Management Consultant  What They Do

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dotA management consultant is someone who is called into a business to solve problems that existing managers can't handle on their own. Or they may be called in simply to help managers do their jobs better. A consultant may be called by a company that wants to increase their profits, or by a company that's in danger of going out of business.

dotSince consultants are freelancers, the work they do varies a lot. They may help a rapidly growing small company manage its growth or assist a large corporation with reorganization. They may help smooth the transition for a company when it moves to a new location, or troubleshoot for a government department that wants to know why it keeps overspending its budget.

"What one does as a management consultant is to poke one's head under the organization's tent and tell the leaders what you see as the problems and propose solutions," says management consultant Brent Baker, a part-time management consultant.

dotThe consultant's first job is to analyze how the business is working. To do this, they may review data like employment, annual revenues and expenditures. They may even observe managers and employees at work to get a feel for what goes on in day-to-day operations.

Then the consultant comes up with ways to make the business more efficient. When coming up with a solution, the management consultant considers the nature of the company, how it ticks and its relationship with others in that industry. Findings and recommendations are generally reported in writing and through presentations.

Once the recommendations are presented, the management consultant has finished the job. In some cases, however, the consultant is kept on to help implement their recommended changes.

dotManagement consultants may be generalists and be able to offer advice on a range of management issues. More often, they're specialists who provide solutions to sticky problems in specific areas, such as human resources, communications, information technology or operations.

dotManagement consultants often work in teams, in which each member has a specialty. Some consultants work individually with the company's managers.

dotAs consultants, these business professionals do not work for one particular client, but provide their services on a contract basis to those who need them.

This means plenty of variety for people who work as management consultants. "The alternative is to be in a management position with a firm," says Lynn Haight, a management consultant.

dotNo matter what kind of job they're doing, management consultants need knowledge of general management, operations, marketing, logistics, materials management, finances, accounting procedures, human resources and information technologies.

dotManagement consultants need to be able to work well independently, but also should possess good teamwork skills in case a project is so big it requires several consultants to work together. They might work in their own one-person consulting business, or for a large management consultant corporation.

"Management consultants work in partnership with clients," says Haight.

dotThe workweek of a management consultant can be stressful. They often put in 14- to 16-hour days, six or seven days a week. "It's a very interesting and challenging career with lots of travel," says Haight.

There are no unique physical requirements required for this occupation.

dotMost consultants divide their work time between their office and the offices of clients. This means they work indoors for most of the time. If one of their clients owns a production factory, however, this means spending time at the facility. They need to become aware of the safety procedures of the facilities they visit so they aren't harmed by any hazardous operations.

At a Glance

Help companies learn to run more efficiently

  • Often put in 14- to 16-hour days
  • A bachelor's degree in business, social sciences or humanities is recommended
  • Management consultants are in fairly high demand


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