Consulting as a profession has been growing steadily with more and more firms setting their base in India. Consulting landscape has also been helped by maturing of Indian business set-up as well as growing popularity of professional courses like MBA. But joining a particular industry, sector or a profession, is just the beginning. After all, our professional career could well span over 35 years. Similarly for consulting, while problem-solving skills, analytical capability and a consistent academic record may help you join a good consulting firm but it doesn't ensure that you would enjoy your stay as well.
As I complete my first year in consulting, I have tried to come up with a framework, based on one's interest areas, to suggest what lies in consulting for him/her. I have tried to simplify it by using two major focus areas and I would once again reiterate that it doesn't talk about the capabilities that you need to excel as a consultant.
A role of a consultant can be broadly divided into two parts; business development and business delivery. Business development is related to bringing in projects i.e. selling or pitching your offerings to the prospective clients. Business delivery, on the other hand, is related to preparing the client deliverables. At a junior level, the delivery part accounts for major share of your efforts but as you move up, business development becomes more important. One interest area that I would focus on concerns business development while the other one largely focuses on business delivery. While it’s impossible to isolate the two areas but one does come across people who prefer one over the other.
So, breaking the suspense, the two areas of interest that I have identified are “research” and “interactions”:
Research: Some people simply love to dig into data be it research reports, news articles, information hidden in excel sheets, interview notes etc. Those with a bent towards research can be a great influence as far as quality of deliverable is concerned. While another section may consider it the "back-end" part of consulting and end up avoiding or even hating it.
Interactions: Many individuals are attracted by the so called “front-end” part i.e. the client-facing role. Undoubtedly, consulting is about managing people be it the client, the team members, the experts etc. Those with a penchant for meeting and interacting people can help in lead generation or unearthing opportunities from nowhere. But there is a segment in consulting that considers such people as “globers”. After all, to each his own.
So based on the above two interest-areas we can segregate consultants into four types:
Type I: These types of species are perpetually excited about meeting their clients, even more that meeting their girlfriends. They would say, “Research is for the faint-hearted. Consulting is all about client-facing activities.” While their interactions can be fruitful but without proper research it can backfire or cause embarrassment. Sometimes it can lead to mis-selling or inadequately defined scope. We can call them YAC A. YAC stands for “Yet another Consultant”.
Type II: This variety loves the research part but isn’t too excited by the interaction part. They would say, “I think too much is made of this front-end thing in consulting. Yaar, even the traders and bankers create value but they don’t hype about these client interactions.” While research undoubtedly is critical to consulting but neglecting the other aspect doesn’t help as many consulting firms don’t have a separate team for sales. We can call this variety YAC B.
Type III: Another type like what they hear but don’t like what they see. Some of my colleagues had joined consulting but soon realize that they are too selective or find a very limited aspect of their job exciting. In better words, they aren’t excited adequately by either of the areas. The only term that comes to my mind right now for these consultants is “Disillusioned”.
Type IV: The disillusioned gets a competition. This type is largely responsible for keeping the consulting flag flying high. The ones, who are likely to become experts in near future. They love the interactions but are particular about research as well. This type deserves only one tag- “Rockstar”.
So what's your type?