You don’t have to live in the Northeast to find a position in a top-tier consulting firm.
Chicago boasts several firms that received winning marks on our Best Consulting Firms of 2016. A healthy range of options in the Windy City gives consultants the choice of a large or smaller firm to pick from. And if all else fails and it’s Chicago or bust for you, plenty of the bigger consulting firms have offices in Chicago, even if they are not headquartered there.
Best Consulting Firms in Chicago – Boutiques
Don’t be fooled by the name of this firm of 83-employees: The Cambridge Group is based in Chicago, about a thousand miles from Harvard Yard. With a focus on consumer goods, finance, media and retail, The Cambridge Group is climbing up the Ivy Exec rankings: jumping from 8th place last year to 5th this year, the highest of any Chicago-based firm on our list of boutique companies. Even better news for those who very much want to spend the bulk of their time in Chicago: 95-percent of employees at the Cambridge Group travel one day a week or less.
A current manager at the company tells us that the work is challenging but rewarding: “We focus solely on growth strategy so we don’t do cost cutting or operational work. We focus on a wide assortment of industries so the work never feels stale and you’re constantly learning.”
A partner at the Cambridge Group seconds the sentiment that the firm’s work is highly stimulating: “TCG does the most interesting work in Strategy Consulting. We work on the toughest strategic challenges for the most exciting consumer-facing businesses in the world.”
This 50-person firm focuses on strategy, operations, finance and acquisitions and is a newcomer to our Ivy Exec rankings in 2016. Reviews from employees are mixed but a current partner with the firm praises its Chicago-based culture in particular:
“Midwestern, salt of the earth people. Good bedside manner, never arrogant. Very informal. 100 percent merit based promotions, not timeline.”
Read the Full Rankings: 2017 Best BOUTIQUE Consulting Firms to Work For
Best Large Firms in Chicago
This firm of nearly 3,000 employees specializes in analytics, business technology, marketing, sales and operations. Since our rankings last year, however, the company has slipped a bit: tumbling from 4th to 10th place. However, it remains our highest-ranked large firm based in Chicago. Reviews were mixed from employees but from our data, it’s clear that the workload at this firm is certainly quite heavy. About half of the firm travels out of the office upwards of four days per week. Virtually everyone in the firm works upwards of 50 hours per week with about 45 percent of employees working 70 or more hours per week.
“You need to be comfortable with the travel and hours, but within those constraints it’s a reasonably good firm to work for,” a current senior associate tells Ivy Exec.
Other employees blast the leadership for being indecisive or not caring about their staff. Some, however, remain positive, telling Ivy Exec that A.T. Kearney has an “inclusive environment, knowledge transfer, mentorship, blue-chip clients, strong franchise commitment from the leadership and senior consultants.”
Bordering Chicago in Evanston, IL, ZS Associates has some 4,500 employees focusing on sales, marketing, outsourcing, technology and software. ZS Associates has also slipped a bit since last year, falling from 15th place to 22nd on this year’s rankings. About 75-percent of employees with the company still say it’s a great place to work. One current analyst tells Ivy Exec that “the environment in ZS Associates is very friendly. I had lots of concerns when I first started to work for ZS since this was my first consulting firm experience. However, if you want to learn and do your best, ZS is a great place. I am really happy with my colleagues, they are very nice and push you forward instead of putting obstacles on your road.”
Others are less optimistic about the firm, slamming the leadership and work-life balance.
New to our Ivy Exec rankings this year, Huron Consulting Group has some 4,711 employees focusing on business advising, education, EPM, analytics and healthcare. While average compensation is high at $203,000, only 66 percent of employees say it’s a great place to work. Even more disappointing, only 55 percent of staffers would recommend the firm to a friend.
One manager notes that the firm has a high turnover rate and called it “one of the worst places to work in my 20+ [year] career.” Others blasted the top leadership in industry verticals as well as the CEO himself. Some mentioned worries that the firm was “old school” or prioritized a “dated, good old boys network.” However, many employees very much enjoy working there and recommend it as a fine place for newer consultants to cut their teeth early in their careers.
“This firm, particularly the healthcare practice is great for recent college graduates as the company culture is focused on this demographic,” a current consultant tells Ivy Exec.