The 2015 Best Small Firms to Work For: Propeller


14. Propeller

Headquarters: Portland
Billable Consultants: 40
Client Industries Served: Consumer Products, Energy/Utilities, Healthcare, Information Technology, Financial Services
Consulting Service Lines: IT, Strategy

Propeller spins its way for the first time onto Consulting’s Best Small Firms to Work For list this year. Amy Weeden, Principal & Co-founder of the Portland-based firm, says she co-founded Propeller three years ago because she realized traditional management consulting wasn’t keeping pace with the speed at which markets and industries were changing. “Propeller is a new model of management consulting focused on helping large firms think and act like a fast-moving startup,” she says.

The first step to helping other companies achieve speed and agility is to practice it internally, Weeden says. “Many consulting firms propose the solution and leave the client to execute it, but Propeller walks with clients all the way to the finish line,” she says. “Our business model includes both the vision, as well as execution.”

Weeden says the basic tenets of the firm focus on a shared understanding that finding and nurturing the right people is the key to a highly effective consulting firm. “Oftentimes people think consulting is about processes, systems or methodology, but we learned long ago that success always comes down to people,” she says. “Doing right by the people we work with guides the large and small decisions we make every day.”

The firm’s commitment to people extends to Propeller’s clients. When a client struggles with strategy, for instance, Propeller spends whatever time is necessary to bring clarity and assurance. Where other firms are intimidated and overwhelmed, “we absorb the ambiguity, offer distilled observations and get started on the execution,” she says. “And while every project presents a unique challenge, Propeller’s goal is always the same: helping large companies move faster and more nimbly.”

As a firm, Propeller is focused on multi-faceted growth over the next 12 months, planning on continuing its pace in headcount and revenue growth, which has resulted in a 40-person firm in three years. Weeden also says the firm is looking to expand geographically outside of Portland, as well as its scope and value that it brings to clients. “We are being asked to tackle bigger and more strategic business problems and our firm is rising to the occasion to deliver,” she says. “And as a firm, and as individuals, we are constantly looking for opportunities to grow and improve upon our business model, which means challenging the status quo.”

As for the award, Weeden says that as a relatively new firm, being recognized shows that Propeller truly is building something great—all based on hiring the right people, building an amazing culture and doing exceptional work for clients. “For employees, the recognition affirms what our consultants already know, which is that Propeller is an exceptional and unique place to work,” she says.

Q&A: What specific programs do you think contributed to this award?

Amy Weeden, Principal & Co-founder of Propeller, says: “We have a wide range of benefits and employee culture events, but one of our key differentiators is our focus on staff development. We have a robust on-boarding process, we pair consultants with more experienced firm leaders during engagements and we tailor educational and coaching opportunities to the individual consultant. This may include formal methodology training, internal “soft skills”, like bringing in experts from Stanford University and personal one-to-one coaching with the firm’s leaders.”