The 2017 Best Firms to Work For: ZS

10. ZS

Headquarters: Evanston, Ill.  Billable Consultants: 3,848  Client Industries Served: Consumer Packaged Goods, Energy, Financial Services, Industrial Products and Services, High-Tech and Telecommunications, Media, Medical Products and Services, Pharmaceuticals and Biotech, Private Equity, Travel and Transportation   Consulting Service Lines:  Strategy, Operations Management, IT

Although ZS is a mainstay on the Consulting magazine awards circuit—often having Top 25 Consultants, Rising Stars of the Profession and Women Leaders in Consulting recognized—it’s been eight years since the firm has made an appearance as one of the profession’s Best Firms to Work For. Until now.

ZS has nearly 5,000 people in 22 offices around the world. And Chris Wright, Managing Director of ZS, says the firm recognizes that it’s no longer the “small firm” it started out as, in many respects it still feels like it is. ZS is still a “first-name basis” company, he says, pointing out that ZSers consistently rank “people” as the top driver of engagement on the firm’s annual survey.

“Our core values—treat people right, get it right and do the right thing—permeate every aspect of our work. People who leave often boomerang back and rejoin us. Inside our walls, we’ve always felt like ZS is a special place,” Wright says. “Winning this award is quite an honor for a ‘small firm; like ZS. It’s a public affirmation of something we’ve long believed to be true about ourselves.”

Many of ZS’ clients have been working with the firm for years, Wright says. “In fact, our very first client is still our client three decades later. Our clients know us well, so while I don’t think the recognition will change their perception of us, I do hope it inspires prospective clients to give ‘that small ZS firm’ a chance.”

Like so many have, and were glad they did. “When we started, we were a simple company that solved a few business problems. Steadily over the years, we’ve been growing the list of what we help clients with,” Wright says. “Our first decade was all about sales. In the second decade, we added marketing. Now, in our third decade, we’re expanding the scope of what we do.”

That new scope extends far beyond sales and marketing to include all the activities that take place between clients and their customers. In addition to benefitting clients, Wright says, this expansion will benefit ZS’ people, too.

“They’ll have the opportunity to learn new things and explore new areas, which will allow them to continue growing and developing their careers,” he says. “Up until now, we’ve largely focused on the commercial aspect of our clients’ problems, but one of the most exciting opportunities I see on the horizon is the application of data and analytics techniques in the creation of medicine. It’s an opportunity that will take us further upstream than we’ve been in the past, and allow us to help our healthcare clients connect their customers—patients—with better, life-changing products.”

Q&A: How would you describe morale at your firm? 

Wright: “Our people are engaged by our collective energy and collaborative culture. The industries we work in are in a constant state of evolution so for the past 34 years, we’ve never experienced a shortage of opportunities. Our collaborative culture is truly unique. No two ZS people are alike and the mutual respect we have for one another makes us willing to work together to achieve something meaningful, whether it’s one principal bringing another principal in to add value for a client, or a first-year associate making the time to coach a new intern.”

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