Boutique consulting firms offer businesses and corporations highly specialized advice that addresses specific problems or aspects of a business or that provide services to specific types of businesses. The goal is to improve each client company's efficiency and profits. The word "boutique" typically refers to a small shop or business, but in some cases, the term has more to do with the consulting firms' focus than with its actual size. One such firm might consist of only a single adviser, and another might have 200 or more consultants working for it. Unlike major consulting firms, however, even the larger boutique firms are very specialized rather than offering general consulting services.
This type of consulting firm typically focuses on a particular niche or a small number of niches. Some boutique consulting firms might provide services only to certain types of businesses, such as human resources companies, healthcare companies, information technology businesses or outsourcing firms. Government agencies might also call on the services of boutique consulting firms that specialize in their particular fields.
A boutique consulting firm also might focus on certain aspects of business operations. For example, one might specialize in logistics, networking, invoicing or record-keeping. Any type of company that wants help in a particular subject could hire a boutique firm that focuses on that topic.
Small in Scope
Large management consulting firms can be national or global in scope and typically offer services that are much more diversified. As such, a large firm often can draw from a larger pool of overlapping knowledge and expertise than more narrowly focused boutique consulting firms, which could be an advantage for the company or agency that contracts the large firm's services. Boutique firms, on the other hand, are often able to resolve business issues more quickly than large firms and can draw on their expertise in specific subjects to create effective solutions.
Fees that boutique consulting firms charge are sometimes lower than those charged by the larger firms, because they usually have lower operating costs and fewer consultants on staff. A highly specialized boutique firm, however, might be able to charge higher fees if it has gained a reputation for solving complex issues in a particular aspect that the larger firms do not address. In some cases, it might not make sense for large firms to offer services that are very narrowly focused, leaving boutique firms to profit from providing the only services in those subjects.
The use of boutique consulting firms, when they are small, might be riskier than using large firms. In some cases, the smaller firms have serviced many fewer clients, so there is not as much verifiable evidence that their services will be helpful. The methods that boutique consulting firms employ might not be as well-defined or as well-established as those of the larger firms. Small firms also might not have adequate resources to thoroughly train newly hired consultants. In general, boutique consulting firms tend to offer companies and agencies fewer frills and perks than their larger counterparts do.