This Bloomberg article is probably one of the most important critiques of the industry in recent times. It’s about the past and the future of our industry and the need to overturn a damaging reputation created by a small elite.

Bloomberg Article

No one is above the law of accountability and responsibility. At a time of a significant polycrisis beset by severe economic and energy volatility, clients need management consulting firms more than ever. We should be the pioneers of change and innovation for global organisations.

A new approach is needed where transparency, ethics and honesty are at the heart. Short and longtermism need to go hand in hand: combining long-term value for both partners and clients with rapid delivery that gives organisations innovative pragmatic solutions to adapt and lead in this new world. No one has time for politics and a 60-slide PowerPoint presentation.

At Elixirr we lead by these values. In fact, much of this critique is exactly why we founded it in the first place – to give the industry a long overdue shakeup and challenge what it had become.

How are we addressing the issues mentioned?

1. Consultants are too focused on short-term financial gains

This is why Elixirr provides partners with 25% to 33% of the financial reward McKinsey partners can get in cash but offers them anywhere from 3x the value over 5 years in equity.

And this methodology applies to every member of our team, including our most junior – everyone has the opportunity to be a part-owner of the business through our equity scheme. Unlike other firms, this doesn’t mean cash in hand quickly; it means cash in hand for those who invest, both personally and financially, long-term.

This approach results in a greater sense of pride, ownership and community throughout the business, and it can be seen in the numbers. While businesses globally have experienced an increase in employee churn, our consulting retention rates actually increased in 2022. And this is despite hugely overinflated wages from competitors in our industry. It’s because we are instilling a long-term commitment across our teams due to an inclusive ownership structure.

Our clients therefore work with people who are in it for the long run and understand that they will only reap rewards if the work they deliver is successful. This holds each person accountable for their results and gives them a greater incentive to make a big impact for the client, otherwise they’ll be personally at a loss.

Elixirr the Challenger Consultancy

2. Firms do not focus on the operations and performance of clients

Working for many years in the industry myself, I experienced first-hand the lack of innovation and accountability the big firms were taking in their approach. Not only did we not want to follow in these footsteps when starting Elixirr, we simply couldn’t if we wanted to be successful. Each project delivered determined whether our team would get more opportunities.

Like other startups trying to break into an industry dominated by a handful of major players, we had to prove our quality and deliver beyond expectation. This required taking responsibility for every piece of work and every client’s outcome, and we maintain this ethos today.

Client work doesn’t just fall into our partners’ laps like it does in the big firms. And it’s actually why we only have a 50/50 success rate of bringing in new partners to the team. They have to get invested, speak to people and generate business. They are market makers, not order takers. For our clients this means the level of investment from partners, and the rest of the team, is tremendously high. The relationship forged isn’t simply a transactional one, we step in to treat our clients’ businesses like we would our own. And we see the results of this directly in feedback.

Why are our clients ranking us higher than MBB competitors? Overall, we outperform them significantly, but it’s the practicality of recommendations, understanding of our clients’ business, ROI, quality of junior, senior and partner teams, delivery of project, and knowledge of sector where we really set ourselves apart. And guess what? This is where we set our clients apart too.

Elixirr Partners Brandon and Em

3. Lack of transparency

Since our IPO, our financials and performance have been fully transparent to the market. We are also subject to regulations that ensure we conduct business in a way that protects our outside shareholders. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the vast majority of our industry – with only 3 of the top 10 consulting firms (who take up over 50% market share) being publicly listed and exposed to the same level of market scrutiny. Aside from regulatory integration, those who select their consulting partners need to rethink the process entirely. Governments, for example, typically rely on frameworks and menial metrics to decipher a consultant’s suitability, with price being a major factor in their decision process. Focusing on quality, approach (and evidence of this), rather than price and meaningless credentials would help to open opportunities up to competition, therefore naturally raising the bar of delivery.

4. Unethical behaviour

As a public company, this is off the table for us but it’s about more than that. Unfortunately, while all of the major firms have the correct policies and procedures in place, that doesn’t always translate into ethical behaviour in practice. From a client perspective, the reason C-suite executives take us with them when they move roles or companies is because we have a trusted partnership in place. We do right by them because we wouldn’t have a business if we didn’t – we don’t rely on a global brand like many of our peers. Our values are “Entrepreneurial, Collaborative, Building a legacy, Beyond Expectations” and we live and die by these every day.

The Bloomberg article suggests consulting firms are too powerful, causing conflicts of interest, and I would agree. As an independent challenger, we are unencumbered by this risk. Accountability is at the core of who we are. Just because the industry has long been this way, doesn’t mean it’s the only way. And it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the right way. I saw an opportunity to challenge the status quo with Elixirr – to leave the industry in a better place than I found it. And I would encourage my counterparts to do the same.

2023 introduces a new dawn away from a murky past. Every firm needs to take a close look in the mirror and see if they are fit for purpose. We certainly are. Are you?

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