Seven reasons why specialists succeed where big players struggle

Seven reasons why specialists succeed where big players struggle

Does “boutique consultancy” mean small and risky or can they really outperform the big 4? 

We’ve all heard the phrase “No one got fired for hiring IBM!”.  It’s also used in the consulting world and implies that bigger consultancies are only hired by executives to protect their own reputation.  Of course, this is simply not true – the ‘Big 4’ or the ‘Top 3’ are labelled as such because they have demonstrated expertise and results across a wide range of business strategy and change implementation projects. They hire smart people and they have proven methodologies.  If they offered no value at all, no one would hire them or people would be fired very quickly! 

The recent rise in the term “boutique consultancy” has been the smaller consultant’s attempt to differentiate their offering from large global consultancies. But what does boutique really mean?  If we use the analogy of a small clothing boutique, then it usually means having a more limited, specialist line and perhaps targeting a local area. 

However, when it comes to shopping for business consultancy, the trick is finding the right specialist.  Especially for something like change management, where the choice of suppliers feels vast and where the range of skills required is actually, quite broad. 

Here are 7 reasons why having a smaller, specialist player on your team might be the right choice for landing change:

  1. Boutique consultancies are specialists.  At i-Realise, we do process-centric business change. We know how to make sure your operating model matches your strategy so it becomes something you can actually implement and isn’t a series of charts and power-point slides that you always aim for, but never quite achieve. Our specialism is particularly successful with industries like retail, hospitality, financial & information services, and public sector, because they have highly distributed business operations that make change more complex.
  2. You know us, and we know you.  Any project succeeds and fails on people and this is especially true for change management because people find change stressful and unsettling.  We’re told by our clients that when they  work with us, they  really do get to know our people.  You get people that you have genuine a chemistry with on your project and get access to the whole team because we’re a niche enough team to share and contribute to each other’s projects.
  3. It’s easier to take decisions quickly.  Anyone reading this who has worked in both small and large companies knows that they both have strengths and weaknesses. One of the most painful characteristics of a larger organisation is the speed of decision making – things that need ‘running up the flagpole’. If this is already a challenge inside your organisation, it might not help to hire a consultant whose more junior consultants have to get sign-off to move your project forward.  Our job is to help you enable better and quicker decision making and foster positive engagement with your stakeholders, not ours.
  4. We’re not auditors, we’re doers.   None of our consultants have that audit/PowerPoint/ Excel background. They didn’t start as auditors then progress into consultancy. We deliberately hire people who’ve been managing change and transformation, people who understand the shop floor, the complexity of running customer service teams or the trials of implementing new in-house IT systems. This unique and valuable experience  means we fit into our clients’ businesses more quickly and can anticipate and responds  to the inevitable things that change along the project.
  5. Are you buying thought leadership or practicality?  Consultants will share what they know for your benefit and we can definitely be creative. But we’re not interested in chasing press coverage or lobbying government. We like hands-on, delivery and practical change that works and improves your business . We use a proven and highly successful methodology that remains   very flexible, more of a toolkit, not a set process our team have to follow.  We know that business transformation means sometimes transforming our own approach as things arise.
  6. Smaller consultancies can offer a more flexible fee structure.  You don’t want to pay for what you don’t need.  Compared to bigger players, we have a lower corporate overhead which allows us to charge competitive rates for experienced people. People who like making change happen.  The biggest saving is recognising that no single change manager has all the skills required for a full transformation. We can give you access to different types of experience when you need it, as your project evolves and flexes.
  7. Our people stay with us, and so do our clients.  We have consultants at very different stages of their careers and they tend to stick with us.  We’re not a graduate career path for people looking to set up their own businesses one day and we’re not looking to constantly increase the number of our people in your organisation. We simply want to land your transformation and do it in a way that feels right for everyone involved.

Making change happen is not easy. Business transformation is a phrase that sounds great but is rarely transformative. Make sure you find out the Pros and Cons of the bigger and boutique  players before your make your choice.  Because what’s actually true, is that no one will fire you for successfully landing a change programme, and in the end, they won’t care who helped you to make it happen. They’ll just be grateful that you did.

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