Management consulting firms provide a broad range of services, advising and supporting client organisations across a very wide range of business engagements.
What do management consultants do?
Clients may bring in a management consultant to help create and define strategic direction, provide specialist knowledge and advice, or support in planning and implementing a specific project. Examples of consulting engagements include firms being brought in to:
- Review a business’s positioning and seek to create a competitive advantage
- Maximise growth, increase sales and build market share
- Improve business performance, perhaps by securing efficiencies and cost reductions
- Identify and advise on potential take-over targets or strategic alliances
- Develop and support a change management project, or coach individuals and teams
- Plan and deliver a large-scale IT project.
Typical tasks for graduates who join at ‘entry level’ involve:
- Gathering and interpreting data
- Conducting analysis, using Excel and building computer analysis models
- Learning and applying different methodologies to evaluate a business, its markets and positioning, and internal capabilities needed for success
- Communicating with clients, interviewing employees, managers and other stakeholders
- Running focus groups and facilitating workshops
- Preparing business proposals/presentations.
Example consulting projects:
- The UK retailer that plans to expand its business to India – what are the cost implications for its UK business?
- A financial services company that wants to set up a new division. How can it do this and how many staff will they need?
- Two major international consumer goods companies want to merge. How can they do this successfully?
Many students will consider a career in consulting because the fast pace of the work and variety of projects they will work on offers scope to gain experience quickly across a wide range of sectors and organisations. Graduates may work with high-profile clients and interact with staff at all levels, including senior management. Consultants also frequently mention that working with intelligent and dynamic colleagues in high-performance teams is a significant benefit of working in this sector.
If that sounds exciting, consider some of the possible downsides. You can expect to work long hours. Travel can be extensive within the UK and abroad with many firms, so you can spend a lot of time transiting airports and in business hotels. Many consultants will spend a lot of time working on the client's site, and their offices may be in provincial towns and cities rather than glamorous-sounding destinations such as New York, Paris or Munich. Last but not least, at the start of your career, expect to spend a lot of your time on research, Excel analysis and modelling and building presentation decks rather than strategising with the CEO in the Board Room.