Nous lançons notre série d’articles sur le futur du conseil. Nous avons discuté avec des Partners / Founders de 6 boutiques de conseil pour essayer de comprendre les tendances émergentes du conseil: Freelance, disruption, spécialisation, collaboration entre boutiques et grandes firmes etc.
Nous avons travaillé avec ES Conseil pour les accompagner sur le recrutement d’un freelancer. Si vous cherchez à recruter d’anciens consultants, contactez-nous ici.
Boutiques can outperform in their niche thanks to flexibility and expertise; however strategy firms should view boutiques as an opportunity – not a threat
We spoke to Eric Sauvage about his reflections on 20 years in the consulting industry. We looked at how more accessible talent had changed the industry, and the future potential for more complementary work between boutiques and strategy consultancies. We conclude by touching on the issue for all boutiques – creating a sustainable legacy.
Leading strategy houses are growing fast, however consulting isn’t becoming less fragmented
The leading strategy firms are growing fast, driven primarily by large Digital Transformations. The larger CSTs are providing an end-to-end service model helping to transform large corporations through technology and an improved digital presence. However, this isn’t resulting in fewer companies in the industry: “Leading strategy firms are growing fast, but that doesn’t mean consulting is becoming less fragmented. In many ways the opposite is true. As the strategy firms focus on larger projects, it leaves space for strategic projects with mid-sized companies.”
This is primarily driven by the development of a new, underserved market. Companies that look to spend €1m in consulting per year, are no longer the targets of the large strategy firms. And as such it is a gap that boutiques are increasingly able to fill.
The growth of boutiques has recently been fuelled by easier access to talent
The other driver behind boutique growth has been the access to talent.
Leading consultancies are great at training their employees, and offer a unique proposition for those working there. However, the longer term trajectory is not for everyone. And as such, there are increasing numbers of alumni moving to independent consulting – “Whether it’s lifestyle, work-life balance or more control over type of work, we’re seeing many more great freelancers in the market.”
The ease of accessing these freelancers has also improved, with platforms such as movemeon. As a boutique you can now access deep functional expertise, without having to develop a large team with a bench to manage utilisation.
However, Eric did note that there is a longer term risk for the increasing numbers of freelancers – “As an independent consultant there is a risk that you don’t get the same progression you would in a consultancy.” There is also a risk that as supply increases, the day rate demands will start to decrease, making it less commercially attractive.
Whilst talent is important, boutiques must also conquer a niche to survive
Whilst talent, and less competition for smaller businesses are helping to drive the growth of boutiques – they must also have a clear focus to be successful.
“The first key rule for any boutique is a clear niche. They can’t come to the market as a generalise – success instead relies on a few key relationships and success stories.”
This niche also allows them to develop a core team with expertise and a network of independent consultants that can provide further expertise as and when required. Eric pointed out that as a boutique, the quality of execution is even more important as you don’t have a long track record to support you.
Whilst boutiques can offer a more bespoke product, they can still suffer from not having a known brand
Boutique consulting can be a lot less transactional, and instead focused on longer-term relationships. You can also be more flexible – changing the shape of your delivery and team based on the client.
However, there are certain occasions where clients stil “need a brand name to internally justify the decisions.” Whilst their relationships with boutiques are often much deeper, the old adage of “you’re never fired for hiring McKinsey” often comes to play.
Eric didn’t see this as competitive however – “I see boutiques and strategy houses as complementary.” There are projects where only a leading strategy house can deliver – the need for a brand, and the breadth of work is too much for any boutique. However, often the Boutique (and CEO’s trusted advisor) are brought in after the project – to help digest everything and start the effective implementation. He also noted that there’s a huge potential for strategy firms to bring in external consultants more – “I should have done this more frequently in my projects in the past.”
The challenge for boutiques – legacy
We conclude by discussing a big challenge to the industry of boutique consultancy – legacy, and transitioning beyond their current founders.
Whilst a consultancy is only as good as its people – it is often forgotten that there are assets like any other business. Founders of boutiques often overlook these assets – brand, marketing, relationships, expertise – and as such, find it hard to build the business into more than themselves.
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