Business Consulting

Small businesses cannot attract the people they need, so consulting represents a mutually useful way of getting good work done. Everyone needs a world-class expert with a good idea up-front.

Business consultant’s role is to advise senior managers. They are supposed to improve businesses & bring change. They are supposed to have a structured thinking process aimed at helping people solve problems & make decisions more effectively.

Every organisation can gain from being scrutinised & challenged by an objective external person. Having someone come in & ask fundamental questions about what they are doing, and why they are doing it, can be very valuable.

Consultants provide you with new thinking. They act like a spark within your organisation & force you to challenge your assumptions. They can bring wisdom & judgement & act as counsellors too.

Consultants offer their clients “economies of knowledge”. Even though they may seem expensive, when used intelligently, their clients spend much less time & money either recruiting people with the right skills or training existing staff to carry out a specialist task .

Consultancy is not an industry that is driven by economies of scale. It is possible to run a small profitable consulting firm specialising in a particular field in a way that would not be possible for a small manufacturing company.

Consultants must understand the way in which they transfer knowledge, deliver advice & initiate cultural change.

However, consultancy, is generally bought & sold badly.

Specialist Knowledge

Specialist knowledge is always high on client’s must-have list. A client seeking to resolve a specific issue will hire a consultant with special expertise in that area. The work may vary in length from a few days to a more long term commitment.

(Specialisation is a great leveller, putting the smallest consulting firm on  par with the largest. What counts is not breadth, or global reach, but having genuine world class expertise in a narrow field.)

The client wants to gain access to specific knowledge, experience, tool-sets, frameworks & expertise in an area he chooses not to build internally.

But specialist knowledge has a shelf life. The days are gone when consultants could trade on some deep secret knowledge pool, to be imparted one spoon at a time. Today, quite rightly, clients expect knowledge, special expertise & intellectual property to be transferred at every stage. Successful consultants not only transfer technical knowledge to clients but also seek to develop the way a client’s staff think & behave in order to help them use the technical knowledge to best advantage. Knowledge & skills are ephemeral. Today’s expertise rapidly becomes tomorrow’s commoditised knowledge & innovation should be a way of life rather than something talented people do in think-tanks.

Strategic Advice:

The consultant helps clients in generating new insights into their business & formulating new ways to respond to threats & opportunities in the marketplace. An unbiased outsider can focus on a specific issue or problem the client has. The client could use his own resources to tackle this problem, but the client’s people are already occupied with their full-time jobs & therefore cannot focus as efficiently as an outsider can.

Integrated Solutions:

Often an organisation faces large scale change & needs a variety of consultants.

Consultants play a crucial & valuable role in spreading new thinking. Imagine what the business world would be like if consultants were not there to facilitate the process of intellectual arbitrage: it would take longer for companies to adopt new technology or follow best practise elsewhere: lessons learned about what works would take longer to filter through; more initiatives would fail; and organisations would be less willing to consider new ideas.

Consulting involves liquidity of knowledge: the development of ideas & innovation in business solutions that can be transferred from one organisation to another across industry & geographic boundaries, thus accelerating the pace of economic change. Consultants help connect global business & make firms & those that run them less isolated from ways other businesses do things. Without this exchange of knowledge, the take-up of business innovations would be slower, & there would be fewer opportunities for organisations to reduce their non-core activities & focus on their areas of expertise. Businesses would be limited by their internal capacity to innovate & adapt without the extra vision & knowledge that consultants can bring.

New ideas are always emerging & maturing in business. There is a constant cycle of creation into best practise into consulting methodologies into software you can download.

However, given time & money, you could do everything you hire consultants to do. You could employ staff with the background you are looking for, or train a team of people in the skills you need.

That clients do not do this is sometimes a sign of internal politics or simply of laziness. Consulting should never replace or marginalize your own staff; it should complement them.