What is Consulting? And Should You Do it?

Posted: Jan 10  |  By: Janet Berry-Johnson

Have you ever thought about being a consultant? It might be something you aspire to without even understanding what it’s all about. According to the Oxford dictionary, a consultant is “a person who provides expert advice professionally.” So if you have some form of expertise that can help others solve problems and achieve goals, you can be a consultant.

Today, we’re breaking down the main categories of consultants and the value they provide to clients.

Management and strategy consulting

When a company is looking to expand their markets geographically, develop their product portfolio or buy out a smaller competitor, hiring an experienced management and strategy consultant makes sense.

These consultants help ensure every angle is considered, often devoting themselves entirely to the issues at hand so the organization’s executives can continue running the company. Management and strategy consultants need analytical skills, people skills and the ability to work on tight deadlines. Most also have an MBA and other professional certifications.

Operations consulting

A company that wants to promote efficiency and cost-effectiveness in their processes may hire an operations consultant. Operations consultants have a deep understanding of the best practices in their industry. They may specialize in business process re-engineering, meaning they come in and map out an organization’s existing processes and analyze opportunities to streamline the process while maintaining quality and reducing costs.

Operations consultants usually have a Bachelor’s degree at a minimum. Many have advanced degrees and at least three to five years of work experience.

Financial consulting

Almost daily, companies must make objective and informed decisions that consider a vast number of complex variables. This might include taking advantage of strategies to reduce their tax bill, improve cash flow or decide which investments will provide the highest return for the least amount of risk. Financial consultants provide the advice and expertise to help companies make these decisions.

Most financial consultants have specific qualifications and licenses, including the Certified Public Accountants (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

Human resources consulting

A business’ long-term success is dependent upon its ability to manage employees effectively. That includes including training and development, employee engagement and satisfaction, conflict resolution and employee benefits.

HR consultants help companies address these areas and make decisions about policies and procedures that comply with federal and state laws and regulations. They typically have a Bachelor’s degree in HR or business administration and may have additional certifications administered by the HR Certification Institute or the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Risk and compliance consulting

Organizations need to comply with laws, regulations, standards and ethical practices related to their industry. Risk and compliance consultants help an organization enforce compliance using company policies that help to prevent and detect violations and protect the organization from fines and lawsuits.

These consultants must have knowledge of legal regulations. They typically have a Bachelor’s degree and may also have advanced qualifications such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

IT consulting

Businesses must keep up with technology that is developing at a rapid pace. For this reason, IT consulting has become a massive segment of the consulting world. IT consultants help organizations with systems integration, enterprise architecture, software management and data analytics. They advise organizations on using new technology to meet strategic goals, optimizing or replacing their existing IT setup, and effectively integrating changes into the current framework.

Aspiring IT consultants should be aware that this can be a very demanding field. Long hours, evenings, weekends and travel are often a part of the job. They also need to have detailed knowledge of applications and information security practice and stay on top of emerging technologies in their industry.

Marketing consulting

All businesses need to attract and convert new clients. This requires investing in the right mixture of marketing channels, which is constantly changing. For that reason, many organizations hire marketing consultants to help them plan, improve or run their marketing campaigns.

While some marketing consultants have degrees and certifications, in this field, nothing is more important than results.

Consulting is filled with high performers from top schools with interesting work experience. To be successful, you need to pick a niche and really develop expertise in your industry. With unique knowledge and other traits of a successful consultant, you’ll have everything you need to build a strong foundation for future work and repeat clients.

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