5 Signs a Consultant Is a Waste of Money

Consultant  In business, there are roadblocks that an outside perspective could help you overcome. Spending a little bit of money on training could be what you need to take your business to the next level. The money spent could be returned to your business tenfold if what you learn is properly implemented.


The Internet has given us unparalleled access to knowledge. Online, we can take courses or hire professionals from all over the world. Social media and marketing are necessary today to carve an audience from the 2.5 billion people who log onto the Internet every day.

The potential for business has driven entrepreneurs to pay for “professionals” who market well but only deliver hype. In the journey to build my business, I have spent $5,000 on services that disappointed. Here are five questions to ask before hiring a coach or consultant to avoid being in the same position.

1. Is the person/company using “marketing speak?”

Every day when you log onto Facebook you’re bombarded with ads about “living the laptop lifestyle,” or “use this cheat sheet to make six-figures.” You see the programs and courses that tell you to have your “expert positioning,” or “funnel optimization” in place.

There is a lot of marketing speak that sounds good and valuable but has no practical value in your business. Those terms are merely used to sell you on the program or service. When you start seeing these phrases or hear a professional try to sell you using this talk, an alert should go off in your mind. Proceed with caution.

2. Are the testimonials suspect for the person/company?

Sadly, testimonials don’t hold the weight they used too. These days, it’s easy to fake them or get testimonials from people who have partially used the service. Be suspicious if you can’t contact the people listed or see how they’ve gotten said result.

Smart entrepreneurs do their homework and research before they spend money. They investigate the testimonials and, if they turn up fake, they don’t do business with that person.

3. Is the person/company relying on past success?

Changes happen quickly in marketing. Past success is not an indicator of present or future success, especially if the person is coasting on their name. There are lots of big-name entrepreneurs who haven’t had success in years but still command higher prices because of when they did.

Related: How to Start a Consulting Business

4. Are the strategies still relevant?

There are a lot of strategies that worked years ago but are ineffective today. For example, if you’re an author, publishers used to handle all of your marketing and book sales. Today, the bulk of the marketing falls on the author, publisher or self-published. I was at a writer’s conference last week talking to former New Times best-selling authors who don’t know how to sell books today.

This vortex of past opportunities has given rise to a modern-day gold rush. Old and useless strategies get passed around as the only way to succeed. Don’t pay someone to teach you what used to work. Pay to learn what works now.

5. Is the content designed to upsell you?

There are courses and services that are specifically designed to give you just enough and then upsell you. They give you the first few steps, and when you purchase the entry services, you’re upsold on the big daddy program.

Webinars seem to be the new fad. You’re marketed on why you need to join the webinar and get just enough information. You’re then sold on the “must-have” course. I have no problem with webinar marketing, but if the webinar doesn’t give you any useful information, you’ve paid for a useless service.

I’m a firm believer in investing in yourself, but only if you’re going to get what you paid for. With today’s access and technology, there’s no need to overpay for services. If the value is there and if the value is proven, don’t hesitate. The right services can be invaluable. Do your research.

How to Start a Consulting Business

Consulting Business  job is to consult. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s that simple. There’s no magic formula or secret that makes one consultant more successful than another one.

But what separates a good consultant from a bad consultant is a passion and drive for excellence. And–oh yes–a good consultant should be knowledgeable about the subject he or she is consulting in. That does make a difference.

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You see, in this day and age, anyone can be a consultant. All you need to discover is what your particular gift is. For example, are you very comfortable working around computers? Do you keep up with the latest software and hardware information, which seems to be changing almost daily? And are you able to take that knowledge you have gained and turn it into a resource that someone would be willing to pay money for? Then you would have no trouble working as a computer consultant.

Or are you an expert in the fund-raising field? Maybe you have worked for nonprofit agencies in the field of fund-raising, marketing, public relations or sales, and over the years you have discovered how to raise money. As someone who has turned a decade of fund-raising successes into a lucrative consulting business, I can tell you that fund-raising consulting is indeed a growing industry.

Things to Consider Before You Become a Consultant

  • What certifications and special licensing will I need? Depending upon your profession, you may need special certification or a special license before you can begin operating as a consultant. For example, fund-raising consultants don’t need special certification, although you can become certified through the National Society of Fund Raising Executives. And in some states, you may need to register as a professional fund-raising consultant before starting your business.
  • Am I qualified to become a consultant? Before you hang out your shingle and hope that clients begin beating your door down to hire you, make sure you have the qualifications necessary to get the job done. If you want to be a computer consultant, for example, make sure you are up to date in the knowledge department with all the trends and changes in the computer industry.
  • Am I organized enough to become a consultant? Do I like to plan my day? Am I an expert when it comes to time management? You should have answered “yes” to all three of those questions!
  • Do I like to network? Networking is critical to the success of any type of consultant today. Begin building your network of contacts immediately.
  • Have I set long-term and short-term goals? And do they allow for me to become a consultant? If your goals do not match up with the time and energy it takes to open and successfully build a consulting business, then reconsider before making any move in this direction!

Top 20 Consulting Businesses Thriving Today

Although you can be a consultant in just about any field these days, the current top 20 consulting businesses include:

1. Accounting: Accounting is something that every business needs, no matter how large or small. Accounting consultants can help a business with all of its financial needs.

2. Advertising: This type of consultant is normally hired by a business to develop a good strategic advertising campaign.

3. Auditing: From consultants who audit utility bills for small businesses to consultants who handle major work for telecommunications firms, auditing consultants are enjoying the fruits of their labor.

4. Business: Know how to help a business turn a profit? If you have a good business sense, then you’ll do well as a business consultant. After computer consulting, people in this field are the next most sought after.

5. Business writing: Everyone knows that most businesspeople have trouble when it comes to writing a report–or even a simple memo. Enter the business writing consultant, and everyone is happy!

6. Career counseling: With more and more people finding themselves victims of a corporate downsizing, career counselors will always be in demand. Career counselors guide their clients into a profession or job that will help them be both happy and productive as an employee.

7. Communications: Communications consultants specialize in helping employees in both large and small businesses better communicate with each other, which ultimately makes the business more efficient and operate smoothly.

8. Computer programmer: From software to hardware, and everything in between, if you know computers, your biggest problem will be not having enough hours in the day to meet your clients’ demands!

9. Editorial services: From producing newsletters to corporate annual reports, consultants who are experts in the editorial field will always be appreciated.

10. Executive search/headhunter firms: While this is not for everyone, there are people who enjoy finding talent for employers.

Read More:- How and Why to Research a Company

11. Gardening: In the past decade the demand for gardening consultants has blossomed (pun intended) into a $1 million-a-year business. Not only are businesses hiring gardening consultants; so are people who are too busy to take care of their gardens at home.

12. Grantsmanship: Once you learn how to write a grant proposal, you can name your Price.

13. Human resources: As long as businesses have people problems (and they always will), consultants in this field will enjoy a never-ending supply of corporate clients, both large and small. (People-problem prevention programs could include teaching employees to get along with others, respect and even violence prevention in the workplace.)

14. Insurance: Everyone needs insurance, and everyone needs an insurance consultant to help them find the best plan and pricing for them.

15. Marketing: Can you help a business write a marketing plan? Or do you have ideas that you feel will help promote a business? If so, why not try your hand as a marketing consultant?

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16. Payroll management: Everyone needs to get paid. By using your knowledge and expertise in payroll management, you can provide this service to many businesses, both large and small.

17. Public relations: Getting good press coverage for any organization is a real art. When an organization finds a good PR consultant, they hang on to them for life!

18. Publishing: If you’re interested in the publishing field, then learn everything you can and you, too, can be a publishing consultant. A publishing consultant usually helps new ventures when they are ready to launch a new newspaper, magazine, newsletter–and even websites and electronic newsletters.

19. Taxes: With the right marketing and business plan (and a sincere interest in taxes), your career as a tax consultant can be very lucrative. A tax consultant advises businesses on the legal methods to pay the least amount of tax possible.

20. Writing services: Anything related to the written word will always be in demand. Find your specialty in the writing field, and the sky will be the limit!

How and Why to Research a Company

Why spend time on company research when you’re job hunting? There are several good reasons why it’s worth investigating companies, all of which are important to your successful job search.

First of all, spending some time looking for and at employers will give you an idea of which companies are in your industries and fields of choice. You’ll also be able to determine which companies are hiring and what types of job openings they have available.

If you’re applying for a position, you’ll want to find out everything you can about the company before you sit down for an interview. Knowing more about the company will make you feel more comfortable, and you’ll be able to ask questions that show you’re truly interested in the job.

Also, after all your research, you will be a well-prepared candidate for the position. Knowing specifics about the company’s goals, mission, products, policies, and company culture will impress upon the hiring manager your keen interest in the position, and your ability to assimilate quickly into a productive role.

Focus on Your Industry – or Your Area of Interest and Expertise

Spend some of your valuable company research time investigating the needs and benefits of organizations in your industry that appear to offer much more than the others. Do they specifically need people in your field? Or are they generalizing to, as they say, “cherry pick the workforce.”

If you can, talk to people who work at a company to determine whether it’s a place you want to work and if they would appreciate your particular skills. You don’t want to find yourself welcomed one day and then laid off six months later.

It’s also helpful to learn more about the company history, financial stability, products and services, personnel, and perhaps some information about the company culture to see how you would fit in if you’re hired. Most companies, large and small, have websites where they showcase career opportunities and the company’s mission.

If you have a connection that will help you find inside information, use it. Do you know someone who works there? Ask them what the company culture is like, and how accurate and current the information on their website is. If you’re a college graduate, ask your Career Office if they can give you a list of alumni who work at your target company. Then call or email those alumni to ask for insight, advice, and assistance.

Use Directories Which Will Help You Find Those Companies

You can search Hoover’s Online by company name or keyword. ​​Superpages allows you to search by business name, category or location. Vault is a website that offers job seekers an in-depth look inside some of the hottest industries. They also provide career advice, along with company and industry profiles.

If you’re interested in big business, you can browse the Fortune 500 top companies list. Then take a look at the snapshot for company details, revenues and contact information. Fortune provides similar lists for the 100 Fastest Growing Companies and the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Want to Ace That Interview?

Preparing for an interview is certainly a crucial reason to research employers. You’ll want to know as much about your potential employer as possible so that you can start your interview on good footing.

Standard interview questions are “What do you know about us?” and “Why do you want to work here?” Research will enable you to have an informed, detailed response – and ask the right questions, remember an interview is a dialogue. It’s as important for you to ensure the job is a good fit as it is for the employer.

Read anything and everything you can about your target company. Use Google to find the employer’s website and check the company’s social media profiles. Then review the sites to see what the company is saying about itself.

Many times, you’ll find articles or links about new products or technologies where the company is mentioned. That’s a good place to explore for more in-depth research. Next, take a look at what the rest of the world is saying. Vault Reports is a good resource to find specific, detailed information about a particular employer.

Spending a little extra time to research the company before you apply and interview can make the difference between getting noticed by your dream company or getting passed over.

How to answer, “what are your future goals?”, in a HR, IT or marketing interview

It’s a question that lets a potential employer see exactly how you’ll fit into a role and the company: “What are your future goals?”

When it comes to interviews the question ‘what are your future goals’ goes neatly with ‘so, do you have any questions’ in terms of putting you on the spot – but only if you are not prepared.

It’s good to be prepared with answers to the most commonly asked questions so that you don’t end up saying the first thing that comes to mind; such as, ‘my goal is to increase my salary’.

Using salary to answer this question is a tricky one, for a lot of people the chance to increase their wages is often a reason for applying for a role, but it shouldn’t be the reason you’re applying. Our advice would be to only discuss salary if asked and it is definitely not a great idea to discuss money as a tie in to your goals.

Don’t forget the interviewer will be trying to find out who you are and how you’ll add value.

Breaking down the answer into two main areas, ‘short-term goals’ and ‘long-term goals’ is a great way to tackle the question. Short-term goals are a great starting point for talking about your skills and applying them to the role. Whereas, long-term goals can demonstrate an understanding of the company and explore ways that goals can be supported together.

In a previous blog, we gave tips on the ‘why should we hire you?’ question and though it isn’t always easy or natural to talk highly of yourself, once you have identified these skills you will be able to push them further by thinking about your goals.

To help you tailor your answer to the question, ‘what are your future goals’, we’ve given our advice on points to consider if you are interviewing for a HR, IT or marketing role. Ultimately, how you respond to the question will depend on the skills expected from you in each of the respective professions:


How to answer: “What are your future goals?” in a HR interview

  • Short-term: define what you are good at. If that is people or processes, or both, explain why your goal is to immediately begin influencing positive differences within this role.

A successful HR employee is likely to be someone that is creative and adaptive, so use personal examples if you are new to this area of work. If you are new to the world of HR, take a look at our Career Map to learn more about the skills employers expect to see.

  • Long-term: goals do not have to be about career progression but can be about showing commitment. Saying that you would like a secure long-term role within the company, demonstrates just as much career focus as if you were the person that said, “in 5 years’ time I hope to be a Director within the company”.
Read More- 4 Tips For Hiring Senior-Level Employees

How to answer: “What are your future goals?” in a marketing interview

  • Short-term: upskill one of your weaknesses. It is ok to recognise the things that you are not so great at, as employers’ value those that can self-reflect and be willing to turn it around. A short-term marketing goal could be improving your content writing skills, or something that will instantly benefit you and therefore benefit the business you’d like to work for.
  • Long-term: the classic ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ really does apply here. Marketing is a fast-paced environment and it makes sense that you’ll want to strive within it. Personal growth to achieve a professional marketing qualification will help you move up the ladder. It is also something that most marketing companies, or companies looking for a solid a marketing team, would want too. You might even find that there is a staff training budget for career progression.

Or alternatively, you might be a qualified professional already but fancy testing your skills on leading their brand strategy. Research the company, research their brand values, positioning and target audience and be SMART in your response. Think about not only where you want to be in five years time but how you want to help the company progress too.

How to answer: “What are your future goals?” in an IT interview

  • Short-term: upgrade your knowledge and resources to grow as a professional. Learn a new set of skills to either break into a new industry or move to a different role is essential in IT. An enthusiasm for technology is perfect for an IT career, but did you know that sound knowledge of finances is just as useful too?

Soft skills are extremely important and working on these could be a very useful short-term goal as well, especially with team work and even explaining technical terms to non-technical people.

  • Long-term: become an expert in a particular field. Having a general aspiration is definitely a future goal and there is no reason to not talk passionately about how you see yourself or the role evolving. If you have found a niche in the market or better still, within the company, then explain how you’d love to be the master of this niche area. These are the kind of admirable goals that benefit everyone.

Keep these tips in mind when you are asked the question “what are your future goals?” and you will be offering the interviewer a great range of relevant information that demonstrates your abilities and ambitions, whilst staying relevant to your industry.

4 Tips For Hiring Senior-Level Employees

Recruiting senior-level employees requires you to step up your game and work at a more advanced level than any other type of hiring. The pool of candidates for these executive and management positions is much smaller and demands a more hands-on approach. These high-level hires will play a critical role in your company–that means you need to ensure you’re hiring the right person for the job.


According to the Corporate Leadership Council, nearly 40 percent of CEOs fail in their roles within the first 18 months and, Harvard Business Review reported that new hires in managerial roles fail between 40 and 60 percent in the same amount of time. To ensure your company doesn’t hit the same roadblocks, check out our tips for hiring at the senior-level below.


One of the biggest blockers to hiring senior-level employees is not a lack of qualified applicants, but rather a misalignment between what a recruiter is looking for and what candidates include on their resumes. Before writing the job description, think about what your company is trying to solve by filling this position. Fully understand the needs and qualifications for the role prior to releasing the description, and then write it accordingly.

Executive Mark Hurd noted senior employees, namely the c-suite, need “to be able to not only set the right strategy, but also drive operational excellence that brings the strategy alive.” These positions have more demanding functions that need to be considered when choosing the proper candidate, and it’s important to be sure the person you choose can fulfil every one of them.


Chances are, the person best-suited for the job is already employed and isn’t actively searching for a new job. To get them, you’ll need to pursue them. According to Experteer, 97 percent of advanced candidates want to be “found” by any prospective new company. For these potential employees, it is very much a buyer’s market.

However, because you will be seeking to have these hires leave a current position to come work for your company, it’s imperative you remain discreet throughout the process. Keep any communications on your prospects’ private email addresses or social networks, rather than professional. In addition, networking can be a major asset in this situation. Sourcing applicants via professional connections or networks helps you develop a deeper knowledge of them before you reach out.

More Blogs- Negotiation Tips for Independent Consultants


Because senior-level employees are likely being sought out, they need to be sold on any potential new position. That means you have to state your case and provide potential recruits with a reason to join your company instead of staying where they are. Marco Zappacosta, founder at Thumbtack explained, “It’s critical to know what drives people. Some execs are motivated by money. Others by impact. Or the desire to lead high-performance teams.”




According to Chris Christoff, “Recruiting senior-level talent isn’t all about how much money you offer them…they’re probably already making good money, so you need to offer something more.” Consider job perks like unlimited PTO, lengthy parental leave, healthcare benefits, and flexible work arrangements.


Like Zappacosta noted, each person will have specific motivations to which you have to appeal. Know your candidates’ needs and capitalize on them. Communications should be tailored for each prospective employee. Current associate or junior-level employees may jump at the chance to take on a more prestigious title, whereas someone making a lateral move may need exciting challenges and personal growth opportunities.

On an even broader spectrum, each candidate should feel as if they were specifically chosen. Forgo the templated messages or generalized greetings. Use names and include details alluding to why you chose them over others. You are being choosy about who you reach out to–let them know that. In doing so, you’ll increase the likelihood of an immediate response.

Finding and hiring the right person to fill a senior-level position is no easy task. These roles are critical to an organization’s success and the wrong hire could have detrimental effects. Executive recruiting needs to be handled carefully and more skillfully than any other hire. By following our best practices, you’ll be well on your way to getting that perfect fit.

Negotiation Tips for Independent Consultants

Negotiating is typically hard for everyone, but it’s especially tough for consultants. It’s our nature to make the client happy, so negotiating for a higher rate feels awkward. But when you’re self-employed, even the smallest increase in your rate can translate to big bucks, particularly if the rate is for a long project, or if you’re working with an ongoing client.


I recently discovered a series of practical tips on Instagram, of all places, by following Johanna Voss, owner of a boutique talent agency for female influencers and keynote speakers. With her permission, here are her three essential negotiation tips that every consultant should know.

Tip 1: Embrace the power of the pause

Johanna says that some of the best negotiation happens when you’re not talking. So, you’ve just asked your client for the rate you want, and your client is taking a moment to think about it. Silence is uncomfortable, so maybe you fill the void with nervous babble. Johanna says this is a huge mistake. Why? Your lack of confidence becomes evident. Chances are good that in the midst of your babble, you’ll end up lowering your rate, or offering to do more.

Use silence to your advantage. During the pause take a deep breath. Literally bite your tongue or clench your hands if you have to; the key is to exude confidence.

If this technique doesn’t come naturally and you can always practice. Try asking the waiter for a free drink to celebrate your birthday. Pause. Take a breath. You might just end up with a martini on the house.

See Also- Thinking About Tomorrow to Prepare for Today⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Tip 2: Wear “bigger money shoes”

Johanna says, “Think about a pair of shoes. If they are a full size bigger, they’re too big. You can’t walk. You’ll trip and drive yourself nuts. But a half size up? You can make that work. Not as uncomfortable. You’re not tripping. Maybe all you need is a thicker pair of socks.”

It’s the same concept with negotiating your rate. Let’s say you’ve been charging $175/hour, but your rate hasn’t changed as you continue gain experience and clients. The next time you quote your rate, ask for $180. Maybe even $185. It’s not a huge jump that will make you uncomfortable but it could still make a dramatic difference, especially if it’s full-time work. (An extra $5/hour adds up to $800/month!) ⠀⠀

Find a number that’s a “half size up” from your current rate and ask for that. Then when that next size up gets too comfortable, try on your “bigger money shoes”again.⠀⠀

Tip 3: Say what you want out loud, a lot

You are your own best advocate. Get clear on what you want, what you need, and what your bottom line is. Start saying it out loud, even if it’s with your life partner or your dog. When it’s time to negotiate and have the real conversation, you’ll be exponentially more confident.

Practice negotiating this way outside of work, in a scenario that doesn’t make you as nervous. Johanna told me she used this technique when she needed a new mattress. She asked the sales rep, “Would you give it to me for $150?” This made him laugh—she was completely lowballing him. But then he countered. There was clearly room for negotiation. She countered back and using Tip #1, she paused. Eventually, they came to an agreement, and Johanna saved $200 and was close to getting free delivery too.

Johanna continues to practice these techniques, and she reaps the benefits. Like most things, practice pays off. Try it and let me know how it goes!

Thinking About Tomorrow to Prepare for Today

Thinking One need only reflect on a short list of nearly obsolete items—folding maps, camera film, VHS tapes—to consider how powerful market forces such as disruption can be.

To thrive in today’s rapidly changing global economy, corporate leaders must always be thinking ahead. But how do you plan for a seemingly uncertain future?


After years of research, economist Mark Esposito and colleague Terence C. M. Tse developed a framework—called DRIVE—to help leaders examine the present to influence the future.

In their book Understanding How the Future Unfolds: Using DRIVE to Harness the Power of Megatrends, they write:

“We tend to think that today is certain and tomorrow is uncertain, but that logic needs to be flipped. Certainty, the present implies there is nothing we can do today to alter an outcome, and yet we can makes changes for the better today.

Uncertainty implies we can have a different and hopefully better future. The better we deal with our current problems, the higher our chances are of creating a better future. If we don’t act now, tomorrow will not improve.”

In this Q&A, Esposito explores this model, reflecting on the obstacles and opportunities of predicting trends.


Market trends are still today heavily inferred by traditional economic tools, like macroeconomic analysis, demographics, aggregate markets, etc.

Read More- The consulting case study: What you need to know

All of these tools tend to take into account generic aspects of markets and growth. But they hardly spot the markets that tend to emerge as grassroots and unnoticed. Take Blackberry, for instance. As the company focused on a corporate market and improvements to handheld features, it completely overlooked the consumer market where the availability of apps quickly grew as a priority for mobile phone users.

Its shortcomings were its reliance on macroeconomic data. Another challenge is that even when market trends are identified, it is difficult to make them relevant to the nature of the business in which professionals are working. This is because many trends are generic and merely on the surface of what can be statistically measured.

Those interested in customizing the specific entity will find things a bit hard unless we elaborate the impact of a specific trend within a specific industry.


1. Keep an ongoing mindset for your market as well as your nonmarket strategies. The best opportunities do not occur in familiar and predictable markets.

2. Find a way to connect megatrends—the fundamental forces that have started to dramatically shape the social, economic, and political landscapes of tomorrow’s world—with actionable items at the company level. Always determine some proxies that allow you to turn macro into micro.

An example of this is the rise of the sharing-economy giants, such as Uber or Airbnb. It was their ability to perceive that customers’ sentiments were shifting towards more personalized experiences that led them to initiate their innovative business models.

3. In lieu of fully developing products from the start, keep testing hypotheses and experiment by turning ideas into pilots and minimal viable products to determine how the market responds. Rather than assuming that the market will embrace your products, you can collect real-time feedback and determine whether it is worth bringing a product to full production or not.

The consulting case study: What you need to know

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Why are Case Studies used?

Case studies are used to assess a range of skills which can broadly be summarised as your “commercial skill set”. For consulting case studies, this will typically be assessing your ability to solve business problems in a structured, logical fashion, making reasonable commercial assumptions as you go along and using your mental maths ability to synthesize these assumptions to find the answer. Note that they are not looking for a “right answer”; they are looking for a “right method”.

Learn More- Starting A Consulting Business With No Experience

Types of case studies

Different industries need to test different skills and therefore depending on whether you’re applying to management consultancies, strategy consultancies or investment banking, your case study will be slightly different. Here are some examples of different approaches across industries;

  • Management Consulting: tend to use “operational” type case studies (more details below)
  • Strategy Consulting: tend to use “strategic” type case studies (more details below)
  • Investment Banking: tend to use a very different case study compared to consultancies. Investment banking case studies are a lot more quantitative and tend to focus on reading financial statements and based on a corporate finance deal e.g. a company going public on the stock market. They usually need you to understand the rationale behind financial modeling e.g. DCF, LBO, etc.
  • Private Equity: depending on the type of PE fund, it will align closely to an investment banking case study or a strategy consulting case study. Consider how they make money, do they follow an “operational improvement” model (a more strategic approach) or do they follow a “financial engineering” model (an investment banking approach). An easy way to find this out is by looking at the composition of the team, are they mainly ex-strategy consultants or ex-bankers?

How to answer the case study

Here we will focus on the consulting type case studies. There are four steps which will greatly increase your chances of success by helping you to structure your answer in an intelligent and commercially aware fashion.

The Ivy Case is a system created by a Harvard professor who coached students for interviews at top-tier consultancies such as McKinsey. He summarised that all case studies were a combination of the following 12:

Strategy Cases: Entering a new market, Industry Analysis, Mergers and Acquisitions, Developing a New Product, Pricing Strategies, Growth Strategies, Starting a New Business & Competitive Response.

Operational Cases: Operations Case, Increasing Sales, Reducing Costs, Improving the Bottom Line, Turnarounds.

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To get it right, here is the top line method for structuring your case study:

1)  Summarise the question: often the interviewer we give you a lot of excess verbiages to test your ability to see into the heart of the problem. The most important thing to ensure you start down the right path is for you to summarise and confirm the question with the interviewer.

2)  Verify the objective: the first thing consultants do with clients is to define what “success” looks like to that client and to find out why that is the case. If the objective is “to increase profits”, ask questions such as: why is this important? And in what timeframe? Is there anything else we need to know? By asking these questions, it will not only show your sensitivity to the case and it could also uncover vital information.

3)  Ask clarifying questions: very often the interviewer won’t provide all the necessary information to answer the question and it is up to you to find out this information before answering the question. Are we figuring out the profit per day, per month or per year? Is it for one store or all the stores? Of course, there is a limit to the number of questions you should ask but you must ensure you have the relevant information to make sensible assumptions.

4)  Layout your structure: now that you know exactly what they are looking for you can begin to tell them how you find the answer. Once you have laid out the structure, you can begin to add your assumptions into the formula and use your mental maths to come up with a well thought out answer.

5)  Follow the structure to come to your conclusion: It is important that you follow the steps you announced in 4). An easy way to come up with a logical structure is to memorize The Ivy Case – a set of 12 types of case studies and how to solve them. By following this, you won’t forget any elements and your answer will be concise and well-structured.

Tip: Making sensible assumptions: this is potentially one of the hardest parts to get right as it requires you to make a sufficiently detailed assumption without making it too complex that you will not be able to do the mental maths correctly to come to the right answer.

Are your consultancy proposals letting you down?

If you’ve recently left your senior position to establish a solo consultancy business, you’ll be regularly pitching for business.  And until you’ve built a stellar reputation as a consultant, you’ll likely be competing for most projects that come your way.

Getting on the invitation list is an important step, but unless your consultancy proposal stands out from the crowd, you’re going to struggle to win enough business to stay afloat.

Here’s 5 mistakes beginner consultants make when they prepare a consultancy proposal.

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Mistake # 1 – They don’t get enough background information

When they receive a consultancy brief from a potential client it’s common for new consultants to presume that this has all the information they need to prepare a response.  But in fact, consultancy briefs rarely tell the full picture. It’s really important that your consultancy proposal demonstrates to the client that you understand their problem, their context and what they need.

And to do that you need to dig a bit deeper and think beyond the written brief.   Talk to the potential client to find out more. Get the back story; get them to tell you the problem in their own words; find out what they’re really looking for. In other words, make sure you really do understand what they need so you can write a proposal that hits the mark .

Mistake # 2 -They include way too much information

Potential clients are very busy people and if your proposal is a tome they have to wade through, chances are you’ll lose them pretty quickly. Don’t be tempted to add more and more.

Instead you need to find a way to provide all the essential information as succinctly as possible, and nothing superfluous.  If your competition nails this and you don’t, you’ve got a pretty good idea where this is heading.


Mistake # 3 -They don’t clearly outline their proposed methodology

When you were an employee there was no requirement to map out exactly how you would go about your role – you just got on with the job.  But all that changes now you’re a consultant.  When you pitch for a project the client needs to know what you plan to do for them.

How do you plan to go about addressing the problem you’re presented with; what methods and tools do you plan to use; who will you talk to; how will your time be allocated?  The currency of solo consulting is projects and so project planning is your bread and butter.  Show the client you can do this right from the get-go by providing a clear methodology in your proposal.

Mistake # 4 – Their proposal doesn’t have a logical flow

If you’re not familiar with the consultancy proposal process its easy to get confused about exactly what to include and how to structure your proposal. But if the client has to constantly flip back and forth to find what they’re looking for, then you’re definitely going to lose points in the competitive process.

Your proposal needs to have a logical flow that takes them from your understanding of the problem, to how you’ll go about undertaking it, to costs, timeframes, and so on.  So make sure you think about how to structure your proposal so it makes sense for the client.

Mistake # 5 – They don’t build in risk management strategies

Every consultancy project has some risks, for example in terms of scope, or timeframes, or stakeholder management. And the very first point at which you need to demonstrate you’re paying attention to risk management is in your consultancy proposal.  The client is looking for a consultant who recognises the potential risk points and is clearly thinking ahead about how those might be managed.

So you need to look ahead and identify any potential pitfalls and areas you envisage scope creep might be a problem. Don’t ignore those niggling concerns when you’re preparing a proposal because chances are, they’ll come back to bite you. Be proactive, flag them up front and demonstrate that you’re paying attention to risk management.