There are many myths about business consultants which have sprung up over the years.
Some of the statements you hear are misguided. Others are misleading. Some are simply wrong.
In fact, business consultants seem to be one of those professions which have gained a certain notoriety in the public imagination.
And yet, after over 25 years of employment in mainstream companies, I chose to become an independent business consultant.
Because business consulting is a noble profession.
In its purest form it is about supporting others to get better business results.
- Who wouldn’t derive enormous satisfaction from advising how to solve seemingly intractable problems?
- Or helping to lay the foundations for business transformation and future revenue growth?
After 6 years at the consulting coalface, it’s time to reveal the truth about 6 popular myths about business consultants.
Myth 1 – Business consultants sell back to you what you already know
There’s an old joke that a consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time. And then keeps your watch, leaving you none the wiser and a lot poorer.
You can see why this joke always gets a laugh.
After all, your consultant may initially know relatively little about your company.
Whereas, those actually employed in your organisation will likely already be acutely aware of the problems they face. Sometimes, they’ll even have good ideas on how to solve them.
Therefore, at the start of any consulting project, there will be a “discovery phase”. This is where your business consultant will ask your employees many seemingly obvious or inane questions. This forms a necessary part of the data gathering process.
The answers to these questions will be presented back to you for validation before moving forward. This is probably why the watch joke resonates and why myth 1 is so widespread.
However, what the majority of employees don’t see is what business consultants do next. We start to add value.
We do this by going deeper into the issues with an impartial focus that only an outsider can bring.
In this way, we go beyond symptoms to get to the root cause of problems. We also cut across internal silos to connect missing links and lost opportunities.
There would be no point in clients paying money to consultants to simply tell you what you already know.
The truth, of course, is that companies hire consultants to help solve your toughest challenges.
Often, these are challenges that you’ve never faced before.
In other words, you don’t have a watch for the consultant to borrow. Or a compass to orientate your company on the best path to success.
By providing new tools through analysis, insight and piloting, business consultants sell companies a new watch for more accurate timekeeping, and a new compass for more precise navigation.
Myth 2 – Consultants are eye-wateringly expensive
Often when people think of business consultants, their mind’s eye conjures up an image similar to that depicted on the big screen by George Clooney in the movie “Up in the Air”
That is to say, an image of a smart, sharp-suited business consultant with an extravagant expense account and eye-wateringly high fees.
This makes for a great movie and an even greater myth.
In the UK alone, approx. £11.4 billion was spent in 2019 on business consultancy according to Consultancy.uk .
On the face of it, this a lot of money and you might be tempted to conclude that consulting is extremely lucrative. The reality of course is somewhat different.
That’s because business consulting is ultra-competitive. According to the Office for National Statistics, there are 175,000 strategy and management consultants in the UK of which 55,000 are self-employed.
In their recent report Consultancy.uk also reveal that consulting rates start from as little as £50 per hour.
In fact, as we pointed out in our article on the benefits of business development consultants it is often more cost-effective to hire an external business consultant than an in-house employee.
Myth 3 – Consultants talk a good game but don’t deliver lasting benefits
There’s a popular myth that business consultants produce great looking PowerPoint presentations and leave our clients with impressive business plans but no lasting benefits. In other words, a classic triumph of style over substance.
That’s certainly not been my experience as a client or as a business consultant. The days of diagnosing a problem, providing advice and simply moving on to the next consulting project are long gone.
Recommendations and advice are of course helpful. However, the real benefit comes from the effective implementation of those recommendations. That’s why:
“Business consultants are problem-solvers and solution providers”Chris Dunn
This means that we work with you on ideation and implementation. Moreover, we ensure that your teams have the necessary tools and training to continue to succeed long after our assignment has ended.
In addition, some consultants even offer the safety net of a retainer in the event that ongoing support is needed in the future.
Make no mistake. Business consultancy is a contact sport and a results business. The name of the game is to deliver lasting benefits.
Myth 4 – Business consultants only work with large organisations
It is of course true that large organisations have large budgets – including for business consultancy. Moreover, the big four management consultancies derive much of their revenues from working with blue-chip companies.
But that does not mean that if you’re an SME, you won’t find a suitable business consultant to partner with.
Business consulting comes in many shapes and sizes and is available at whatever stage of maturity your organisation has reached. From early stage start-ups right through to the mega mergers of today’s global giants.
Over the last 6 years, Chris Dunn Consulting has worked with small companies operating on a local scale right the way up to large corporates in their global headquarters.
The common drivers, regardless of company size, have always been the need to:
- bring in temporary expertise
- gain an external perspective
- benefit from specialist industry knowledge
Myth 5 – Business consultants only work with underperforming companies
In the popular psyche business consultants are often seen as turnaround experts, parachuting in to rescue once great but now failing companies.
There are, of course, many business consultants that work with underperforming companies. They identify inefficiency, lost opportunities and commercial blind-spots. Working with their clients they help to reverse decline and put the business back on track.
However, these types of assignments are in the minority.
Most of the companies that we’ve worked together with don’t need remedial help. They are strong organisations seeking new ways to grow more sustainably through business development and move ahead of their competition.
Myth 6 – Consultants are more interested in themselves than their clients
The final myth and the one that carries the most reputational damage is that business consultants are more interested in themselves than their clients.
It is a common misconception that consultants discretely arrive on site and immediately disappear into a conference room to work away on some grand plan.
Later they present their slick PowerPoint with great aplomb thereby demonstrating just how smart they are.
The truth is that business consulting is not like this at all.
Business consultants work alongside your own teams, co-creating solutions which are tailor-made to work in your environment for the benefit of your employees, your customers, and your company.
Ultimately, successful consulting projects result in follow on assignments at existing clients or recommendations that open the door to new opportunities.
Client satisfaction is therefore paramount. This is why business consultants always focus first and foremost on their clients’ needs.
As Alan Weiss famously noted:
“The role of the consultant is to improve the client’s condition”Alan Weiss
Business consulting is big business.
Companies of all sizes in all sectors use busines consultants to add-value to mission critical projects.
Moreover, business consultancy itself comes in many forms. And from a myriad of consulting firms from self-employed specialists to the “Big Four”.
Of course, not all external consulting projects succeed in the same way that in-house initiatives can also fail.
However, when you are using external experts, expectations are high. When success is not achieved it is easy to blame the business consultants that you hired at additional cost to overcome your challenges or to make the most of your opportunities.
The myths that have grown up around the multi-billion-pound consulting industry are borne out of misconceptions, misinformation and misunderstandings.
The enduring truth is that professional business consultants work extremely hard to help their clients succeed. In such a competitive marketplace, those that fail to add value, simply go out of business.
Finally, if you are looking for a business consultant, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.