Office Size: Does it Matter for a Consultant?

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The short answer is: Yes. Most consulting firms today span the map, with offices across many geographies. As you weigh your decision on where you want to have a “home base”, you may want to consider the consulting office size in a particular location. Large and small offices have varying pros and cons…

Large offices

Pros

  • Access to a broader network: Obviously larger offices have more people, which will provide you with ample opportunity to network and meet professionals from a variety of backgrounds. A larger network may allow you better to find professionals with similar interests.
  • More project options: Along a similar vein, larger consulting offices tend to be better diversified in terms of industry and service offerings. This may provide you with more opportunities to work on different types of projects and build a broad portfolio of experiences.

Cons

  • Small fish, big pond: Most consulting firms have “classes” of new practitioners who start together. In a large office, you may start with dozens of other new hires, making it harder to stand-out. Moreover, interesting projects, leadership positions, and top ratings are thinly spread across the group.
  • Diluted office culture: Because it’s easy to “hide” in a big office, practitioners are tempted to become disengaged, leading to lower attendance on Fridays and fewer office social events. Considering that your local office is the bridge between consulting travel insanity and a normal workplace, poor attendance is highly detrimental to building a strong office culture.

Small offices

Pros

  • Big fish, small pond: In contrast to in a large office, it’s easier to stand-out in a small office. Instead of dozens of new hires in your class, you may only have five or six. Therefore, when being considered for interesting projects, leadership positions, or year-end ratings, you may be at an advantage. Senior practitioners in small offices tend to be strong advocates at the regional level for their new hires and practitioners.
  • Strong office culture: Small offices tend to foster strong office cultures. Because there are less people, it’s harder to be anonymous. People tend to come into the office and attend social events more often, and thus practitioners become closer friends outside of work.

Cons

  • Harder to network: Because there are fewer people in small offices, you may have to work harder to build your network in a particular area. If no senior practitioners work in an industry or service offering that interests you, then you will have to proactively make connections in other offices. While it’s far from impossible to build a regional or national network, it will require more work on your part to do so early in your career.
  • Limited selections: Small offices tend to work in concentrated industries or service lines that are most relevant to their local region. This trend is exacerbated as practitioners gravitate toward a particular office for the industry or service focus. This could result in you being “pigeon-holed” on certain projects that are outside of your interests. On the flip side, this could be seen as a “pro” if you know you’re interested in specializing in a particular area and don’t care to develop a diverse project portfolio.

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