One of our recent clients moved from a Big 4 to a Mid Tier firm to take the final step up to partnership. It’s been the right move at the right time for them. This got me thinking: what factors need to be present for the move to be the right one for you and your career?
Are the Big 4 so very different to the rest?
It used to be a fairly safe assumption that working for a Big 4 firm meant working on bigger clients than in a Mid Tier firm. You would also be paid more, and have more opportunities to specialise. However, given the current state of play with BDO and Grant Thornton, I don’t think it is still accurate to bracket these firms in with the rest of the Mid Tier. They are more Big 4-lite now: in their approach to clients, their formal talent management programmes, and the size of clients they are willing to take on. So moving to BDO or Grant Thornton may not be changing much for you.
Do you want a more balanced lifestyle?
– Mid Tier will provide this (sometimes).
If you think moving from a Big 4 firm to a Mid Tier firm means working 9-5, then think again. You will still work long hours in a Mid Tier firm, particularly if you are in the middle of a large time-pressured deal. However, generally the Mid Tier offers a more balanced lifestyle for its fee earners and partners. You will be sacrificing income (or drawings) for this though.
Do you want to work with smaller clients?
– Big 4 can give you that opportunity too.
KPMG and PwC both have an offering for small businesses now, so you no longer need to move to a smaller firm in order to work on the smaller business sector. However, it is still the case that working in a Mid Tier firm means you are more likely to be working on SMEs, privately owned businesses, and the ‘mid-market’.
Are you tired of the constant “up or out” pressure?
– This is much less outside the Big 4.
The Big 4 firms are renowned for their “up or out” cultures. That means, you are either getting promoted or you are being managed out of the firm. There is much less of this sort of pressure in the Mid Tier. Which means you can make partner and still have a life!
Is there is a better cultural fit between you and a Mid Tier firm?
– Mid Tier firms can be friendlier places to work.
There are some accountants who absolutely thrive when they get out of the highly competitive Big 4 culture. I found the small-firm ethos of BDO and Grant Thornton makes them friendly places to work compared with the huge Big 4 firms. (That may just be my own personal preference – I was never a big company kind of woman.)
Have you grown tired of the Big 4 way of doing things?
– Moving to a different type of firm can re-energise a stagnating career.
Moving to a smaller firm where you are a big fish in a little pond may just be the shot in the arm your career needs. I’ve seen good people suddenly become very, very successful in the different culture of a Mid Tier firm.
Ultimately, there can come a time when it’s a smart move.
It is not for everyone, but moving from Big 4 to Mid Tier works really well for some people. Before making the decision to move, you must be clear about your career options and identify your career goals. Then you can consider whether a Mid Tier firm is a better option to achieve these than remaining in a Big 4 firm.
Talking to an executive coach about your career options and goals can be a really excellent way of working out what you want to do, and how you are going to do it.
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