The Big 3 are the three most prestigious strategic consulting firms in the world. They are also known as MBB, short for McKinsey, BCG and Bain. If you are interested in pursuing a career in business, you may have thought about applying for a consultant position in one of them. The firm was founded in Chicago in 1926 by James McKinsey, professor of accounting at the University of Chicago.
It began by offering consulting services on accounting principles as a management tool. McKinsey grew rapidly in the 1940s and 1950s, especially in Europe. However, in the 1960s, competitors such as Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company began to compete with McKinsey by marketing specific brand products, such as Growth-Share Matrix, and selling their industry experience. Therefore, in the 1970s, the company shifted its focus from geographical expansion to industrial specialization.
McKinsey, BCG and Bain were among the first consulting firms to be created and have managed to create a virtuous circle that has protected them from competition until now. As a result of their greater prestige, they may charge higher rates. By inviting consultants to submit proposals, an executive director would expect McKinsey, BCG, and Bain to be slightly more expensive than the rest of the group. McKinsey, BCG and Bain each have a slightly different approach to work.
But the one that's best known for its frameworks and methodology is probably BCG. McKinsey and Bain also have their own frameworks. For example, Bain uses the so-called balanced scorecard, which is a quantifiable way to measure a company's performance and whether it is meeting its objectives. And McKinsey is known for its MECE approach, which means “mutually exclusive, collectively comprehensive.”.
However, neither McKinsey nor Bain have created frameworks that are as popular as BCG's growth participation matrix. Finally, if you're considering consulting as a way to get into business, your main focus is probably on which company will offer you the best exit opportunities. All three are known for their list of accredited alumni in senior management positions. However, McKinsey stands out for having trained some of the world's top chief executives and chief operating officers and is sometimes referred to as the CEO factory.
Two notable examples of McKinsey alumni are Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. McKinsey, BCG and Bain (MBB) are the three most prestigious consulting firms in the world. They have managed to create a virtuous circle of great prestige that results in higher fees and the ability to attract better talent, which makes it difficult to compete with them. If you want to pursue a career in business, all of them are a great destination, but McKinsey is still a leader in terms of salary and exit opportunities.
We have great free resources on the different types of careers and internships at McKinsey if you'd like to learn more. MBB is consistently ranked not only among the best consulting firms to work for, but also among the best companies to work for, period. With its long and rich history, MBB is the most prestigious of all consulting firms with recognized brands around the world. Overall, MBB consultants are more satisfied than other consultants with compensation, career advancement, projects and clients, and their colleagues and leaders.
MBB firms are “pure” strategy consulting firms, meaning that they started out as strategy houses and only later diversified into other forms of consulting. But there is a downside: MBB consultants are less satisfied than other consultants with their travel requirements and working hours. When consultants talk about their work at MBB consulting firms, they don't just emphasize prestige. Former McKinsey, BCG and Bain consultants take pride in their “MBB consultant” label because joining an MBB consulting firm is a feat in and of itself.
Ultimately, this results in more interesting consulting projects, since most of the best companies in the world hire MBB for their business needs. In the table below, you can see the results of consultants working in MBB firms (blue columns) and the average of all consultants (white diamonds). If strategic consulting isn't your goal, then another consultancy other than MBB might be a better fit for you. MBB consultants work in the best business schools and in the most sought-after corporate positions in every sector.
Getting a job at one of these three great MBB consulting giants is the dream of almost every aspiring consultant out there. While most MBB consultants value and don't regret the experience, working at the best consulting firms in the world comes with some drawbacks. .