A business has a problem. Their employee retention rate is below 60%, over 20% of its employees call out at least once every two weeks, and there are a litany of other issues stemming from incidents between managers and employees. These issues are rarely communicated to the proper people at the executive level.
The hiring managers or people running the company are at a crossroads wondering how they got to this position, and they also have no idea how to fix all of the issues going on. Well, here’s where strategy consultants come in.
Strategy consulting is the process of investigating a problem and developing a strategy to fix it, then advising clients on how to fix it or implement that strategy. It’s about making data-driven decisions and working with others to make their company more successful. Insight Global, for example, has strategy consulting branches that consult on things like company culture and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
This type of career may sound enticing, especially to those who have strong problem solving, research, and communication skills. This blog post will serve as your guide on what strategy consulting is, what a day looks like for strategy consultants, and, finally, we’ll offer tips on how to become a strategy consultant.
What is a strategy consultant?
A strategy consultant is someone who helps companies define their business strategy from the top down. Sometimes this comes at the onset of a business, and sometimes it comes when the business runs into issues that affect its growth, employee satisfaction, or any other area of the company.
Strategy consulting is essential because it helps organizations achieve their desired outcomes. The goal of a consultant is to help an organization improve its performance by developing and executing a plan that will achieve the desired results. A good consultant can help an organization identify its goals, assess its current state, and develop a plan to reach its objectives.
Essentially, strategy consultants try to look at problems (or potential problems) from a bird’s eye view and come up with ways for companies to fix those issues. The definition of a strategy consultant is pretty broad, so let’s get into some more specifics.
What does a strategy consultant do?
A consultant helps organizations develop and execute strategies that improve performance and achieve goals. They do this by analyzing the current state of an organization, its environment, and the competitive landscape to identify opportunities and threats. They then help create a plan to capitalize on the goals and mitigate the issues.
“The thing I love most is that the work I do helps improve people’s lives at work,” detailed Kristina Kang, a consultant, for Harvard Business Review. And that’s the essence of any sort of consulting. You should be improving the lives (whether it be by work flow, efficiency, culture, strategy, etc.) of the people who work at a company.
There are some other details about what a strategy consultant is and does, and we feel this might be easier to lay out in the form of a brief FAQ section.
What industries do strategy consultants work in?
Strategy consultants can work with any industry, but they are most common within the technology & financial services, supply chain, business, and consumer goods sectors. Every industry can utilize a strategy consultant, though, as general problems like attrition, culture issues, and more are present everywhere. Where the tough work comes in is figuring out unique solutions for each company and industry.
What does a typical day look like for a strategy consultant?
A typical day for a consultant includes:
- Meeting with clients to best analyze their needs
- Conducting research
- Preparing reports
- Updating clients on new developments
Consultants typically meet with clients to get feedback on their work and gather more information about their business. They also research to better understand the industry and the competition. Finally, they prepare reports that detail their study’s findings and recommend plans to achieve organizational goals.
Do strategy consultants only consult large corporation?
Strategy consultants will often provide services to both large companies and smaller businesses. However, some strategy consulting firms may specialize in either one of those areas.
What are some of the critical skills required?
Consultants need to have certain skill sets that include:
- Critical thinking
- Ability to analyze data and tell a story from that data
- Draw conclusions and make recommendations from research
- Strong communication, both written and verbal
- Relationship building and sustaining
Most strategy consultants need a college degree in business, finance, or a related field. Many strategy consultants also pursue a master’s in business administration (MBA) to boost their resume.
How much money do strategy consultants make?
The salary for a strategy consultant can vary depending on their experience level, education attainment, region of employment, etc. The average salary for such a consultant is $90,000, according to Glassdoor.
What are the best strategy consulting firms?
Some of the top strategy consulting firms include:
- Boston Consulting Group
- McKinsey & Company
- Bain & Company
Strategy consulting is a large market, with one prediction saying the strategy consulting market size could reach close to $44 billion by 2025. There’s a lot of money going toward locking down strategy.
How does strategy consulting work?
Strategy consultants typically have a set number of days that they are willing to spend on an engagement with one client, and clients typically have timelines of their own. After spending several weeks working with the company’s executives and other employees, strategists prepare reports detailing what they found out about the business during their project. Strategy consultants then compare this to what goals the company has.
Based on the company’s goals, strategy consultants include recommendations for the company based on how to help organizations reach desired outcomes. Clients can then use this information when making decisions about how to improve performance within their organization or industry.
One of the biggest challenges for strategic consultants is maintaining objectivity through this process. Consultants are human, and they can make connections with the people whom they’re consulting.
Strategy consulting has become increasingly popular in recent years because it allows organizations get a third-party look at their weaknesses, giving them a starting point improve performance while also providing a roadmap for the future.
How to start a career in strategy consulting
There are a few different ways to get started in the consulting industry. The most common way is to have a degree from a top business school, although this is not always necessary. A consulting firm will look for individuals with strong analytical skills, leadership experience, deep industry knowledge, and strong communication abilities. You can find a lot of this experience without going to business school, but having an MBA certainly doesn’t hurt.
A positive about starting a career in consulting is there is room to work and grow in a wide range of industries. You will be able to work with clients from all over the world and gain invaluable experience across many industries. Once you have landed your first job in strategy consulting, it is important to continuously develop your skills and functional expertise by taking on new challenges and learning as much as possible.
The best way to find out more about a career in strategy consulting, though, is networking. Talking to someone in the industry will give you the best understanding of what a strategy consultant does on a day-to-day basis. It also may give you an in at a strategy consulting firm once your skills are developed. (This networking tip rings true across all companies, jobs, and industries!)
Tips for succeeding in strategy consulting
Know the consulting landscape
Knowing the landscape of the field is key to succeeding in strategy consulting. Familiarize yourself with the major players (EY, BCG, McKinsey, etc.), and know their strategies to the best of your abilities. Know their reputations, know who they work with, and know what kind of consultants they hire. This will all help you know who you want to end up working for and help you get a job there.
In order to provide insights that are valuable to your clients, you need to be well-informed. This means keeping up with industry news and developments so you can have a strong understanding of the big picture, but it also means consistently being in a learning mindset. You should never think you know everything there is to know, and you should show flexibility in your opinions and solutions.
Be an effective problem solver
In order to be successful in strategy consulting, you need to be an effective problem solver. This means quickly assessing a situation, identifying the key issues, and coming up with solutions.
The aforementioned consultant–Kristina Kang–summarized what you need to do on the job: “As a consultant, you get a lot of data, a lot of information, that you have to absorb and synthesize.” All that leads to solving the problem the data tells you is present.
Think outside the box
Strategy consultants are often called on to provide innovative solutions. If companies could Google their way out of systemic problems, they would. It’s important to be creative and think outside the box.
Be an expert in the field
In order to succeed in strategy consulting, you should become an expert in your industry. Demonstrate your expertise and knowledge by regularly updating yourself on new developments within said industry. (This ties into being well-informed.)
Learn to help coordinate
Strategy consulting is all about teamwork, so it’s important to have good interpersonal skills and have the ability to coordinate a team of consultants. This includes helping make sure consultants, clients, and any other parties are on the same page. If one party is not in the loop throughout, miscommunication can run the whole project off base.
Seek out a mentor
A mentor can be a great resource for advice and guidance in your career. Seek out someone who is successful in strategy consulting and ask them to help guide you on your journey. Typically, professionals are more than willing to help guide people who are just starting out or want to start out in an industry. Make sure when approaching a mentor, you’re doing so with respect and passion for the subject.
Get a lot of experience under your belt
The more experience you have, the better. Try to get as much hands-on experience as possible in order to develop the skills you need for a successful career in strategy consulting.
Go the extra mile
Consulting is a competitive world, both when competing for clients and also within companies. Some of the most successful strategy consultants are the ones who go above and beyond. Take on extra assignments (without burning yourself out), offer to help out others, and find ways to stand out from the competition.
Strategy consultants are valuable to companies that need help with their developing strategies or finding solutions to complex problems. This blog post has provided you with some information on strategy consultants and what they do, which should be helpful for those of you who want advice in this area or know someone looking for a consultant.
When you’re ready to embark on your consulting career, there are plenty of consulting opportunities through Insight Global’s job board.