Strategy consulting is one of the most competitive and lucrative destinations for bright graduates, but it is also often misunderstood. Luckily, we've compiled a guide to help you understand the ins and outs of this prestigious sector.
What is Strategy Consulting?
Strategy consultants advise organisations on high-level decisions in an unbiased fashion, using deep industry knowledge to deliver the best results. It is a type of Management Consulting, which generally implies advising at the highest-level of a company.
Strategy consultants work across every industry, with private and public sector bodies on a wide range of issues.
For example, a company is looking to save money in a shrinking market, so it decides to close one of it's manufacturing plants. They want to know if this is a worthwhile course of action, which of their plants should be closed, how much money it will save them, how much it will cost them, and how they should restructure their supply chain to manage this loss of production - this is where a strategic consultant comes in.
Why do organisations use strategy consultants?
An obvious question that comes to mind is "Why don't organisations just take care of these questions themselves?".
Consultants are generally brought in on the important decisions that are vital to the future of the company, to make sure the every angle is considered. They can devote themselves entirely the the question at hand, while executives are normally busy with the actual running of the company. Consultants also offer deep expertise in a particular industry or subject, such as market positioning or restructuring.
There also occasions when consultants fulfill a legal purpose. During a merger, before the transaction is completed, it is illegal to share information between the two companies. Consultants can operate independently, sourcing information from both parties to have a strategy ready for the moment the last document is signed.
What skills do I need?
As well as specific industry knowledge, there are a few general skills that are essential to a career in strategy consulting.
- Analytical skills: The ability to collect and analyse large amounts of data, to assess problems and structure solutions and to present information at a range of levels. These skills are assessed in the famous case study interview, used in almost all consulting applications.
- People skills: Consulting is a client-focused industry and a lot of your time will be spent dealing with management in order to better understand the issues they’re facing. You need to be able to build relationships, be persuasive when necessary and know when to defer.
- Time management: Strategy consultants work to tight deadlines and missing them is not an option.
- Flexibity: Even once you’re an expert, there will be plenty more for you to learn. You need to always be aware of your own performance, finding ways to improve.
Who are the main firms?
Firms that do strategy consulting are split between those who do nothing but strategy consulting (pure-play) and those who offer it alongside other consulting and professional services.