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Different Types of Consulting – Exploring Alternatives to Larger Consulting Firms

In my most recent blog post, I described some of the differences between two types of consulting jobs. Of course, I'm a bit biased toward independent consulting, but I also see the value of larger firms. These firms have their place, and they continue to thrive because they offer solutions that make sense for the organizations that employ them. I just happen to believe that independent consulting is a better choice for most professionals because it allows them to truly innovate.

Different Types of Consulting – Exploring Alternatives to Larger Consulting Firms

Today, I'd like to take a look at these different types of consulting from the perspective of the client. Doing so will show the value of independent consulting in a way that might not be obvious. What's more, I think looking at consulting from a different perspective can show you how your specific talents, skills and knowledge are treasured commodities in the modern business world.

Large Consulting Firms and Name Recognition

I worked for Xerox in the early 1980s. Back then, there was an adage that said no one got fired for buying Xerox. Think about that for a minute. Did Xerox produce machines that were clearly superior to those designed and manufactured by their competitors? No, of course not. Xerox is simply a trusted name in its industry. The company is so well-known and trusted that its name is even used as a verb to this day! Therefore, if the person responsible for purchasing business machines at Company XYZ chose Xerox, his or her job would probably be safe, even if the machine's performance was subpar. The buyer was not held accountable for making a poor decision, because he or she hired a known entity.

What if Company XYZ's buyer purchased an off brand? Well, if that off-brand machine performed amazingly well, the buyer would probably receive a modest amount of praise, if any. On the other hand, if the off-brand machine failed miserably, there's no doubt that the buyer would find him or herself under fire.

My point is that large-scale, cookie-cutter solutions have their place when the behemoths of business need to implement changes on a grand, global scale. These companies “buy Xerox” instead of going with a (potentially superior and more innovative) competitor. Amazing, earth-shattering results probably won't occur, but no one is going to come under fire for making a poor decision, either; it's a “safe” choice.

The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Large-Scale Consulting Firm

From the perspective of a large, corporate client, there are many reasons for using the types of consulting techniques offered by the top firms. They include:

  • Safety and security – these firms won't rock the boat

  • Larger consulting firms can be in hundreds of places at once, working on implementing solutions

  • If the results of using a larger firm are unsatisfactory, it's unlikely that anyone will lose a job

Now let's take a look at hiring a large-scale consulting firm from the perspective of a smaller or mid sized business. These companies probably won't be satisfied, and here's why:

  • Larger firms are not set up to innovate as much as they are programmed to implement proven solutions

  • The expenses associated with hiring larger firms are too much for most small businesses to bear

  • Smaller companies will never reach the top of a top consulting firm's list of priorities

When you look at the business world, it's easy to think of the massive companies that seem to dominate the world's industries. These companies will always hire larger consulting firms because safety and retaining the status quo are so important. When you drill down a bit more, though, you'll find that the majority of the world's companies are actually small-scale operations that require true innovation and knowledge. That's where you can really make a difference.

Consider the Different Types of Consulting Carefully Before Charting Your Next Move

It's up to you to decide what types of consulting you want to perform. If you want to innovate and provide solutions based on the experience that you've gained throughout your professional life, you might be disappointed by the types of work offered by the larger consulting firms. These firms know their clients well, and they aren't necessarily interested in rocking the boat with novel ideas, no matter how good those ideas might be.

Independent consulting gives you the chance to work with a different type of client. Smaller and mid sized companies need solutions that incorporate innovative ideas, and they look to independent consultants to provide them with the ideas that will fuel growth and benefit the products or services they provide to their clients. While it's easy to think of the business world as an environment dominated by massive corporations, catering to lesser-known companies as an independent consultant is a great way to make a difference in the world while making excellent use of the skills and knowledge you've accumulated throughout your life.


Would you like to learn more about the different types of consulting? The Ex3 Matters website contains a number of resources that can help you make a great choice when it comes to your next career. For more insight, download our free and informative consulting guides, and get your copy of Buddy Hobart's free eBook, “Experience Matters.”