RESEARCH

The Research

Since our goal for the research was to learn from the best, it was important that the firms we interviewed met three basic criteria. First, they needed to be acknowledged and respected by their peers. Because of our many years of work in the industry, we knew which firms were the leaders in each segment. But we confirmed our choices by reviewing the top-rated firms as defined by measures such as top revenue, most prestigious, and best place to work.

The lineup of firms studied represents many of the top brand names in professional services. Of the segments studied, consulting is the largest and most amorphous and represents the greatest percentage of interviews. The consulting umbrella includes numerous subsegments, from the broad category of management consulting to narrower functional areas of focus such as human resources, operations, IT, marketing, business advisory services, and strategy.

Interviewees by segment

Second, the firms interviewed had to be in business for a decent length of time – in fact, the older the better. We wanted to study firms that had survived a downturn or two, and even more impressive, had survived beyond their founding fathers. Eighty-five percent of our participating firms are more than 50 years old, and 28 percent are more than 100 – certainly a decent survival rate for any business.

Length of time in business

Finally, the firms studied had to be financially successful. Most professional service firms are privately held businesses, so financial data is not readily available. Because top-brand firms in the business typically translate into the highest revenue generators, many of the firms we studied fall into the top revenue brackets in the industry. However, we also spoke to a selection of superbly managed small businesses that range in size from $5 million to $100 million in revenue.

Firms by revenue

We interviewed the leaders of each organization, which included the chairman, CEOs, and managing partners, as well as a mix of COOs; regional, service, or industry leaders; and non-billable department heads in finance, marketing, and talent management. Sixty-two percent of our interviewees were the top leaders of their organization—chairman, CEO, or managing partner.

Interviewees by title

The Art of Managing Professional Services:

Insights from Leaders of the World’s Top Firms

Participating Firms

Accounting
Deloitte
Ernst & Young
Grant Thornton
KPMG
Plante & Moran
PwC
Wipfli

Advertising / PR / Research
BBH
Burson-Marsteller
Cohn & Wolfe
Edelman
Euro RSCG Life
Fleishman-Hillard
Goodby, Silverstein
Incite
Ketchum
Landor Associates
McCann Worldgroup
MedPanel
Ogilvy & Mather
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
Peppercom
Young & Rubicam Brands

Executive Search
Egon Zehnder International
Korn/Ferry International
Major, Lindsey & Africa

Architecture / Engineering
Black & Veatch
Dewberry
Gensler
Heller Manus Architects
HKS
HOK
Invision 
Michael Baker Corporation
NBBJ
Perkins+Will
SmithGroup
Stantec
STV

Law
Allen & Overy
Clifford Chance
Cravath, Swaine & Moore
Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira DLA Piper
Eversheds
Fish & Richardson
Freshfields
Jackson Lewis
Latham & Watkins
Mayer Brown
Morrison & Foerster
O'Melveny & Myers
Orrick
Seward & Kissel
Skadden, Arps
Slater & Gordon
Sullivan & Cromwell

Financial Services
Bain Capital
Duff & Phelps
Houlihan Lokey
Piper Jaffray
Raymond James
Thomas Weisel Partners

Consulting
A.T. Kearney
Bain & Company
Booz & Company
Booz Allen Hamilton
The Boston Consulting Group
Celerant Consulting
Clarkston Consulting
Charles River Associates
CSC
ECG Management Consultants
ghSMART
Hewitt Associates
Hildebrandt Baker Robbins
Hill & Associates
Jones Lang LaSalle
Marakon
McKinsey & Company
Monitor Group
Oliver Wyman
The Parthenon Group
Pivot Leadership