Career in Business Consulting, Exciting yet rewarding
Would you like to be a part of a fast-paced career where you solve big business problems for companies? A career where excitement and a rewarding compensation are matched by the exposure to various domains and to senior management even in your early years? A career where you advise governments on policy, CEOs on strategy, and help generate huge business value for your clients? Do you have good inter-personal skills with exceptional analytical thinking? Then, a career in business consulting is the right one for you.
Business Consulting is primarily based with helping organizations revamp their performance using external consultants to get both subjective and objective view, and to tap across the experience of consultants in various domains to gain from best practices.
Consultants are hired both for their domain expertise in a particular industry or practice, or as temporary staffers for a one-time project for which permanent employees need not be hired. Business Consulting is increasingly used by governments too to improve efficiency. While big consultancies offer many practices, smaller business consultants called 'boutique' consultancies specialize in one or two practices or domains.
The earliest consultancies were Booz Allen Hamilton, which was the first to serve both industry and government clients, and Mckinsey, which pioneered the practice of hiring fresh MBAs rather than only experienced people. Even information technology companies like Infosys and Wipro are trying to get into the lucrative field of business consulting, as it commands higher billing rates and also influences key strategies of the company.
There are multiple kinds of business consulting and they are elaborated as follows: -
Types of Business Consulting
1) Strategy Consulting - In this, the consultancy uses existing or proprietary frameworks to look at business problems / existing processes and then improves business efficiency by re-engineering them. This is also used more for making recommendations for improving not just the immediate profitability of the company but also for the markets or businesses the company should enter or exit from, technology upgrades or improving talent pool within the company.
2) Domain Consulting - This is specific to domains like telecom, pharmaceutical or manufacturing. This involves bringing in experienced people from the same domain and who have experience across the industry or globally to give recommendations based on best practices and how to execute them. Thus, the client gains access to world-class expertise for a short duration, in which he gets the inputs to make his future strategy or improve his business.
3) Technology Consulting - This is a more technology-oriented consulting, and is considered quite distinct from business consulting by many people. However, since technology is an enabler for business, the technology consultants usually come in after the business has decided to go in for newer processes to connect to operations, vendors, or to customers. This might include customer relationship management (CRM), e-procurement, reverse auctions, web collaboration tools, knowledge and content management.
4) Corporate Finance (Raising Funds, Mergers and Acquisitions) - The specialized function of acquisition or investment consultants actually come closer to investment banking. However, most big consulting firms have a practice dedicated to this practice, because it is both highly profitable for both consultants as well as clients to get the valuation of a deal done inexpensively. Here, the consultants would advise on the valuation, the types of finance to be raised and to be offered, and the post acquisition strategy as well. It could include some legal advice with lawyers to deal with cross-border legal systems as well as with public relationship firms to maintain a good profile with the media and the markets.
5) Accounting - Accounting consultants generally do a lot of tax advisory work and also help to audit the firm's financials. They help to sign off the balance sheet and audit the company financials. Generally, the audit functions are kept separate from business development consulting in order to maintain independence and integrity of their judgment. The reputed accounting firm of Arthur Andersen was broken up after the firm was indicted on counts of fraud by helping it's client Enron maintain some financials off balance sheet because of lucrative business consulting fees also offered by the same client. Example - Delliote & Touche.
6) In-House Consulting Practices - Some business groups have in-house consulting practices. These help to quickly execute projects since they are familiar with the corporate culture and are useful for conglomerates that need independent advice from central staff. This is like a group resource or talent pool to help execute projects across the business group's diversified businesses. Example - Tata Strategic Management Group (TSMG).
Careers in Business Consulting
A career in business consulting is extremely demanding in terms of quantity of work to be done and the high quality expected. Consultants generally charge a huge premium in terms of billing fees over in-house resources and are, therefore, expected to have extremely lucid and presentable work.
Sweet Pros of a Consulting Career - A business consulting offers you lucrative compensation and extremely good learning opportunities in the early phase of your career by giving you exposure to lots of domains and senior management. The pace of work and challenges is one of the best trainings. Also it offers you huge networking opportunities.
Sour Cons of a Consulting Career - Entry into consulting is extremely competitive as they usually pick people who have been very good in academics and other activities with an extremely good record or "spike" in one activity. Consulting is also extremely hectic and can lead to many burnouts. However, most ex-consultants get lucrative jobs in outsourcing or private equity as senior managers due to the networks they have created. A few set-up their own niche boutique consulting firms.
1- Researchers (Fresh Graduates) - Researchers are hired by the in-house captive units of consultancies like A.T.Kearney and McKinsey. Researchers are also hired by third party KPOs to support consulting work. They help support the front-end team by helping with preparing proposals, polishing presentations, research through specialized paid and free databases, and online support for the consulting team. They work in shifts and help support global teams. This gives them valuable research experience for later on in life. It also gives cutting-edge exposure to fresh domains and access to sophisticated in-house clients and senior management. This role can lead to either a role as a consultant or to continue within research as a senior researcher depending on the soft skills of the person.