The 2011 Best Firms to Work For: 6) Slalom Consulting

John Tobin For John Tobin, founder and National General Manager of Seattle-based Slalom Consulting, being a Best Firm to Work For was the goal a decade ago when the firm was founded. He’s achieved this goal three times. In both 2007 and 2010, Slalom finished tenth in Consulting magazine’s rankings. This year, the firm jumps up four spots to No. 6.

“We exist to change the consulting experience for our employees and our clients. We simply believe that by treating our employees well and creating an excellent experience, including a great balance in their life, they will be even more focused on doing amazing work for our clients,” Tobin says. “This recognition as a best place to work validates our model and is very rewarding for our entire organization.”

Slalom Consulting has a local model backed by a series of national teams supporting local markets. Therefore, the firm has a no “unwanted travel policy,” which helps create a unique and rewarding environment for our consultants, Tobin says. That, of course, helps keep morale high.

What also keeps morale high are two employee-friendly programs that are popular at Slalom. The first is the sabbatical program—after three years at Slalom, consultants essentially get a month off at 75 percent pay.

“People take the opportunity to go on their dream vacation or take on something they have always wanted to accomplish,” Tobin says. The second program is the Slalom Board, a program where employees that have been with the company for more than four years become part of a sounding board for the firm’s culture and initiatives, and become eligible for extra bonuses based on how the company performed.

What makes Slalom’s ranking even more impressive this year is the fact the firm has been on quite a growth spurt of late. In 2007, Slalom had just 360 employees. By the end of this year, that number is expected to be about 1,400. The firm now has 10 offices, each at various stages of maturity, and interacts among them through what it calls the Slalom Network, dedicated national teams that support local markets. “This connection allows our consultants to choose their focus, from local market activities to sharing in company-wide initiatives.”

Earlier this year, the firm opened its New York City office, which has “absolutely taken off just in the last six months, once again proving our model can be effective in even the largest of markets,” he says. “By doubling down on our investments, our entire firm has rallied to win work and continuously exceed our clients’ expectations. We have aligned and focused our offerings, which are now fully built out and scaling, to fully support these categories. I’m excited to see it all coming together to help our clients accomplish their 2011 and 2012 goals.

Speaking of 2012, Tobin says Slalom’s expansion will not slow down. Plans call for offices opening in Boston, Minneapolis and Houston over the next 18 months. “The last two years have been breakthrough years for Slalom and filled with multiple investments that have paid off,” Tobin says. “The second quarter of this year has been a record for us both in terms of revenue and net income, which again has only fueled our excitement for the investments we have made.”

Consulting asked John Tobin, National General Manager of Slalom Consulting, what differentiated Slalom Consulting from its competitors. His response follows.

“There are three main factors that make us unique: First, Slalom is an agile, powerful, and visionary force that helps companies achieve their strategic business and technology initiatives. We bring business and technology expertise together to completely solve a client’s true challenges. Second, our model is very flexible and practical in terms of our solutions.