Why do all MBAs want to be in Strategy Consulting?
Strategy consulting and planning is the life-line of any organisation and pervades through the mission, objectives , goals and functioning of a company. Naturally, a company requires smart minds to be able to grasp the bird’s eye view of the direction that the company is taking and be able to advise on the future path. Many companies traditionally rely on experienced and wise old timers of the company to do this path guidance. However, for smaller and newer companies, the throne remains for those to claim who can wisely advise and steer the company through tricky environmental and cooperate issues. All this and much more is the preserve of management or strategic consulting. So why is this an adrenaline inducing role for most MBAs , especially from top B- Schools? What is the fuss all about?
As per a report by Financial Time in 2016, consulting firms remained the top choice of MBA graduates and the top three firms – McKinsey, Boston Consulting and Bain & Co. are the major influencers of the study and curriculum of top MBA schools as these are important recruiters. A statistic shows how 38 percent of MBAs from Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business were lapped up by the consulting firms and with higher median base than usual which was very close to the salaries offered in Harvard and Stanford.
What is Strategy Consulting ?
It is defined as a continuous planning, monitoring, analysis and assessment of plans and goals for the organisation to meet its long term objectives. There have been large conglomerates which have been quick and nimble-footed enough to change as quickly as the market trends and adapt the product and practices accordingly. Advising companies on such practices and keeping them relevant in this dynamic and cut-throat environment is the expertise offered by strategic management.
Strategy consulting is typically done at the highest echelons of the management – the Board and C-level executives. It is understanding the environmental factors affecting your company – industry, economic, political, social, be able to distinguish the external vs internal factors and make an informed plan of action for the top management to help them lead the teams below them. The tactical or functional operations are carried out by the other levels of the company but the steering at the top has to be at the right direction. Strategy consulting is hence a multi-dimensional role where solutions have to be tailor-made for each company and monitored using tools and techniques devised over last 50 years.
Qualities required for a Strategy Consultant
The first and foremost quality that any consulting firm will look at while hiring is strong analytical acumen. Working on theoretical and live case studies is the first test that firms look at. Your adeptness at assimilating changing information, multi-dimensional issues and incorporating them smartly, keeping all stakeholders in mind, and coming to an acceptable and profitable solution is the key to become a successful strategy consulting professional. Proven signs of teamwork and team leading capabilities, formidable interpersonal and negotiation skills along with a broad based network will take you to great heights.
A management consultant can be first a core expert in a particular area (physics, programming, marketing and others) and then look at a multi-disciplinary course like an MBA to augment the case study skills. Also, these days consulting companies are looking for people with specific new skills such as Big Data analytics and digital transformation. Thus, most new specific skills and qualifications will come in handy to appeal your case to a potential management consultant firm.
How MBA helps
MBA being a multi-disciplinary approach towards problem solving helps condition the mind set of the students in thinking in that way. It is a curriculum that undergoes most changes each year and includes the latest knowledge base to help assimilate the useful information. It also teaches the art of teamwork and managing different egoes that will come in handy while dealing with various sticky situations.
Top companies to work for
As per Vault – a website researching companies and ranking consultancies, the top management consulting firms to work for are –
- McKinsey & Company
- The Boston Consulting Group, Inc.
- Bain & Company
- AT Kearney
- Oliver Wyman
There are various other common names such as KPMG, Accenture, PricewaterHouseCoopers Consulting, Booz Allen Hamilton, and many others.
Roles and Career Path
Consulting can be across industries and your core subjects of engineering to MBA and sciences can work in your favour – some industries seeking management consultants are –
- Aerospace, Defense & Government Services
- Airlines & Transportation
- Consumer Products
- Financial Services
- Forest Products, Paper & Packaging
- Industrial Goods & Services
- Industrial Machinery
- Infrastructure, Construction & Building Products
- Media and Entertainment
- Metals & Mining
- Private Equity
- Social & Public Sector
The salaries are among the highest, more than even those in Finance – US$145,000 on an average if you are in the top colleges. The starting standing median salaries are in the range of US$100,000 to US$135,000 with bonuses of US$25,000 on an average. The opportunity to travel, exposure to big decisions and organising challenges, high powered network of C-level executives and colleagues is a daily routine for management consultants.
The growth path starts as a “Junior Associate” (graduation) then to an “Associate” in 3 to 4 years, then to an “Engagement Manager” in another 5 to 6 years.
Management consulting as a function certainly highly sought after; however, the qualities and qualifications will keep changing as per the current business trends and scenarios, and the core requirement of an analytical mind remains. It will help to think of it as a relationship role rather than a job as then it will lead you to work towards all the requirements effortlessly. The strategy consulting professional is not just a problem seeker but a problem solver.