Top 50 Consulting Firms To Work For In 2023


You could describe ghSMART as the Bain & Company of the boutique firms. After all, both have remained #1 for three consecutive years in their respective areas. Beyond that, ghSMART also ranks as the top boutique in the Vault Consulting 50, placing 6th overall.

That’s because ghSMART can compete with any firm when it comes to culture and perks. This year, ghSMART ranked 1st in 8 Quality of Work and Life dimensions: Compensation, Hours In The Office, Interaction With Clients, Level of Challenge, Overall Business Outlook, Satisfaction, Selectivity, and Work-Life Balance. And it placed 2nd in Informal Training Internal Mobility, and Relationships with Supervisors too. When it comes to going head-to-head with the MBB in the 19 Quality of Work and Life dimensions, ghSMART bests McKinsey and BCG in 13 categories – and Bain & Company across 8 measures.


A leadership advisory firm with deep roots in private equity, ghSMART success stems from “freedom and flexibility” in the words of one consultant surveyed for the Vault Consulting 50. Basically, consultants have full control over who they work with, when they work, and how much they do – a benefit of being 100% employee-owned. In fact, pay is tied to workload, providing an incentive to work hard and maximize compensation. One Vault survey respondent describes ghSMART as a “culture of free choice” – and you might be hard-pressed to find firm peers who’d disagree.

“Consultants have a significant level of autonomy in terms of hours worked and one can easily optimize for personal commitments at any time during the week,” writes another consultant. “If you want to earn more in a given period, you can put in the hours and later on dial it back. It is very easy to plan for time off given that flexibility. Travel is very minimal and if you really don’t want to travel you can choose projects that are either local or don’t require travel.”

A different consultant sums up the ghSMART experience this way: “I love being able to spend time with my kids whenever I want to—and never have to explain that decision to anyone else.”

ghSMART can operate this way because it is small – roughly 50 consultants. Even more, it is packed with talented industry veterans who know how to get work done. “It sounds like the same thing everyone says, but we really do have the best people in the industry, selecting the best MBAs from McKinsey, Bain and BCG as well as deeply experienced business-focused psychologists. Our people are not only super smart, but also humble, curious, giving and driven to support our clients’ agendas.”


The Vault Consulting 50 defines boutique firms as ones “that are narrower in focus and smaller in size than the larger, generalist firms that can offer advice across a wide range of practice areas and industries.” They also employ less than 750 consultants. According to Vault, boutique firms often offer less travel and better work-life balance, while enabling consultants to practice in areas that interest them. As a result, the Boutique Ranking applies a far different methodology to rating boutique firms.

That begins with removing Prestige, which accounts for 30% of the Vault Consulting 50 weight. Instead, Firm Culture accounts for a 25% weight, followed by Satisfaction and Work-Life Balance at 20% each. Together, these three dimensions represent a 65% weight in the boutique ranking, up from the 40% they make up in the Vault Consulting 50 ranking. At the same time, Level of Challenge and Compensation retain their 10% weight, while Promotion Policies remain at 5%. Business Outlook also gains additional importance in the Boutique Ranking, with its weight rising from 5% to 10%.

Looking for this year’s big winner in the Vault Boutique Ranking? Consider Aminad Consulting, which specializes in small business and defense consulting. Unranked in recent years, the DC-based firm vaulted into the #2 spot, courtesy of adopting the ghSMART model: flexibility and accountability.

“We get to work very flexible hours on top of having the ability to work from home so it’s very easy to get tasks accomplished and have a balanced home life,” writes one anonymous survey respondent. “It’s easy to take time off with an unlimited PTO policy that we get to use whenever needed and I have never had an issue scheduling time.”


Kenway Consulting, which ranked 13th last year, jumped to the 3rd spot. Back Bay Life Science Advisors and Eagle Hill Consulting each improved a few spots to rank 4th and 5th respectively. That said, several firms lost ground. The Bridgespan Goup, last year’s runner-up in the Boutique Ranking, fell from 2nd to 7th. That was a far better fate than five firms that fell out of the Top 10 completely: Potomac Point Group, DeciBio Consulting, Putnam Associates, Triangle Insights Group, and Kx Advisors.

Historically, the Boutique ranking has been volatile. After all, Clearview Health Partners ranked 1st just three years ago. This year, it now sits at 39th. By the same token, the Insight Sourcing Group, which seesawed from 1st to 3rd from 2018-2020, now ranks 27th.  Kaitlin McManus, the editor at, cites the smaller size of boutique firm as one reason for the ranking’s volatility. She notes such firms allow for “faster changes to business models, offerings, and specialties. She tells P&Q of two additional factors at play.

“There are often a fair number of mergers and acquisitions among boutique firms, either with peer boutiques or larger firms; and newcomers (some with highly specialized expertise) are entering the field all the time.”


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