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Guide to hiring a management consultant

Developing a strategy to scale your business, move into a new market or adapt to changing legislation such as sustainability can be challenging when you’re focused on day-to-day operations.

Hiring a management consultant can provide the catalyst to plot a course for change and growth, pivoting your business and aligning it for the future. Management consultants help transform organisations, bringing in outside expertise coupled with hard-won experience and know-how.

Management consultant guide

Management consultants provide organisations with on-demand, unbiased strategic and operational advice. They are a valuable resource for UK businesses, from start-ups and SMEs to large corporations and PLCs.

With just over £14bn spent in 2021 on consulting services, on-demand experts provide deep insights and actionable strategies to help position businesses for change.

Accessing a pool of expert management consultants isn’t just for high-spending corporations. Find expert consultants on our marketplace and see how we help clients specify and hire consultants for projects that deliver without wasted spend.

 

What is a management consultant?

A management consultant is an individual who has expert knowledge, skills and experiences beneficial to an organisation.

They work across all industries and with organisations of all sizes to provide clients with the expert skills and knowledge needed to problem solve, maximise growth and improve business practices.

Many are former senior leaders and C-suite executives such as CIOs, CTOs, CMOs and CEOs with plenty of hands-on experience. They may also belong to organisations such as the MCA or bodies such as the Institute of Consulting (CMI) or operate as part of a new model consulting marketplace such as Portevo.

Management consultant vs contractor vs freelancer

Contractors, consultants and freelancers perform different tasks and provide different outputs – though the terms are often used interchangeably.

While a consultant helps evaluate needs and provides expert advice to shape strategy and improvements, a contractor typically fills a less strategic role. Contractors are often hired to provide expertise in performing specific tasks, such as IT support, product development, project management and specialist marketing skills. They tend to work exclusively for a client for a specific time. Freelancers tend to offer a range of task-based services, such as PR support, but unlike contractors, they typically work for several clients at the time time.

  • Consultants – provide professional experience and expert knowledge, such as delivering a digital transformation strategy.
  • Contractors – provide task-based or function-based skills, usually for a fixed term or project such as developing a website.
  • Freelancers – wide range of skillsets usually offered to multiple clients simultaneously, delivering support on a part-time or ad hoc basis.

 

Why should you hire a management consultant?

Hiring a management consultant brings many benefits, including:

  • Better value – by focusing on defined deliverables and outcomes, you only pay for the results you seek.
  • More flexible than hiring employees – sometimes you only need expertise for a specific purpose or period; no point in making a permanent hire.
  • Skills gaps – consultants bridge skills gaps within organisations, allowing for informed insights and decision-making.
  • Client focus – consultants devote their time to a project without day-to-day work distractions, such as internal meetings.
  • Effective onboarding – they don’t require training, meaning they can hit the ground running faster than a new hire.
  • Unlocking perspectives – They provide an objective perspective not often possible from within an organisation, breaking stalemates and avoiding internal biases.
  • Insights – They provide expert knowledge for specific markets and industries that can inform strategy building and decision-making.
  • Implementation – They support implementing change within an organisation, bringing staff, teams and stakeholders along.

what is a management consultant

What does a management consultant do?

Organisations hire management consultants to work with them to improve their performance, using their expert skills and knowledge to solve problems and help an organisation prepare for or execute change.

Consultants undertake tasks such as assessing an organisation’s current situation, conducting audits and gap analyses, assessing competitors, surfacing market trends and insights, and developing a strategy and action plan for the business to implement. They can also stay with their client organisation to support or lead on the actual implementation plan.

Projects that consultants work on can be generally split into three categories: strategy, management and operations.

Strategy consulting

A strategic management consultant will have a broader knowledge of business and organisational processes. They can help organisations answer the question, “where do we go from here, and how do we get there?”.

Their role is to assess the current position of their client, understand the goals they wish to achieve within a specific timeframe, and work with their client to develop a realistic strategy for achieving those goals. They may also guide their client on how the strategy can be executed, providing valuable input and direction.

Strategic consulting is typically focused on strategies that enable organisations to grow or scale, delivering outputs such as strategic plans, implementation roadmaps and evaluating options and opportunities for an organisation.

Strategy consultants provide services covering disciplines such as:

  • Business model transformation
  • Corporate strategy
  • Digital strategy
  • Economic policy
  • Functional strategy
  • Mergers and acquisitions (M&A)
  • Organisational strategy
  • Strategy and operations

Management consulting

A management consultant provides expertise, experience and professional advice covering strategic direction through to implementing a strategy, such as digital transformation or rolling out learning and development across an organisation.

Management consultants provide clients with valuable insights and advice to help them reach their goals across all areas of business and make slow execution a thing of the past. They provide clients with objectivity on projects, offering new points of view and perspectives that may even have previously been dismissed due to in-organisation biases.

Management consultants provide a range of services such as:

  • Digital – increasingly part of management consulting services, includes services such as developing an IT strategy through to implementation.
  • HR – focused on talent within an organisation, such as leading organisational change or advising on and implementing HR compensation, benefits and analytics.
  • Operations – focused on operational issues such as procurement, supply chain, R&D and marketing.
  • Strategy – broad support for an organisation tackling strategic questions relating to M&A, business models and corporate direction.

Operational consulting

An operational consultant delivers expertise and experience designed to optimise and add value to various parts of an organisation’s operations. Projects can involve evaluating, assessing and developing routes for processes such as IT infrastructure, finance and sales operations. A key part of the role is implementing performance improvements to existing operational functions.

Operational consultants provide services such as:

  • Business process management
  • Finance
  • Organisational Operations
  • Outsourcing
  • R&D
  • Sales and marketing
  • Supply chain

what is management consulting

Hiring the right consultant for your organisation

It can be challenging to find the right consultant – you may feel you’re limited to large firms coupled with high fees.

There are different ways of engaging consultancy services, from large established firms such as KPMG, Deloitte and Accenture to smaller firms that may specialise in a particular consulting area, such as operational or HR. Nearly 17,000 consultancies launched in 2021, according to industry data.

Large consultancy firms

These firms tend to work on a direct sales model, where partners develop client relationships and are responsible for delivering business to the firm. Large consultancy firms such as Accenture, PA Consulting and PwC Consulting offer access to an in-house pool of expertise covering various sectors, services and industries.

Large firms tend to be at the top end of fee-charging, with customers typically FTSE 250, large corporations, public sector, charities and enterprises.

Small/medium consultancy firms

Smaller consultancy firms also tend to sell directly to clients, with a limited number of consultants within the firm covering a range of skills, experience and expertise. They may focus on a specific sector or industry, or specialise in an operational function such as R&D or HR, focusing on larger SMEs.

Fees tend to be mid-range relative to large consultancy firms.

Individuals

Many experienced professionals set themselves up as individual consultants.

They often market themselves via networking and referrals and engage with a range of clients. Many individual consultants are highly specialised, such as data, IT and cyber security experts, while others are more management or strategy-focused.

Fees tend to be lower than sourcing a consultant from a firm.

Portevo’s consulting marketplace provides access to strategic, functional and sector-specific consultants that help you find the right combination of independent consultants tailored to your project without the high fees of consulting firms.

Our marketplace of independent consultants specialise in:

  • Brand and marketing
  • Customer experience (CX)
  • Digital and e-commerce
  • Commercial strategy
  • Product development and NPD
  • Business transformation
  • Business change
  • Sustainability
  • Innovation and ideation
Looking for specific business transformation and change support? Our range of consultancy services creates flexible, agile consulting teams bespoke to your business needs.