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What value do consulting firms add?

Perhaps some years ago this question would have a different response. But nowadays with the flow of information and the transparency that we have with the internet I am wondering what kind of value McKenzie, Bain, etc can add?

8 Replies

Michael Kleeman
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Michael Kleeman Entrepreneur
Senior Fellow - UCSD
In a word, experience and experience across sectors and organizations
Louis P. Solomon
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Louis P. Solomon Entrepreneur
President and Founder of SAFE
Consultants are (or should be) selected for their skills and experience in specific, well defined areas. Consulting firms frequently have some members that meet that requirement, but not all the consultants are outstanding and experienced, and in addition, the needs of the client are not always met.

Firms that need expert advice should carefully define what they need internally, and then search for those experts who have the required skills.
Tom Cunniff
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Tom Cunniff Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder at Cunniff Consulting, B2B Brand Consultancy
More than anything else what consultants add is perspective. No matter how smart you are, when you are inside a company or situation there are a set of issues which:
  • You can't see clearly
  • You see clearly, but need to help the company see clearly
  • Are clouded by the company's history ("we have always done it this way", "we tried that in 2003 and it failed", etc)
  • Were good ideas once but which time has made counterproductive
  • Could be powerful ideas, if you looked at them differently
  • Have potential, but are stuck in committee

Also, there are always choices to be made -- which is the essence of strategy. When faced with multiple choices, each of which appears fairly good, which direction should you go? A good consultant can help you spot hidden risks in some directions, or strategic long-term benefits in others . Similarly, when a set of choices appear equally bad, a smart consultant can help you choose the path that positions you best for a quick turnaround -- or sometimes can even identify a neutral or positive path that you hadn't considered.

As Peter Drucker put it, "My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions". Coming to any question fresh and unaware of real or imagined constraints makes it easier to see what people inside the company are likely to have missed.


Andrea Gentili
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Andrea Gentili Entrepreneur
COO (and co-Founder) at Kobo Funds
I agree with most of the above comments. I have worked for major consultancies and it is true that not all consultants have the appropriate skills.
However consulting firms (especially the big and global ones) can bring to the table best practices and reference cases that could greatly help the client.
Someone commented "Firms that need expert advice should carefully define what they need internally,".
That is correct BUT many times, in my direct experience, the clients think they need something and in the reality their needs are different.
A good consultant can also help to find the root cause of the client issues
Andre Fox Wilson Sr.
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Andre Fox Wilson Sr. Entrepreneur
Managing Partner | Business Funding
The fact you have to ask should tell you. You go into business because you are great at a particular thing. Consultants provide augmented skills that enhance managements ability to execute faster, at a higher level and provide focus to management to minimize distractions.
Tom Cunniff
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Tom Cunniff Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder at Cunniff Consulting, B2B Brand Consultancy
Amen to Andrea Gentili that "clients think they need something and in the reality their needs are different". My first question to any new client when they define a need is, "I can help with that. Can you please tell me more about the problem you want to solve, and why you believe this will work?" The problem and solution may have been correctly identified. But more often, careful questioning reveals an underlying problem -- or an interlocking set of issues -- that is the major source of pain or opportunity. Here again, perspective is what makes the difference.
Arthur Lipper
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Arthur Lipper Entrepreneur
Chairman of British Far East Holdings Ltd.
The consulting firms have a broader range of experience than their clients. Also, a recommendation of a plan already conceived or endorsed by the CEO is executive responsibility shedding as the recommendation is the culprit. Arthur
Yaniv Sneor
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Yaniv Sneor Entrepreneur
Founder, Mid Atlantic Bio Angels; President, Blue Cactus Consulting, Trustee, ILSE

To complement and expand on what has already been said above, when you run into a challenge that you have not faced before, you have several options, the main ones being - figure it out yourself, or bring in someone who has already figured it out - to help you address the challenge quickly and successfully. This can save you time and money, and help increase the odds in favor of your success.

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