last five years running; and

· Ranked best energy consulting and financial consulting firm in 2007.

The firm serves three of the world’s five largest companies and two-thirds of the Fortune 1000.

Jeff Skilling, the now disgraced ex-CEO of Enron, was a former McKinsey consultant. Enron received strategy advice from McKinsey.

Careers information

Associates and analysts with at least one year of McKinsey experience can apply to the firm’s Community Fellows program, working exclusively on non-profit projects for 6 to 9 months.

McKinsey places heavy emphasis on the use of the case interview in order to assess your capabilities and potential in four main areas.

1. Problem solving,

2. Achievement,

3. personal impact, and

4. leadership.

Website

http://www.mckinsey.com/

#2 BCG – an overview of the top four consulting firms 2008

 

  1. McKinsey & Company
  2. Boston Consulting Group
  3. Bain & Company
  4. Booz Allen Hamilton

2. Boston Consulting Group

Organisation type

Private Company

Headquarters

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Key people

Hans-Paul Burkner, President and CEO

Size

3,900 consultants (2007) in 66 offices across 38 countries

Revenue

$1.8 billion (2006, Vault)

Expertise

Business strategy

Mission

BCG is committed to:

· Creating competitive advantage through unique solutions

· Building capabilities and mobilizing organizations

· Driving sustainable impact

· Providing unparalleled opportunities for personal growth

· Succeeding together with passion and trust

Operational structure

BCG divides its services into functions including branding, consumer goods, corporate finance and strategy, e-commerce, globalisation, health care, industrial goods, information technology, innovation, intellectual property, marketing and sales, operations, organisation, post-merger integration and strategy.

BCG has a strong presence in Asia.

Clients

BCG draws most of its clients from the 500 largest corporations worldwide, as well as working with smaller companies, non-profit organisations and government agencies.

Culture

BCG supports openness and diversity of opinion. It has a non-hierarchical structure where junior consultants are given responsibility and have access to partners.

BCG reportedly has a friendly and cooperative culture.

BCG has a reputation as a high travel firm.

BCG reportedly has a good work life balance and is less interested in hours spent in the office than it is on results produced.

It appears that BCG does has an “up or out” policy.

 

Recent publications

2006Treasure Hunt: Inside the Mind of the New Consumer’ by Michael Silverstein

2006 The Boston Consulting Group on Strategy: Classic Concepts and New Perspectives

2005The Forgotten Half of Change: Achieving Greater Creativity through Changes in Perception’ by Luc de Brabandere .

2004 Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win’ by George Stalk

Brief history

1963 founded by Bruce Henderson. Henderson left Arthur D. Little to accept the challenge from the CEO of the Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company to start a consulting arm for the bank.

1965 Henderson pioneered Business Strategy as a special area of expertise for BCG.

1966 BCG developed their first breakthrough concept, the Experience Curve. The concept stipulates that unit costs characteristically go down over time as experience increases. This concept helped in the understanding of the role that market share plays in establishing competitive advantage.

1966 BCG becomes the first Western strategy consulting firm in Japan.

1968 BCG developed the growth share matrix, which is simple conceptual framework for resource allocation within a firm. .

1975 BCG stock is sold to its employees through an employee stock ownership plan as a means of purchasing the company from The Boston Company. This was one of America’s first ESOPs. The buyout of all shares was completed in 1979.

1988 George Stalk wrote “Time: The Next Source of Competitive Advantage”, from which academic and business communities embraced the concept of time based competition.

1990 BCG opens the Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland offices.

1998 Creation of the Strategy Institute to research and foster discussion on innovation.

Nota bene

Awards:

2008 Ranked 2nd most prestigious consulting firm in the Vault consulting firm rankings.

2008. Ranked 11th overall, and 1st among smaller companies, in Fortune Magazine‘s 2008 “100 Best US Companies to Work For” survey, based on strong employee development, a supportive culture, and progressive benefits.

2007. Named best large consulting firm in Australia in BRW magazine’s annual Client Choice Awards.

Careers information

Consultants can expect to be involved in pro bono work. Recent projects have included, developing a comprehensive environmental plan for eastern Germany and designing a five year strategy for the World Wildlife Fund.

BCG places heavy emphasis on the use of the case interview and looks for a combination of curiosity and competence.

Website

http://www.bcg.com/

#3 Bain – an overview of the top four consulting firms 2008

  1. McKinsey & Company
  2. Boston Consulting Group
  3. Bain & Company
  4. Booz Allen Hamilton

3. Bain & Company

Organisation type

Private company

Headquarters

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Key people

Steve Ellis, Managing Director. A Stanford MBA, Ellis co-founded Focus, Inc., a Silicon Valley consulting firm, before coming on board at Bain.

Orit Gadiesh, Chairman of the Board

Size

3,700 employees in 38 offices across 25 countries

Revenue

$US1.3 billion (2006)

Expertise

The first consultancy of its kind to establish a private equity practice. Bain & Company is well-known for offering services like due diligence, IPO preparation, portfolio profit improvement and revenue enhancement geared toward leveraged buyout and venture capital firms.

One of Bain’s areas of expertise is the luxury sector.

Slogan

Helping make companies more valuable

Mission

To help companies achieve sustainable results.

Guiding principles

Bain measures its success by the results of its clients. It distinguishes itself from competitors like BCG and McKinsey with its notion of results-oriented consultancy. Bain pioneered the idea of aligning its incentives with its clients’ results and occasionally taking equity in lieu of fees.

Clients

Bain’s engagements are divided between small- and midsized companies, with roughly 40 percent of its engagements coming from this demographic. Bain also works with Fortune 500 and private equity clients.

Culture

BCG is purported to have a relatively high proportion of undergrads relative to BCG and McKinsey. Creating a more lively office culture.

Work/life balance seems to be important at Bain but is achieved on a six month time frame, rather than being balanced every week.

Bain’s results-oriented culture means that consultants can choose when the want to work and schedule free time for important events.

Bain appears not to require as much travelling as McKinsey and BCG. Consultants will go to a client when they need to collect data or to make a presentation.

Bain has a non-hierarchical and meritocratic system, people work in teams and are hired and promoted on merit.

Exposure to clients and top-level executives is purported to be given at an early stage.

Bain encourages consultants to work on a range of project types across a variety of industries in order to develop strong generalist skills before being tied down to one area of expertise.

Recent publications

2007Unstoppable: Finding Hidden Assets to Renew the Core and Fuel Profitable Growth

2006The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth’ by Fred Reichheld .

2004 Mastering the Merger: Four Critical Decisions That Make or Break the Deal by David Harding and Sam Rovit

Brief history

1973 Bill Bain and others left BCG to form Bain & Company

1984 Bain Capital, a successful venture capital firm was founded by Bain partners (including Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney). Bain Capital has around $27 billion in assets under management. Bain Capital’s funds include private equity, venture capital, public equity and leveraged debt assets.

1985 Bain was incorporated in 1985 and over the course of two years the Employee Stock Ownership Plan was established.

2000 Bain founded a non-profit group called The Bridgespan Group, which offers fresh management strategy approaches for clients in the non-profit world, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bain’s consultants rotate into Bridgespan from the parent consultancy for six-month rotations.

2006 Bain is a late comer to India, in 2006 it opened a full-fledged office in New Delhi

Nota bene

2008 Ranked 3rd most prestigious consulting firm by the Vault Guide.

2007 Ranked as the best firm to work for every year for the last five years by Consulting Magazine.

2007 Ranked as the best workplace in France by the Great Place to Work Institute

2007 Ranked as the best place to work in Europe and the UK by the Financial Times

Careers information

In a Financial Times interview, Bain partner Bill Neuenfeldt identifies the desired qualities in potential hires as “intelligence, integrity, passion and the ambition to make a difference”. Bain also looks for candidates with an enthusiasm for problem-solving and an analytical skill-set.

Bain has a tradition of pro bono work and aims to make a significant investment on important social issues.

Bain is purported to be just as selective as McKinsey and more selective than consultancies like Booz Allen, Monitor and A.T. Kearney.

Intelligence is important, but demonstrating energy and professionalism is also very important.

One consultant interviewed in the Vault Guide indicated that it is important to “make sure you have a compelling and customized story about why you want to be a consultant at Bain.”

Website

www.bain.com

#4 Booz Allen Hamilton – an overview of the top four consulting firms 2008

 

  1. McKinsey & Company
  2. Boston Consulting Group
  3. Bain & Company
  4. Booz Allen Hamilton

NOTE: In July 2008, Booz Allen Hamilton separated its two core businesses into two companies. Booz Allen Hamilton now provides U.S. government consulting, and Booz & Company provides commercial management consulting.

4. Booz Allen Hamilton

Organisation type

Private company

Headquarters

McLean, Virginia, USA

Key people

Dr. Ralph Shrader, Chairman and CEO

Other key people

Size

19,000 employees in 115 offices across six continents

Revenue

$4 billion (2006)

Expertise

Main expertise is strategy and technology consulting, in commercial and government sectors.

Mission

To deliver results that endure.

Operational structure

Firm’s services are broken into strategy and leadership, organization and change management, operations, innovation, sales and marketing, and information technology.

Clients

After WWI, Edwin Booz increasingly used his ties to Washington and the public sector, establishing a tradition of government service that continues at Booz Allen to the present.

Booz clients also include the world’s largest corporations and emerging growth companies from every industry sector and every country.

Culture

Client confidentiality is important at Booz Allen and the firm doesn’t typically publicise the names of clients.

The firm is said to have a very non-hierarchical open structure which fosters a culture of team work and cooperation.

Booz Allen consultants typically get heavy workloads and travel is a fairly regular thing. Consultants at Booz Allen would generally be out-of-town four days at a stretch, with Fridays back at the home office.

Promotions are up-or-out, you get promoted upwards or asked to leave.

Publications

Since 1995, the firm has published strategy+business, a magazine for business executives.

Brief history

1914 Founded in Chicago by Edwin G. Booz. Booz believed that companies would be more successful if they could call on someone outside their own organizations for expert advice. He is credited with being the founder of the management consulting profession.

1940 The firm was hired to help the US Secretary of the Navy with WWII preparations, marking the beginning of a longstanding relationship with the US Federal Government.

1950s The firm went global in the 1950s, with a contract in the Philippines and its first international office in Zurich.

1962 Firm changes its structure from a partnership to a privately held corporation.

1970 Booz Allen goes public with an initial offering of 500,000 shares at $24 per share.

1976 The partners took the firm private again through one of the first management buyouts to allow the firm to consider long-range investments that companies beholden to shareholders might not be able to make.

1982 Booz Allen Vice President Keith Oliver develops the concept for supply chain management working with the Dutch electronics giant Phillips.

2003 Booz Allen develops the Org DNA online self-assessment tool, enabling company leaders to better understand how the inherent traits of their organisations influence employee behaviour and affect company performance.

Nota bene

Notable intellectual contributions include the OrgDNA framework, the PERT management technique, and the product lifecycle theory.

2008 Ranked 4th most prestigious consulting firm in the world by the Vault Guide.

2007. The firm has been recognized one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers by Working Mother magazine for seven straight years to 2007

2007. The firm has been recognised as one of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work for two years running in 2007

Careers information

There is a strong emphasis on case interviews.

Website

www.boozallen.com