How to Succeed in Management Consulting
How to survive? How to do well there? What are some traits of a successful management consultant? In this article, I’ll share with you the five elements you need to succeed in management consulting.
What makes a good management consultant?
A consultant needs 5 attributes to become successful:
1. Strong ambition for success: Maintaining work consistency and achieving the highest results in difficult tasks
2. Excellent content skills: Problem structuring, data gathering, and analysis, presentation
3. Excellent people skills: Leading teammates, working with support staff, influencing clients
4. Excellent learning capabilities: Quickly adapting to new industries, functions, and locations
5. Effective, efficient resource management: Producing the best results with the least amount of time and effort
Ambition for success
The job is extremely challenging, and most people will fall at some point – you need an ridiculous amount of motivation to survive those falls. So, unsurprisingly, only the most ambitious people can succeed in this industry.
Let’s look at a small example of a very common situation in consulting:
Say the client gave you a wrong piece of data. A successful consultant with good content skills would immediately notice and report back to the client for revisions, saving him a lot of time and effort. On the other hand, a consultant without this skill would not notice the holes until the very end. He eventually has to change the big whole analysis and many related work branches, potentially wasting many days of working in wrong directions.
Clearly, what they need to do then is to contact the person-in-charge and ask him/her to revise the data. Yet, the one with better people skills will do this faster … while the other one may face all kinds of procrastination from the client, seriously delaying his workflow.
The answer to that question can be found by understanding the nature of the management consulting job – which I explain in detail in this article below:
Isn’t it impressive when it’s just the first day of the project and you can put some sharp insights about the industry on the meeting table? Remember, consulting is the business of selling brains, the better the brains perform within a time frame, the more value you can capture. The best way to “train” your brain is to fill it with a bunch of insightful input for your job. Other skills aside, those with the strongest learning capabilities go far in the game.
In college, we usually increase output (e.g: grades) by increasing input (i.e: more study hours). However, in consulting, everybody is already maxed out. People have no room left to expand the work hours or the provided materials. So those who know how to plan ahead, communicate effectively with clients, and make the best out of existing resources are the most successful. Resources are also related to your time and health –which is finite, so keeping your workflow smooth will help you save time to maintain your best physical and emotional state.
In the example above, let’s say both consultants notice the holes and both can effectively convince the client to revise the data, one may be stuck with nothing to do in the meantime, especially when this happens at the end of a tight deadline. The other one with better resources management skills would know about this risk way before. He would organize this data-gathering task way ahead in the work plan. He has a number of working branches going on, so even with this one pauses, he and all of his resources can still be running effectively. By the time the right data comes back, he has achieved many other important insights that can enhance how he looks at it. That’s how the gap between a successful consultant and a so-so one is created.
Management consulting is an industry providing expensive and professional advice to organizations to improve their overall performance, through better “management”, which includes strategy, governance, operation, organization, finance, and marketing. The three most prestigious management consulting firms are McKinsey, BCG, and Bain (the Big Three).