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Can a boutique beat BCG, McKinsey and Bain?

Can a boutique firm compete against BCG, Bain and McKinsey on a major study and secure the privilege of serving the client without competing on price?

Well, we have decided to do just that and report it here.

In all of the real strategy studies we have been conducting, like LAB, we have been working on a sole-source approach. That means the client knows us and wants to work with us so we never compete against the other firms. We thought it would be interesting to take on the major firms and report the process right here, and if we are successful, present the full study as a training program.

Yet, we are going to make it a little more intriguing. Here are the twists.

  1. We are going to look at a Chinese multi-national.
  2. FC partners have no working experience in mainland China so we start from the back foot.
  3. We will target the CPG sector in dairy, where we again have no experience.

I suppose the implied news is that we are entering China in a meaningful way this year with a team on the ground.

But it gets more interesting. The BCG senior partner leading the relationship with the potential client shares the following with me:

  1. We grew up in the same small town.
  2. We went to the same university.
  3. We studied in the same department and faculty.
  4. We studied under the same lecturers.
  5. We worked in the same office.
  6. We sat next to each other in the office.
  7. We were mentored by the same partners.
  8. We sought transfers to the same country, arriving 3 years apart, but with different firms since she briefly left for McKinsey.
  9. Since I did not leave the firm or take time away to do an MBA, I made partner before her
  10. She was one of the two most capable consultants I have ever worked with – really exceptional on every measure.
  11. We specialized in roughly the same sectors.

There is an additional twist.

  1. Clients typically approach us for advice, not the other way around.
  2. We will be approaching this client, which is always a tougher approach.
  3. We will thereafter need to convince them of our model of publishing the studies in its entirety. This may seem very unusual to them.

We do however, have some benefits on our side.

  1. The chief-of-staff to the CFO is an McKinsey consultant and former FC client. He is making the introduction and he is the person who first approached us about this.
  2. So, this is not a blind effort as such.
  3. We have a very strong emerging markets capability.

Logic dictates we should not be very successful in this effort. We should actually fail quite handsomely. We probably have a 5% probability of success. I can live with those odds.

For a long time, subscribers have asked us how to write proposals to secure major studies like LAB. Well, we are going to show you by giving it our best effort here. If it fails, we still have much to report back. If it succeeds, well, then we have a major new study to publish.

You can read more about the proposed study here and subscribe for updates.

If you like this idea, please comment below. We would be keen to know your thoughts.

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