Why are consulting firms so big

Small vs. big: Hidden champions in consulting

Consulting industry: the three big ones - and many small ones

On campus, in the business section of daily newspapers or in career guides, the same names always come up when it comes to consulting: McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Bain. In fact - led by the three big competitors - earned last year 25 of the 16,000 companies almost a quarter of the 30 billion euros in sales. Nevertheless, smaller companies manage to assert themselves - by focusing on certain industries or disciplines. A study by the Scientific Society for Management and Consulting (WGMB) examines which of these comparatively unknown companies deserve the label "Hidden Champion".

Which consultant can keep up?

The project was launched for the sixth time in 2018, the initiators are Bianka Knoblach, Managing Director of the WGMB and Prof. Dieter Fink, Economics professor at the University of Bonn-Rhein-Sieg.

Fink looks back: "When the idea for the study arose, the Federal Association of German Management Consultants (BDU) was advocating the thesis that the era of large consulting firms would soon be over and that a new age of small specialists would dawn Consulting clients behaved very differently back then. They concentrated more and more often on so-called short lists with only a few consultants. Most of the time they were the really big ones. "

That made him curious; he wanted to investigate which consultants, large or small, actually perceived their customers to be on an equal footing with one another become.

700 executives choose the hidden champions

In order to find out how decision-makers from large and medium-sized companies think of German consulting companies, over 700 executives were surveyed. In certain industries (such as automotive, energy, banking and insurance) or disciplines (such as strategy, digitization, lean management) those smaller consultants are identified who are rated better than the three market leaders.

The winners are, for example, the purchasing specialist from Kerkhoff, the consultancy B-LUE, which is focused on the health and pharmaceutical sectors, and the Hamburg digital consultant Infront. In the disruption competence area - this is about recognizing trends earlier than the competition - Innovative Management Partner (IMP) prevailed. Anticipating the eating habits of consumers, the team accompanied a dairy, for example, with the launch of a vegan product line.

Bought up and suddenly a big player himself

The big ones are extremely vigilant - they keep an eye on the upstarts and hold out their hand to them in order to go the further way together: "We are surprised, as are many of ours Hidden champions to attractive targets for the big ones become. The first changes have already been made in the current round: Infront becomes part of KPS, B-LUE joins Bain and the German team from OC&C has found a new home at EY, "says Fink. Many of the have also developed on their own hidden champions continue.

The conclusion for young professionals in the consulting area

Digitization ensures, on the one hand, that the consultations are fully utilized and, on the other, that the market is democratized. Innovative service providers subvert the market with lean business models, use intelligent software to identify abnormalities from mountains of company data. Programming and technology skills lead to a head start - with faster processes, lower costs and more direct customer contact. In view of this, all consulting firms have to reposition themselves.

And what does that mean for newcomers who have deliberately chosen smaller companies as a starting point for their careers? Quite simply: suddenly you can be one of the big names in the consultancy market.