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Business Consulting and the Consulting Industry

Of late it appears almost everyone is calling themselves a business consultant. – management consultants, technology consultants, strategy consultants, marketing consultants, IT consultants, and the list goes on and on…

It is a catch-all title for somebody who has paid to provide their advice on specific subjects to businesses.

In this post, we’ll attempt to reply 3 Major questions:

  • Who are business consultants?
  • Accenture, McKinsey, Monitor…what is the distinguishes these different business consulting companies?
  • What do business consultants actually do?


Who are Business Consultants?

The consulting business can be segmented so:

1) Knowledgeable about the Subject at hand
2) Well-connected within the industry
3) Have a standing and/or manufacturer (based on expertise, publications, etc)
4) Powerful communicators

Businesses often face questions that they are incapable of answering Or too busy to properly address. This is where business consultants come in, armed with all the above 4 characteristics, to help address exactly those questions.


Accenture, McKinsey, Monitor…what is the distinguishes these different business consulting companies?

The consulting industry can be segmented accordingly:

1) Business consulting firms (eg Bain, McKinsey, BCG – MBB)
2) One-stop-shop and technology-focused consulting firms (eg Accenture, Deloitte)
3) Niche/boutique consulting firms (eg Mercer HR, Kurt Salmon)
4) Independent consultants (self explanatory)

Our categorization isn’t perfect – for instance, boutique consulting shops provide management advice; one-stop-shops often focus on IT/technology and less on strategy.

In addition — many corporations nowadays have in-house consulting groups (frequently populated by ex-Bain-McKinsey-BCG-types).

And even of what the venture capital business does when working with Portfolio companies is comparable to that which Monitor would do for their Fortune 500 clients.

More reading: Interviews with a Bain and a McKinsey consultant.


Finally, What do Business Consultants Actually Do?

The solution is: it depends. If you are an analyst/associate, your task is to do the grunt work required to answer client questions.

You may work with all the following pieces of software:

2) Microsoft Excel
3) Email…lots and lots of email

You will be provided the following pieces of hardware:

1) Smartphone
2) Durable laptop, usually a PC

Your day will typically include the following (with a more detailed post on this later):

1) Client meetings
2) Team (internal) meetings
3) Data collecting and analysis
4) PowerPoint slide creation
5) Seminar calls

With all the above, your job is to come up with the most comprehensive, data-driven insights and replies your clients don’t already know. These will form the basis for recommendations Your team will supply, and from which your clients will (ideally) make changes to your own business to lead to one or more of these:

1) Increased earnings
2) Reduced costs
3) Clear strategic leadership (acquisitions/divestitures/partnerships)
4) Org design and the gameplan for hiring and firing of workers
5) And so forth

For more information about management consulting, take a look at:

Management Consulting – Day in the Life

Management Consulting – Interview Preparation