Consulting Decaffeinated: Part I

By Nitin Chandak

April 15, 2021

Consulting, today, is the most sought-after career choice across business schools around the world, though for most of the business school students, consulting is nothing short of an enigma.

In a two-part series, we would talk about consulting, the types of consulting firms, their modus operandi, and what it takes to succeed in consulting. We shall start with part I, focusing on what the consulting firms do and what to expect when one joins a consulting firm.

With Covid-19 raging on with waves and variants plaguing the planet, a few industries, such as travel, hotel, and airlines, are facing existential crises while others, such as e-commerce, logistics, and ed-tech, have seen unprecedented growth. It is a black-swan event that has presented some organizations with enormous opportunities to derive competitive advantage over their competitors, while others are fighting tooth and nail to survive.

While the sectoral developments have boosted businesses, another factor that promises to transform businesses has been adoption of new technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence, thereby automating non-value-added processes, undertaking digital and financial transformation, reimagining organizational structure, redesigning their operational processes, innovating their marketing and sales practices, increasing outsourcing, and/or acquiring competition.

Whether the economy is booming or hit by downturn, consulting is one sector that is in demand. In case of good economy, the companies would want to extend their leadership positions in the market and hence turn in swaths to the consultants. In case the economy contracts, the companies use consultants to optimize the operations and costs to keep the bottom line intact.

Consulting firms offer opportunities to work on diverse projects which encompass varied aspects, from operations to finance to human resource management. The smartest graduates generally tend to prefer these learning opportunities offered by consulting and this preference, in turn, increases competition for the limited openings at consulting firms. Hence, the crème de la crème of the best business school students prepare rigorously to clinch the golden ticket.

 

What is Consulting?

Consulting is a broad term. It encompasses a variety of domains and verticals. The overall purpose is that the consulting firms would help identify and recommend solutions that would aid different aspects of the client’s business.  It can be in any domain and of various types, each completely different from the other. One consultant might help a team formulate their operational strategy while the other may help formulate marketing strategy. Yet another might be working on Mergers and Acquisitions.

The consulting industry is generally identified under image consulting and management consulting.

  • Image Consulting: Deals with improvement of image, especially that of a public figure like politicians, actors, etc. Here, a set of professionals works with you and several PR agencies to alter/enhance your image.

  • Management Consulting: The area of consulting that concerns businesses is called management consulting. This is further divided in five different segments on the basis of functional areas it addresses:

  • Strategy Consulting: Following areas of businesses are covered within this:

    • Corporate structure

    • Public policy

    • Business transformation

    • Innovation including disruption

  • Operations Consulting: The basics of operations like:

    • Operational processes

    • Lean six sigma implementation

    • Supply chain management

    • Logistics within businesses

  • Financial Consulting: This concerns the following four main aspects:

    • Mergers and acquisitions evaluation

    • Management of financial risk

    • Valuation of the target company

    • Due diligence for either investment or acquisition

  • Human Resource Consulting: The key aspects of people management, listed below, are covered here.

    • Talent acquisition

    • Change management including people optimization

    • Learning and development

    • Manpower planning

  • IT/Technology Consulting: IT implementation requires technology-intensive skill which is catered by consulting firms through their IT arm. The areas covered within IT consulting are:

    • IT strategy

    • Technology integration within verticals

    • IT transformation

    • IT optimization

What Does It Take to Succeed as a Consultant?

  • Burning That Midnight Oil: You must be ready to sweat it out to understand the problem statement and formulate innovative solutions to make a difference. Problem-solving is the skill of utmost value. With over 70 hours per week, a consultant’s life surely is hectic.

  • Living Out of a Suitcase: The life of a consultant is that of a traveler’s life. If you like to travel and love taking flights and staying in good hotels while keeping sharp every day to solve complex problems, consulting is for you.

  • Collaborator and Networker: Consulting is an industry that allows you to interact with the best minds in the business. Your peers almost always are as smart as or smarter than you; so, humility is an important quality. More than humility, it is the ability to strike a balance between humility and confidence that matters. Also, being able to network with business leaders and important personnel from client teams is equally important to succeed at the assignment.

  • Empathy: A consultant needs to empathize with the client. Understanding the business problem from a client’s perspective, without losing objectivity, is crucial to be able to arrive at an acceptable solution. Objective empathy is hard to cultivate but once developed and regularly honed, the skill enables you to excel in the professional world.

Typically, there are three models of consulting:

  • Expert Model: Cases where clients know the problem and go to a domain expert to get solution to their problems

  • Doctor–Patient Model: Where the client knows that there is some problem but needs help in identifying the problem and then getting the solution

  • Process Consultation Model: The client knows that there is some problem, needs help in identifying and solving it and in doing so, is also enabled to solve the issue on their own the next time

Last but not the least, consultants are generally well paid and the lifestyle is alluring. If all these factors appeal to you, then consulting is definitely a career option you would like to give a serious consideration to.

In Part 2, we would look at the evaluation parameters that are used to hire consultants and also how to ace interviews and crack cases so as to land a job in consulting.

 

Nitin Chandak is a graduate from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, where he majored in Finance. He has been a consistent academic performer throughout. Post completion of his MBA, he has worked as an analytics consultant for three years. Prior to his MBA, he worked with Backspace (as Breakspace was then known) where he was instrumental in strengthening the Communications and Education Consulting divisions. Nitin is an ardent Manchester United fan and a chocoholic. He wishes to travel the world.

Our Pre-Placement Crasher program provides one-to-one/institute-level mentoring to students aspiring to join leading consulting firms.

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