What Can A Management Consultant Do For Your Business?

Kirsty Birks, Vice President of the Management Consultancies Association, explains what a consulting firm can do for SMEs and the economy.

For those outside of the sector, the world of consulting remains obscure and confusing. Consulting firms come in many shapes and sizes, as do the projects they oversee. The UK’s management consultancy industry includes many firms with global operations and widely recognised names. However, there are also a vibrant array of smaller and specialist firms with growing international reach and capabilities.

These firms are particularly well placed to offer consultancy support to small to medium sized businesses. This is particularly important because of the crucial role SMEs play in both the UK and global economy, and it is essential they continue to be profitable and operate successfully. Management consultancies play a vital role, ensuring businesses function effectively and continue to grow and expand.

Management consultants help take organisations further than they might go on their own; boosting economic growth through innovation, productivity, marketing and technology.

Politicians and business are urgently searching for new sources of economic growth, whether through innovation, higher productivity, improved marketing, better use of technology or imaginative product development. The management consultancy sector is central to this effort.

As a consultant it is my job to understand the client’s business environment and deliver the right strategy to ensure their objectives are met and their full brand value is realised.

Business growth in the UK is slowly on the rise, with recent growth stronger then expected. Fee income from management consulting firms in the SME group of Management Consultancies Association (MCA) members grew by 6% in 2012, with international work contributing almost a sixth – 16 % – of total fee income. The MCA data also found that despite the UK’s challenging economic backdrop, employment amongst the SME group continued to grow, up 15 % overall. Meaning that smaller specialist consulting firms are starting to win a greater share of consulting work, particularly from public sector bodies but also within the private sector.

In 2010 the MCA published its first report on the value of consultancies to UK business. They found, on average, investment in management consultancy delivers a return of £6 for every £1 invested.

While this figure relates to the UK, I am sure the number is similar internationally.

The Eurozone and Middle East are where most British SME firms anticipate further growth in 2013/14, with around 40% expecting to grow their business in the Eurozone. These different regions require different approaches. Europe is still griped by the financial crisis and is yet to emerge from the longest period of recession since the single currency was launched. Yet there are still opportunities and markets for growth that SME business should actively seek out to ensure they weather the storm. Management consultancies are equally well placed to assist smaller businesses seeking to capitalise on international opportunities, as they are FTSE 250 organisations. While growth and pace of change may be sluggish in some parts of the world, other markets are booming.

Globally there are a number of regions where change is happening fast, creating economic opportunities for internationally minded companies, regardless of their size.

While many talk about China as the growth market - the next economic superpower, and the place business must be - this isn’t always the case. In reality it may be in cultures where change is happening more rapidly and is more easily absorbed, i.e. Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, that present the more interesting opportunities for business.

Modern technology lets us operate in a truly global way. It is what has enabled many SMEs like Propaganda to tap into the international market and export our skills and expertise. As technology continues to become an integral part of how we operate, it will soon be as much a part of business process change as strategy and marketing.

This in turn is presenting even more opportunities for smaller specialist companies to make business connections and tap into sources of revenue internationally.

Despite economic difficulties, consultancies and the SME businesses I work with have managed to stay strong and grow, and thanks to working in partnership are well placed to succeed when the green shoots of recovery start to bloom.

Born in Scotland, Kirsty is Vice President of the Management Consultancies Association and MCA Vice-President and Group Business Director at Propaganda. Kirsty joined Propaganda in 2001 from Guinness Northern Ireland where she headed up the consumer planning division working across the full Diageo brand portfolio bringing consumer behaviours and insight to the brand planning process.

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