What do management consultants do?
Clients may bring in a management consultant to help create and define strategic direction, to provide specialist knowledge and advice, or to support in planning and implementation of 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 to 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 Excel analysis and building computer analysis models
- Gaining an understanding of different methodologies
- Communicating with clients, interviewing employees, managers and other stakeholders
- Running focus groups and facilitating workshops
- Preparing business proposals/presentations
Example consulting projects:
- UK retailer planning to develop its business in India – what are the cost implications for its UK business?
- A financial services company 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 and variety of projects offers scope to gain experience quickly across a wide range of sectors and organisations. You may also work with high profile clients and interact with staff at all levels. Consultants also frequently mention that working in high performance teams alongside intelligent and dynamic colleagues is another big attraction for them.
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. When working on site with clients, 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 strategizing with the CEO in the Board Room.