What are Some Things that Management Consultants Know but Most People Don’t?

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The consulting industry is perceived to be both prestigious and lucrative, and consultants are reputed as leaders and experts in the field. Many business organizations retain the services of consultants to help them assess areas of opportunity, develop strategic plans, and implement change in order to achieve desired growth or surpass specific hurdles.

With such extraordinary responsibilities, it’s no wonder many people aspire to work in the field. In fact, according to CNN Money Magazine, consulting jobs ranked third in their study, “50 Best Jobs in the United States,” which was based on relevant criteria such as satisfying nature of the position, potential position growth, flexibility, median salary, and stress level.

As consultants are expected to offer innovative solutions and recommendations, wouldn’t it be interesting to understand how they think and tend to see things in a different perspective? Understanding what consultants know and how they perceive things will help  jump start your consulting career.

Data are Just Useless Numbers Unless They Tell a Story

Any set of data is useless until it tells a story. That’s why consultants dedicate a generous amount of time to creating and analyzing charts. Great consultants have the ability to identify relevant details in a massive amount of information. They are so obsessed with data that they can uncover the valuable story behind it. Consultants have that special ability to translate vaguely interesting data into useful insights and recommendations. Not all people have the natural instinct to uncover the story behind any set of given data. But consultants know how to recognize relevant facts and organize numbers and present them in a way that can be easily understood by their clients. Consultants are paid well because of their ability to see the big picture. They are extremely good at connecting the dots and bringing their clients the utmost value.

There is Always More than One Solution to a Problem

Consultants know that a different perspective can work. Great consultants have original ideas yet welcome other options. They listen, analyze, and solve. A critical skill of consultants is the ability to look at things differently compared to the average manager. They know that in order to put it all together, they need to consider every possible angle.

Consultants are hired to solve problems. It’s their responsibility to evaluate situations, identify the problems, and propose the best solutions. They know how to examine an issue from all sides and analyze how the different aspects of a particular situation interrelate. Thus, they can come up with more than one approach to solving an issue. But of course, they keep the best option first on their list.

Things are a Lot Simpler When You Break Them Down

Many organizations become overwhelmed by their problems because they lack the expertise to strategically break down the areas that need addressed. Consultants have the ability to break down business operations into a series of process steps in order to reveal the underlying problems. Great consultants know that the best way to figure out the problem is to split up its subcomponents. A consultant’s mind works like a diagram or flow-chart, making it easier to solve a problem, as every fragment of it is clearly defined.

Listening is More Powerful than Talking

Share your ideas

Having a solid education is great but it’s not enough. In consulting, being an active listener is an important trait. Consultants recognize that good listening skills are powerful in gathering crucial information. Consulting isn’t just about speaking your mind; before you can make an intelligent recommendation about an issue, you need to listen. This means being able to encourage others to talk freely as well. The information shared by the people you talk to can contribute to positive results.

In order to be successful in consulting, you need to have the ability to hear and genuinely understand the people you’re talking with. Great consultants recognize that listening is the key to connecting with people on personal levels, which is critical for successful project implementation.

Curiosity and Skepticism Should go Hand in Hand

Consultants are naturally curious and skeptical. They always ask the right questions, listen carefully, and are professionally skeptical. Great consultants recognize that some of the most important details aren’t immediately presented to them, and know that asking tough questions will generate value for their clients.

Being inquisitive may sometimes be annoying; however, if done properly, it can facilitate the desired results. Consultants have the ability to see issues differently than their clients see them. They can also easily make objective evaluations which aren’t clouded by politics and other perplexing factors surrounding a problem. They tell their clients what they need to know in a straightforward manner.

Team Dynamics is Extremely Important

Consultants are known to have a thorough knowledge about the industry, and as such make monumental decisions on behalf of companies. However, being an expert doesn’t mean rejecting other ideas. Consultants know that teamwork is essential for any successful project.

Consultants recognize that although they’re primary responsible for solving a case, a collaborative relationship with their team members is vital to achieving the goal. Good consultants credit other ideas and are willing to learn from their peers. Valuing others’ input is a mark of a true professional.

However, bringing together different people with large egos to work on a project for a client may not always be an easy task. Great consultants understand how to effectively optimize the working styles, personality types, and abilities of their team members in structuring a project. These tricks are key to efficient teamwork.

“I Don’t Know” Is Not an Option

Saying “I don’t know” is considered a mortal sin in the consulting industry. These three words are detrimental to the reputation of any consultant. Although they may not immediately know the answer to every question, their minds continuously work to find the solution. Consultants are expected to have a broad expertise; that’s why they stay current on news, innovations, and trends through reading informative materials and networking with colleagues.

However, it’s also true that even the most experienced consultant doesn’t know everything. In this case, saying “I don’t know” is still not an acceptable answer. They know that the best way to convey their lack of knowledge about a problem is to say, “I don’t know, but I know someone who does know.”

By the Book is Not Always Applicable

Successful consultants don’t always follow what they’ve learned in books. They’re aware that there should be a balance between knowledge gained from books and knowledge acquired from real life experience.

Models and frameworks are great, but sometimes consultants need to bring things down to a more practical level. Their main priority is to design and implement the best solutions for their clients. In order to do this, they look at things from all angles and consider every possible solution, whether conventional or not. They know how to devise a practical approach coupled with applicable theories.

Logic Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Numbers

Consultants are known to be analytical thinkers who are good at solving quantitative problems. However, these professionals recognize that logic doesn’t necessarily mean excelling at quantitative computations. You can be a great mathematician but a terrible consultant. Great consultants know that an understanding of quantitative subjects can be advantageous but doesn’t guarantee anything.

Other professionals, such as lawyers and historians, are also extremely analytical, yet their ideas are not merely founded on quantitative elements. This is because logic entails one’s thought process. Great consultants are aware that the ability to correlate the gathered data is more important than mere quantitative computations in generating useful insights.

Not All Days are Created Equal

We all have bad days, and even the greatest consultants can hit a brick wall. But they’re resilient and have the ability to pick themselves up—they know that predictability isn’t in their job description.

The consulting industry isn’t for the faint hearted. There will be days that entail a higher  level of stress than most. But successful consultants are aware that part of their job is to motivate their team to carry on until they see the light at the end of the tunnel. Some problems may be more difficult to solve than others, but a good consultant embraces the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience.

Network Requires Brainwork

Networking is critical in consulting, not only at the beginning of your career but also as you progress. In order to build a strong network of professionals, you need to think and strategize in order to maximize the potential benefits.

Consultants have limitless opportunities to make new contacts and successful consultants take advantage of this. However, it’s not enough to simply ask for business cards or add new online contacts; you need to understand that networking is an active process.  Consultants know how to effectively build and maintain strong relationships with key people in the industry.

Feedback is Critical

Consultants are used to being evaluated as they undergo a formal review every six months. They’re rated based on a set of metrics after every project. Some even have weekly feedback sessions and are corrected even for moderate slips. This may be unsettling for most people, but the process is incredibly valuable. Great consultants value feedback and are always willing to talk through what he/she can do differently. As with any profession, you need to be aware of your strong and weak points in order to improve.

Word of Mouth Advertising Goes Far

According to Nielsen’s “Global Trust in Advertising” report, people don’t trust advertising as much as they trust recommendations from friends and consumer opinions. The company surveyed more than 28,000 respondents in 56 countries and found that 92% of consumers trust endorsements from friends and family above any other form of advertising.

Consultants are acutely aware of this and provide valuable services as a marketing tool. They understand that growth can be achieved through persistence and foresight. Successful consulting professionals effectively demonstrate humility and satisfaction in helping their clients. And in the end, people will find ways to give credit where it’s due.

The consulting industry remains one of the most sought after industries today, and only those candidates with brilliant minds and fresh and unique perspectives are able to break in. No wonder professionals in this industry know things that most people don’t realize.

Learn More

Want to find out more about management consulting? Download our guide, How to Get a Management Consulting Job, and learn how you can break into this prestigious industry. We will teach you how to write an impressive application, pass the tests, and ace the case interviews.


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What Are the Qualities of a Successful Management Consultant?

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Management consulting is a very specific niche or calling. Successful consultants are known to possess qualities and characteristics that are essential for carrying out the rigorous duties associated with the role.

Contrary to popular belief, the characteristics of a successful management consultant can be honed through years of practice. Before we dive into the specific qualities, let’s take a closer look at what the job entails in order to better understand what type of individuals fair well in the profession.

Not Your Typical Office Job

The way the media portrays management consulting is very different from what the job is really like. Consultants are trained to think outside the box. This also applies to their work schedule. Most consultants are required to work and travel on a regular basis, which can be very disconcerting. The traveling aspect is a concern for many consultants because it’s an unpredictable factor in their hectic schedule of meeting deadlines and writing reports.

Furthermore, clients can be extremely demanding, primarily because they feel somewhat uneasy about putting the fate of their company in the hands of a management consultant. The pressure of the job is another factor that can make the most seasoned and experienced consultants fold. It takes an individual with a strong and disciplined mind to get through weeks of brainstorming and meetings while staying 100% focused.

Consistency is expected and is one of the hardest parts of the profession. Top consulting firms require their employees to stay sharp in every aspect of the job. In the beginning this can seem like a walk in the park, but midway into a consultant’s career when the stakes are higher, it may not be that easy.

So, what are the qualities of a highly successful consultant? Read more to find out.

Communication and Social Skills

A consultant must have strong communication and social skills—it’s an unavoidable aspect of the profession. Professionals are required to talk to clients and colleagues, report to their superiors, hold meetings, present at conferences, and more. Many individuals who simply try to present themselves as friendly or sociable won’t make the cut because consultants are required to be sociable 24/7. When a consultant isn’t at the office or in a meeting, he or she might be networking or taking a group of clients to lunch. Even those who are naturally outgoing or comfortable around people may feel that this side of the job can get overwhelming at times. Introverts may find it difficult to compete with other consultants who are more vocal. This doesn’t mean that all successful consultants are extroverts; however, in order to cope with the social aspects of the job, employees who are shy and timid may need to exert twice the effort to breakdown personal boundaries that may be hindering them from performing well.

Quick and Organized Thinking

Management consultants are required to sift through endless amounts of information while formulating a solution, which requires a well-structured mind.  It’s almost like stepping into the middle of a battlefield; a consultant may have an arsenal of frameworks memorized, but organized thinking also includes efficient application. A consultant must know when to use what he or she has learned in order to arrive at the best solution. Without this skill, it may take some time for an individual to reach a feasible solution; a luxury that most consultants don’t have.


Each client is different. Even if they are competitors in the same industry, working with the same products, services, and concerns, internally (i.e., structure, mission, forecasts) they are very different. A successful consultant is required to acclimate and adapt to the needs of the client as well as meet the objectives set by his or her superiors. This is not a simple feat, even though most consulting firms specialize in specific industries and sectors.

Moreover, consultants must also adapt to global trends, which may require a renewed mindset. Consultants are expected to be caught up to speed in a short amount of time. This may mean reading and comprehending a large amount of information over a few cups of coffee.

Work Exceptionally Well in a Team

A team of consultants who work well together can be a powerful force in a high caliber firm. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Management consultants who are great on their own but are unable to work well in a team can easily derail a project. Teamwork is an essential part of being a consultant. It’s not practical to attempt to do everything alone; those who try may burn themselves out. A highly successful consultant knows the strengths and weakness of each of his or her teammates and is able to maximize the potential of each member, which saves time and effort.

Working effectively in a team also requires a consultant to be sensitive to the needs of others. The ability to empathize with a group of consultants is hard to come by. Most consultants have a tough outer shell, but a successful consultant in charge of leading a team knows when to push and motivate and when to relax and take a break- even when the other members of the team aren’t backing down. Strong empathy skills can raise productivity and prevent breakdowns.

Superior Math Skills

A consultant must also be well versed in the technical aspect of the occupation. This includes mental math abilities as well as analytical skills. Even though calculators and spreadsheets are readily available, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should be used for every calculation. Imagine pulling out a calculator in the middle of a presentation in front of the senior staff in a multi-national company—it doesn’t fit the image of an expert consultant. More importantly, the computation must be accurate. It’s true that most computations are rough averages or estimates, but even so, the margins provided by a management consultant aren’t too far off the actual mark.

Part of the work of a consultant requires analyzing graphs for accurate forecasts and calculated projections. As we all know, not all data on a graph is important. Successful consultants know how to analyze charts and graphs and identify  the information or data that is relevant, which enables them to quickly formulate a solution.

Think Outside the Box (Creative Thinking)

One of the main reasons that leading companies hire management consultants is because of their point of view. It’s difficult to spot internal problems within a large company when you’re part of its daily operations. Furthermore, some of the staff are so used to the structure and business functions that they are unable to pinpoint the weak spots. A successful consultant can walk into a company, analyze the facts and figures, identify the areas that need improved, and find a viable solution for implementation.

Many companies aren’t quick to admit that they rely on a management consultant’s expert advice or proposed solution. Before hiring a consultant, businesses have most likely tried everything to salvage or find an answer to their problems. A consultant must be creative enough to formulate a solution that the management or senior staff has not thought of.

Thinking outside the box doesn’t end with a feasible solution. A management consultant is also required to implement the new plan and put it into action. This entails creative thinking, as most companies are looking for fresh and new ideas that can help them stand out from their competitors and solidify their brand.

Drive and Motivation

It’s easy to spot successful management consultants. They talk a little differently, and move with confidence, without being too arrogant. Their work is always thorough and they know how to make the most out of seemingly hopeless situations. Lastly, they are always working towards a goal and are never satisfied with mediocre results.

How does a consultant achieve this mindset? The best consultants are truly made for the job. Preparation and hard work, amounting to valuable work experience, has set them apart from their colleagues. Motivation is essential in the consulting industry; many experts question their career when the pressure starts to build, but don’t throw in the towel.

In conclusion, perfecting the qualities of a highly successful consultant requires years of practice and preparation. The management consulting industry is rewarding to those who are willing to work hard and help others along the way.

Learn More

Want to learn more about the makings of a highly successful management consultant? Our guide to management consulting career provides an inside perspective on the skills top firms look for and how you can improve your capabilities and land a management consulting job.

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Why Work at McKinsey?

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Have you been thinking about working at a top-tier consulting firm like McKinsey? What benefits would you get from your experience at this world-renowned organization? A career in management consultancy offers numerous opportunities and advantages. To help you answer the question, “Why work at McKinsey?” or at any other esteemed firm, we have provided some of the top benefits:


In consulting, generally no two days are alike. Consultants help different organizations achieve, sustain, and regain their hold on their respective markets. They work with organizations from various sectors to explore growth opportunities, solve operational problems, and more. In other words, you’ll never get bored as there’s always a new challenge or issue to resolve. As a McKinsey consultant, you’ll be exposed to a diversity of situations and projects, which is one of the greatest benefits of working for a top firm.

Develop Strong Communication and Influencing Skills

Impressive analytical skills are not the only capabilities you can hone in your consulting career. As a consultant at a top firm, you’ll develop strong communication, presentation, and influencing skills. Consultants present their ideas to different types of people, and if you work at McKinsey, you’ll likely present to executives from global enterprises. In the process, a consultant gains confidence in communicating and presenting ideas.

Generous Compensation

Another good answer to the question, “Why work at McKinsey?” is the generous compensation. In general, consultants receive a more competitive pay rate than do full- time workers in other industries. Consultants have a very specific skill set, and big corporations are willing to pay a premium for the services of consultants who work at top-tier firms.

Development Opportunities

Another great benefit of working at McKinsey is the opportunity for growth and development. McKinsey is known to provide their consultants with extensive formal and informal mentoring. The firm often conducts reviews every six months or at the end of a consulting engagement, which help consultants improve their performance. In addition, McKinsey is also known to offer extensive career counseling to its consultants.

Networking Opportunities

Consultants from top firms work for multiple companies around the world. Working at  McKinsey will provide you access to a massive amount of information about the operations of numerous global companies. You’ll gain an exclusive understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the organizations you work for. And most importantly, you’ll have countless opportunities to build new contacts across different industries. This knowledge along with a quality network will be extremely helpful in your future job search or other business endeavor.

Knowledge Sharing

You might ask yourself, “Why work at McKinsey when there are so many other top-tier consulting firms?” McKinsey invests a good amount of money each year in a program called, “Knowledge, Development, and Dissemination.” This includes research, studies, and reports which provide deeper insights into the various industries and corporate functions they serve. As a consultant at a global firm, you’ll have access to these valuable materials, which will provide you with credible data you can use during client conversations and other relevant situations.

Develop a Specialization

Working at a world-renowned firm can help you discover which path suits your goals, background, and interests best. As a consultant, you’ll have the opportunity to choose whether you want to focus on a specific area of expertise or work on a variety of problems among numerous industries. Over time, many consultants develop an expertise in a particular industry or function. This provides another great answer to the question, “Why work at McKinsey”—to help transform and enhance your thought processes while serving a spectrum of global clients.

Global Leadership

At McKinsey, you can take advantage of a legacy of expertise. As a member of a leading management consulting firm, you’ll have many opportunities to work with some of the most successful and prominent leaders in the world. Immersing yourself in this type of  environment will help you imbibe their thoughts and actions. Working within their organizations will help accelerate your growth and advance your career.

Learning from the Best

If you work at a top consulting firm, you’ll benefit from learning from the best. You are likely to work alongside senior colleagues and other accomplished professionals. From them, you’ll be able to acquire feedback and advice on your performance. These experiences will help you succeed in leadership roles as well as help you build a personal network that will support you for the rest of your career.


Perhaps one of the best answers to the question, “Why work at McKinsey?” is instant credibility. Having a name like McKinsey on your professional profile shouts credibility. It’s like getting into an Ivy League school: whether you’re searching for a job, locating startup investors, or looking for other business development opportunities, you’ll definitely benefit from this credential, which will follow you even after you leave the firm.

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Is it Possible for Software Engineers to Break into Consulting without an MBA?

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Discussing results

So, you’ve been thinking about shifting careers. Don’t worry, this is normal. In fact, many people realize that what they truly want is different from what they are doing, among them are software engineers who flirt with the idea of becoming management consultants.

The prestige and competitive monetary compensation that the consulting industry offers is attractive for applicants from different backgrounds. The good news for engineering students and graduates is that many consulting firms consider hiring candidates with engineering backgrounds as long as they have the proven skills to perform the job well. In fact, top-tier firms like McKinsey and Bain have been noted for hiring engineering graduates in the last several years.

Concerns about Pursuing Consultancy

As you are planning to break into a different field, it is common for you to have concerns. The most typical of which are:

  1. Insufficient business experience on your resume.
  2. A lack of essential knowledge about the consulting industry.
  3. Recruiters may assume you lack people skills as your primary strengths are  numbers and analytics.
  4. No experience with case studies, which is an integral part of any consulting interview.

Why Consulting Firms Hire Applicants with Engineering Experience

Although it may not seem like a natural fit, most engineering students and graduates possess critical skills that are applicable in the consulting industry. This is why big firms consider engineering graduates as eligible candidates for management consulting positions. These skills include:

Strong quantitative ability Engineers are highly skilled in mental math. They are  comfortable with numbers, which makes it easy for them to interpret large volumes of quantitative data. This skill is indispensable if you’re an aspiring consultant.
Determined and ready for challenges Engineering programs are generally difficult to complete. The admission requirements are tough, the academic content is complex, as well as the licensure examination. Hence, graduating with an engineering degree, plus having an impressive GPA, indicates determination and hard work—something a consultant must possess.
Technical knowledge Trained engineers know how to back-up their opinions with technical analysis. Aside from their logical reasoning and problem-solving capabilities, consulting firms benefit from their technical knowledge when generating advice, particularly for clients within specialized technology or equipment.

Tips for Engineers Who Want to Pursue Management Consulting

Here are some valuable tips to help you successfully break into business consulting:

Experience Gain some business experience. As you’re aware that you lack the required business exposure, you need to find ways to compensate. If you’re still in school, you can start by finding business-related internships or part-time jobs. Of course, make sure you’ll be able to manage the workload.
Consulting Knowledge Learn about management consulting. Address your insufficient understanding of consultancy by checking out credible materials, both on and offline. There are many  books about the consulting industry. Take the time to learn as much as you can. Refer to online career development sites such as ConsultingFact.Com to help you in your preparation.
Networking Network, network, network. Many successful consultants without an MBA or business background have proved their worth through vigorous networking. When you connect with people, express your desire to start a career in management/strategy consulting. Convey your interest in the field by giving the impression that you actually understand business consulting. Network with consultants and consulting company recruiters to gain leverage.
Preparation Thoroughly prepare for the case interview. Study as many cases as you can until you are comfortable with them. Read credible resources and take online practice cases. Additionally, find a trusted friend in consulting and perform a mock case interview. By doing this, you will learn how to confidently solve the case and efficiently handle the pressure.
Resume Tailor your resume to focus on your consulting skills and experiences. Make sure your application is targeted to the consulting position you are after. Defy recruiting biases against engineers by highlighting your proven people and leadership skills, as well as your excellent communication skills.
Education Show off your academic credentials. Make sure you flaunt your awesome SAT score, impressive GPA, and Ivy League degree in your application. Consulting recruiters find these very attractive.
Skills Be aware of your strengths and transferable skills. The key to a successful career shift is understanding how this new industry is a better fit for your skills and strengths. This is necessary in order to present yourself in a more compelling way to prospective firms.


These guidelines will help you succeed in your new career endeavor. Many engineers have already joined top-tier firms and found consultancy the perfect platform for leveraging their technical training and achieving professional and personal growth.

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Words and Phrases Management Consultants Use for Effective Client Communication

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Above view of consultant analyzing statistics with her client

As consultants work with clients on projects, effective communication is the key to maintaining smooth relations. The manner in which a consultant communicates is essential in resolving differences and building trust. Ultimately, learning how to efficiently communicate with clients can foster an environment in which creative ideas, problem solving, and mutual respect can flourish.

Words and Phrases that Consultants Commonly Use

Consultants are known to use jargon or buzzwords when they talk with their clients. Here are some of the most frequently used terms in the industry:

80/20 rule In consulting, this term is used to indicate that 80% of the task can be delivered 20% of the time.
Leverage This term is frequently used in consulting as a fancy way of saying “utilize” or “use.” For instance, “Let’s leverage last month’s revenue data.”
Low-hanging fruit In the consulting industry, this term refers to the initial opportunities that are the easiest to cover; like a quick win.
30,000 feet view This term suggests viewing something from a distance in order to perceive the bigger picture. Thus, consultants use this when considering all relevant perspectives in order to think more strategically.
Boil the ocean This implies a clearly impossible task. It is used when the target outcome would be impossible to achieve, despite the generous amount of time and effort exerted.
MBB This acronym is used to refer to the “big three” of the consulting world: McKinsey, Bain, and BCG.

Avoid Using Too Many Buzzwords

People in the consulting environment have such an extended vocabulary of jargon or buzzwords that what they intend to say becomes confusing. Although there are plenty of buzzwords in management consulting, they should not be used in client discussions. Most clients won’t understand industry jargon. One essential way to effectively communicate is to  create a common ground. You can do this if you present ideas and use terms that clients will understand.

Whenever you talk with your clients, ensure that they fully comprehend the situation and your recommendations. Make sure that you present your ideas in layman’s terms. Don’t inject your proposal with fancy words in an attempt to impress your clients—they won’t appreciate confusing concepts. Always take into consideration that they may not be familiar with the jargon you use when talking with your peers. Also, anticipate questions your client may have to help you effectively convey your ideas.

How to Effectively Communicate with Clients

Having the ability to effectively communicate with your clients is an important part of a successful consulting project. To avoid confusion, conflict, and inaccurate results, here are some guideline to clear and effective communication.

Be Courteous

Any client will appreciate being treated courteously. Courteous words and phrases, such as “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” “excuse me/pardon me,” “will you?” etc., should be a part of your vocabulary. Being courteous throughout your conversations will help build a rapport with your clients.

Be Open-minded

One essential skill of a successful consultant is the ability to listen. Remember, hearing is different from listening. Let your clients explain their thoughts. Do not interrupt them by saying, “I know.” This is extremely rude. Also, avoid being judgmental. Listening to their thoughts does not necessarily mean you agree with them. Just try to be as open-minded as possible. Show interest in what your client is saying. Smile, nod occasionally, and encourage the speaker to continue discussing his or her thoughts with small comments such as “yes” or “uh huh.”

Demonstrate Your Understanding

Any speaker likes to feel heard and understood. Ensure you demonstrate your understanding by asking relevant questions, summarizing the details of the discussion, and presenting important implications arising from the conversation. This will help build a deeper connection between you and your client. Your client will know if you’re just passively listening. Make your client feel that you are both on the same page, and demonstrate your understanding by being present “in the moment.”

Deliver Your Message Clearly

Always speak clearly and concisely. Express your ideas in a calm and confident manner. As much as possible, get straight to the point and refrain from being indecisive or condescending.

Avoid Fillers

Saying, “Ah” and “Um,” will not add value to your conversation. More importantly, do not use such expressions as they are associated with lack of preparation or indecision, which are not qualities of a good consultant.

Be Professional

Professionalism adds to the value of your skills. When communicating with your client via email, ensure to proofread the content prior to sending it and only use your business email address. When talking with them, make sure you speak articulately and knowledgeably. And whenever you have a scheduled meeting with your clients, take time to prepare an agenda outline—readiness means professionalism.

Ask for Feedback

Keep the lines of communication open. This will help you maintain long-term relationships with your clients. You can do this by asking them for their input or about how they feel about your service.

The success of a consulting project does not only rely on the consultant’s knowledge of business principles and strategies. Learning the art of effective client communication is also a critical aspect.

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What Value Do Consulting Firms Add to a Business’ Operations?

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Management consultants are known to solve problems. They are hired to assess the business operations of an organization and propose solutions to improve overall efficiency. However, despite their prestige, management consultants face criticism from skeptics who question their worth and ability.

Criticism Consultants Face

Consultants face criticism both from clients and management scholars. Some criticize the cost of hiring a consultant, particularly those from top-tier firms. Clients question why consultants charge $2 million for a few weeks of work and doubt whether the recommendations provided are really that beneficial to their businesses.

Consulting firms are sometimes accused of making empty promises, stating the obvious, and even lacking the relevant experience on which to base their recommendations. And many clients consider the high fees consultants charge unreasonable.

Aside from the value of their work, some consultants are criticized for overusing buzzwords, while others are condemned because they fail to develop plans that can be executed by the client organization. Moreover, many companies are disappointed with the sustainability of the results. Although most consultants do promote sustainability, such expectations are not  guaranteed after project completion.

Additional criticisms include reselling similar reports or failing to customize research reports, lack of innovation, overbilling, and lack of clarity in regard to deliverables.

Well, that’s just one side of the story.

Value of Management Consultants

Management consultants, particularly those from top-tier firms, have proven to provide invaluable insights to many companies around the world. Some of the most important benefits they offer an organization include:

Impartial Advice

Consultants can give unbiased advice because they are not conflicted. As they are independent from the organization, they can provide unprejudiced observations and recommendations. On the other hand, internal consultants tend to be conflicted and  are frequently reluctant to give harsh yet accurate recommendations to their peers. That’s why many international companies with internal consulting capabilities solicit advice from premium consulting firms. They realize the value in bringing in external consultants who can  can truly assess the company’s operations.

Dedicated to Solving the Problem

A focused team of smart people who are dedicated to solving the problem is an extremely valuable asset. As consultants are generally unbiased, they can focus their attention on a particular problem. Consultants are hired to execute a defined project and leave when results are delivered. They are definitely more efficient in handling the company assessment and improvement projects compared to the current employees who are bogged down in their daily tasks.

Political Cover

As consultants are treated as an external force, they are a handy scapegoat. CEOs who are reluctant to make an unpopular decision often hire a trusted consulting firm to do the dirty work. In many cases, companies find it hard to take the next step, particularly if it involves a risk such as developing a new business line, layoffs, benefit reductions, and other major operational shifts. The board can easily distance themselves from any unpopular decision by hiring external consultants who will get the desired results while taking the fall in case things don’t go as planned.

Access to More Data

Even if obliged to discard specific company data, top-tier consultants can conduct analysis and leverage company-specific data to craft their own intellectual property and utilize it to help other companies in the future. Also, reputable consultancies have a wide range of experience across different corporate cultures and industries. They are adept in best practices in many environments and functions and can effectively recognize the most viable solutions as they apply strategies used in similar situations.

Fresh Perspective

Companies experiencing challenges often need a fresh viewpoint. Consultants add value to operations by providing new insights and pointing to underlying problems. Critics may say that consultants are just selling “hyped-up common sense,” but for existing employees who are too busy with daily tasks, it can be easy to lose sight of the overall picture.

Although management consultants face a lot of criticism, many global organizations still seek their services in an effort to overcome recent economic difficulties. It is safe to say that top-tier consulting firms continue to bring value to business operations.

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Exit Options for Strategy Consultants

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Concept of difficult choices of a businessman

After spending several years in the consulting industry, strategy consultants possess expertise in functional practices across several industries and have built a strong network with reputable business leaders. Therefore, many exit options are available for qualified consultants, some of which include:

Corporate Roles

This is probably the most common exit option. A number of large corporations have internal consulting groups, which are supervised by ex-consultants. Outside of strategy, the pace is generally slower. Consultants are a good fit for corporate roles that demand analytics, research, project coordination, and staff management. Some of the advantages of opting for corporate roles include a more stable work environment, shorter hours, and the opportunity to develop an operating skillset. However, there are also cons associated with this option such as reduced pay and benefits and less flexibility when it comes to choosing projects and team members.

Graduate School

Many consultants who hit the two year mark apply to graduate programs. Experience in the consulting industry looks great on a resume and can help you get into top graduate programs at the best universities. A lot of undergraduate consultants pursue graduate school to figure out their next career move. It also gives them a break from the stress of daily consulting work.

The majority of consultants choose business school, while others pursue law school or opt to enroll in a Masters or PhD program. If you’re interested in a Masters or PhD program, conduct research on the companies that concentrate in your area. For example, Cornerstone is focused on economics research, which is a great fit for a future economics PhD.

Finance Roles

One of the more challenging exit options to consider is a career in finance. Let’s just say that an i-banker would break into these roles easier than a strategy consultant. However, if you are a product of a top-tier consultancy firm and the company needs some operational experience, you could have an advantage over experienced bankers. Some of the most common finance roles for ex-consultants include:

Private Equity

Strategy consultants are very much suited for private equity posts but they need to research potential employers. Larger shops, such as Carlyle and TPG, favor consultants who have handled corporate finance projects or those with prior banking experience.

One of the benefits of this exit option is that PE offers better compensation as well as greater prestige and the opportunity to handle industry-shaping projects. Some of the best firms in this sector include the McBain Group and Oliver Wyman.

Hedge Funds

Consultants can also break into the hedge fund sector; however, the opportunities are quite limited. You can only target those that demand the skills of an experienced consultant. For example, macroeconomic funds place a lot of emphasis on  market research, so this would be a good fit, whereas specialized funds would not.

In terms of salary, hedge funds can offer better compensation, and like PE, can open the door to industry-changing opportunities. It may be easier to penetrate this industry before you get into business school.

Asset Management / Equity Research

The skill set of a management consultant is a great fit for asset management or equity research. Aim for positions at top firms and target modeling-heavy assignments.


Building a business is probably one of the least chosen exit options. However, consulting experience does serve as an advantage as consultants are constantly exposed to diverse industries, complex business problems, and great networks of business professionals, they are equipped with the elements required to start a successful business.

You can either start your own company or join a startup. The consulting industry is filled with entrepreneurs and generally has strong startup communities.

Public Sector and Government Roles

This is typically the least chosen path out of consulting. Only a few consultants are inclined to government service and politics. Some ex-consultants who have pursued their political careers include Bobby Jindal, formerly of McKinsey, and Mitt Romney, formerly of Bain.

Of course, the most visible benefit of opting for this career is the opportunity to take on government positions. On the other hand, the cons include reduced pay, longer working hours, and an indefinite career path.

The exit options listed above include only a few roles to consider. With a powerful skill set and expert credentials, a good consultant could break into any industry.

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Where to Get Inspiration for Your Consulting Career

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The creative man

Vying for a position at any management consulting firm is not an easy job. The recruitment process is tough and your competitors are highly qualified. When you feel that the odds of being invited to an interview are against you, take a breather and look for some inspiration on the web.

Here are some websites that can provide you with a daily dose of inspiration and motivation, and some nuggets of wisdom that can encourage you to manage your challenges optimistically.


At TED.com, you will find a collection of talks given by influential people such as Bill Gates, Larry Page, Al Gore, Malcolm Gladwell, and other Nobel Prize winners. Each video contains innovative ideas on technology, design, entertainment, science, global issues, and business, among others. In addition, you will hear stories about how professionals succeed in their careers, ideas that you may use once you become a consultant, and simple tips on how to live life to the fullest.

Let’s Talk About Work

Founded by Mary-Frances Winters, letstalkaboutwork.tv offers practical advice, motivation, and guidance for personal and professional development. It posts daily inspirational quotes that can get your work day started on a positive note. It also publishes work-related blog posts that help  employees resolve issues with their boss or colleagues and conducts polls where you can share your ideas on relevant issues.

Marie Forleo

Marieforleo.com is the personal blog of Marie Forleo, a marketing and lifestyle expert who helps everyone live rich, happy, and hot. Most of her blogs contain a video of her interviewing an influential or successful person. At times, she provides practical advice for questions raised by her viewers or readers. In her posts, she encourages reader interaction by asking a question  about your career, preferences, business, or life in general.

Goins Writer

Goinswriter.com is the personal blog of Jeff Goins, a writer, speaker, creative coach, and consultant. He writes about dreams, art, careers, decisions, business, and other topics that will help you become an effective person. What you’ll love about his ideas is the fact that they are presented in a very simple manner. Readers remember his tips because they are easy to apply.


Careershifters.org is a website for professionals who want a change in their career. Its authors aim to help readers escape from their dead-end or unfulfilling jobs by gathering expert ideas on how to find a new profession that brings you to life. It explores the reasons that keep you from following your calling and provides you with tools on how to land your dream job. It also features the stories of professionals who successfully shifted from one career to another.


On zenhabits.net, Leo Babauta proves that less is more. He believes there is happiness and productivity in finding simplicity and clearing the clutter. Each week, he features a few articles on motivation and inspiration, frugality, goals, health and fitness, among others. This uncopyrighted blog may have no images, but the simple yet powerful content is more than enough.


Many consider lifehack.org as one of the premier productivity and lifestyle blogs on the Internet. It provides advice, resources, and tips to help you perform tasks efficiently and effectively. It contains sensible articles and provides quotes on communication, lifestyle, money, technology, work, productivity, and relationships.

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How Do Management Consultants Think?

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Management consulting is a popular industry that helps business organizations improve their performance. Many businesses seek the services of consultants as external advisors. A management consultant’s main role is to assess a company’s areas of opportunity, recommend strategic plans, and implement change to achieve desired growth and development.

Consultant’s approach problems with a different perspective than other professionals. They are hired to find the answers to seemingly unsolvable problems. So how do they do it? What goes on in a consultant’s mind?

Data is Useless Unless it Tells a Story

Data that can’t convey a story is irrelevant. That’s why consulting firms spend a generous amount of time researching and analyzing documents. Consultants are obsessed with finding valuable information from data that can be used to transform their client’s current situation. A good consultant has a natural instinct for discovering the story behind any given data. He or she recognizes that facts and statistics are not just numbers, but represent various outcomes to different situations.

Everything is Much Simpler Broken Down

Consultants perceive business operations as a series of steps, which can be broken down into subcomponents. They use diagrams and flowcharts to define the subcomponents and solve the problem.

Listening Skills are Vital

Consulting skills include more than knowledge and experience. To be successful, learning to be an active listener is a must. Consultants recognize that listening skills are vital in accumulating useful information. It is through effective listening that one can encourage others to talk freely. And the information shared by different people can contribute to more productive results.

The ability to hear and genuinely understand concerns and connect with people on a personal level is a powerful tool. A good listener knows how to present an idea in a way that will lead to successful project implementation.

Team Effort Leads to Desired Results

Ideally, a consultant has a thorough knowledge about the industry upon which to base decisions that will benefit a company. However, this does not mean that an expert should not be referred to for additional ideas. Consultants know that team effort is a vital element of any successful project. Establishing a collaborative relationship with team members is key to achieving the end goal. Good consultants are open to learning from their peers; they value the input and expertise of other professionals. Engaging and involving employees makes the consulting process much easier.

“I Don’t Know” Should Never be the Answer

Management consultants are expected to possess a high level of knowledge about various industries and never answer a question with, “I don’t know.” Those three words could harm their reputation and the prestige of their firm. Their minds are trained to find solutions. That’s why consultants continually expand their knowledge through informative materials and networking with colleagues.

However, it is also true that no one knows everything—even the most experienced consultant. “I don’t know” is still not an acceptable answer. Instead, a good consultant will say “I don’t know, but I know someone who does.” This conveys a genuine intention to find a solution to the problem.

Logic Has Nothing to Do with Numbers

Management consulting is known to attract analytical thinkers. But consultants recognize that logic does not mean solving quantitative problems. Aspiring consultants need not  have a degree in science, economics, or other quantitative subjects. While these backgrounds can serve as an advantage, they do not guarantee success.

Logic is all about thought processes—how to approach and solve a problem. Other professionals like lawyers, linguists, and historians are analytical thinkers as well, but their ideas and hypotheses are not grounded merely on quantitative elements.

Analytical thinkers can process any piece of information; however, consultants must be able to analyze a large amount of data and develop viable solutions to complicated problems.

Management consultants are an invaluable asset to any organization. Their deep insights and revolutionary solutions play a big role in the success of a business. Management consulting has definitely pushed the business sector and the economy to greater heights.

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Consulting to Entrepreneurship: Is This Feasible?

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Hand with the handle specifies charts of growth

Many professionals have shifted from consulting to entrepreneurship. Kathryn Minshew,  co-founder of DailyMuse.com, was grateful she had developed her research skills at McKinsey because it helped her conceptualize her career and professional development website. John Tabis, the founder of The Bouqs Co., an online flower shop, used to be a consultant at Bain & Company. He attributes the success of his business to his experience working with senior consultants and clients across various industries.

And perhaps a perfect example is Daniel Stefanac, the founder of this website, ConsultingFact.com. After his two-year stint at McKinsey, he explored the corporate world and then decided to be a full-time entrepreneur.

Why are so many of those who venture from consulting to entrepreneurship successful? Here are some possible reasons:

Exposure to Best Practices

If you are privileged to work for a huge consulting firm such as McKinsey, Bain, and Deloitte, you will be assigned to work on projects in various industries including healthcare, media and entertainment, manufacturing, and aviation, among others. Your role doesn’t stop at understanding the main problem; you are expected to generate the best solutions for the client. In the process, you learn how other companies successfully manage their operations, human resources, technology, and market strategies. When you decide to shift from consulting to entrepreneurship, this knowledge will help you develop efficient processes and procedures.

Market Knowledge

Management consultants understand that no business will flourish if it doesn’t have a specific market. In fact, one of the major services of huge consulting firms focuses on market studies. You examine the needs, buying capability, and behavior of a potential market and then identify market segments to determine which subset matches the requirements of a particular service or product while exploring the competition among suppliers and strategies for product branding. Again, when you venture into business, your extensive, first-hand experience in data collection and analysis will come in handy.

Enhanced Problem-Solving Skills

Consultants are hired for one main purpose—to resolve business dilemmas outside the expertise of top management. In order to serve this purpose effectively, you should approach the problem objectively. You can break the issue into manageable segments to determine all the factors involved in the process. You investigate financial documents, read research studies, and go through other documents for relevant facts. After thorough analysis, you generate solutions that will lead to the growth and profitability of the company. Your enhanced problem-solving skills, when applied to your new startup, will help you make more effective decisions.

Increased Connections

As mentioned above, consultants are usually assigned to various clients. In most cases, you spend your days in the client’s office interviewing rank-and-file employees, conducting focused group discussions with supervisors, and consulting with top management. This exposure   allows for a huge advantage—powerful and diverse connections. If you can maintain a good relationship with your contacts, it will be easy for you to tap their resources, inquire about their expertise, and gain inspiration from their experience. Start being a people-person now, and once you shift from consulting to entrepreneurship, you will receive the assistance you need.


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