Bain & Company is widely considered to be among the most elite management consulting firms in the world, one of the “big three” referred to as the MBB (McKinsey, Bain and BCG) firms.
Bain was established in 1973 by a group of seven former partners of Boston Consulting Group, headed by Bill Bain. Under Bain’s direction, the firm implemented a number of practices that set it apart from other consulting firms.
One was its policy of working with only one client per industry in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Though this eventually evolved into an approach that today allows the firm to work with a broader range of clients, it was a key differentiator at the start.
Bain also pioneered a practice of having skin in the game, which is to say it accepted equity from clients in lieu of fixed fees. As a result, when a client implemented recommendations from Bain and did well, Bain likewise did well—and vice versa. According to Vault, close to half of the firm’s global revenue today comes from clients with whom there is some “at-risk” work in place.
As the youngest of the three MBB firms, Bain doesn’t have the same depth of experience that McKinsey and BCG can claim. Instead, the company has long relied on other measures to prove its expertise, including a famous 4:1 chart demonstrating how its clients outperform the market by four times. In addition to prominent placement on the company website, the chart is also frequently presented as part of recruiting presentations, internal meetings and key client pitches.
Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Bain employs about 6,000 people across 53 offices in 34 countries around the world.
Bain’s clients include leading Fortune 500 companies, as well as nonprofit and government organizations. The company also maintains a partnership with the Bridgespan Group, an affiliate nonprofit consulting firm incubated under Bain in 2000 to serve nonprofit organizations, foundations and philanthropists.
The smallest and youngest of the MBB consulting firms, Bain’s strengths include its focus on learning and mentoring, the intimacy of its alumni network and its track record of delivering measurable results to clients. The firm is also generally perceived to be more of a risk taker than the other industry giants, more often making market-differentiating moves.
Like McKinsey and BCG, Bain also provides its employees with a powerful alumni network.