The Consulting Blog’s new editor

A_Sherman_Photo 3INTRODUCING Ashley.

We have chosen the talented Ashley Sherman to be an Editor of the Consulting Blog for 2013/14.

Ashley was previously a Staff Writer for the NYU International Business Journal. An accomplished Business & Political Economy student at NYU Stern, Ashley brings passion, keen intellect, and a unique perspective to the Consulting Blog. Currently based in New York, Ashley plans to broaden her international business experience and has secured opportunities to study abroad in two of the world’s leading financial centres, London and Shanghai.

Management consulting is a difficult industry to break into, and we look forward to reading Ashley’s insights about the case interview process and other aspects of the consulting industry.

Please join us in welcoming Ashley!

A Perfect Storm: Growth in Public Sector Consulting

Cash strapped governments seek counsel in these tempestuous times

THE United States government has utilised management consultants for the past fifty years, beginning when McKinsey organised the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958. The number of consultants hired for public sector projects has been steadily increasing ever since, spiking to new heights over the past few years in response to the tumultuous state of public sector finances. Top management consulting firms including Bain & Company and Boston Consulting Group have been marketing themselves to state and municipal governments as the solution to stringent austerity requirements. When approaching government clients in the United States, BCG strives to create a “lean” model: strategies focusing on contracting out nonessential government services and curtailing union power to increase flexibility.

The trend towards the prevalence of management consulting in the public sector most recently has been seen in the city of Detroit, Michigan. The emergency financial manager, hired by the state as a final attempt to avoid bankruptcy, has agreed to spend over $14 million this year on a range of financial and legal professional services. A city wrought by a failing auto-industry has been steadily losing its affluent tax base for decades, culminating now in a massive budget deficit and rapidly maturing long-term liabilities. A complete restructuring is needed to remedy the problems resulting from years of corruption and inefficiency. The three-consulting firm team assembled by Kevin Orr, the bankruptcy lawyer appointed as the city’s emergency financial manager, looks set to gain significant business from Detroit’s public sector restructuring.

Management consulting firms have worked successfully with municipal governments across the United States, particularly in the public education sector. BCG collaborated with the city of Philadelphia to completely revitalise their struggling public school system and develop private charter schools. Consultants in Colorado have captured a significant percentage of federal funds flowing into the state for education management, approximately 36% or $10 billion.

The ability of management consulting firms to successfully serve both private and public sector clients has led the industry to continued success, and further growth looks set to occur. Government organisations continue to seek out management consulting firms with the knowledge and skills necessary to work through the bureaucratic complexity of government organisations. At the same time, firms are seizing the opportunity to have a significant positive impact on the lives of millions of fellow citizens.

9 Signs It’s Time to Hire an Outside Consultant

It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it

This guest post is from Naked Business Consulting, a firm based in Melbourne. They specialise in capital raising, international expansion and strategic planning.

IT’S NO SECRET that a lot of startups begin life with a single employee – the proprietor. If you have an in-house staff, you are in a better position, but the day may come when your business just can’t manage without some outside help.

The trick is in the timing. Hire a consultant too soon and you may not be able to fully leverage all the benefits; too late and you may miss a prime opportunity. Like every business-owner, you need to keep an eye on the bottom line and make decisions that will promise a good return on your investment.

Here is when you know it’s time to hire an outside consultant.

1. When You Have No Idea What to Do Next

Somebody said you should be doing XYZ, but you’re not sure what that is and no one on your staff has any idea how to do it anyway. An experienced business consultant can assess your needs and goals, and formulate a reasoned and incisive plan to get your business back on track.

2. When You Know Exactly What You Want to Do

Maybe you have an idea for exactly what to do, but you just don’t have the time or the concentration to do it right. An astute consulting team can take your keen vision of the future and turn it into something real and valuable.

3. When You Need to Define Your Brand

Defining a business brand is not just about designing a snazzy logo. The process of branding takes a holistic effort that encompasses a range of marketing methods and strategies. Come ready with skills in social media marketing, graphic design, cross-channel marketing, online security and more, or hire a branding consultant.

4. When You Want to Build Trust

There is an art to turning online browsers into buyers and it boils down to trust. Building the trust of online consumers is a multi-layered prospect. It takes a precise mix of branding, social interaction and customer service to convert browsers into shoppers. A great marketing firm can craft a campaign to build consumer confidence and loyalty.

5. When Your Business Enters International Markets

If you are about to expand into international markets, hooray for you, but doing business in other countries could be a far cry from your own turf. Differences in cultures, currencies, regulations, tariffs, languages and customs can easily cause confusion, delays, anxiety and even fines. Unless you are well-prepared ahead of time, don’t go into international business without some outside help.

6. When You Want to Diversify

If you are looking to add new products to your portfolio or broaden your service offerings, a business consultant can facilitate the transition. Marketing consultants can help by identifying gaps in your plan and assist you in amending and adjusting your campaign as necessary.

7. When You Need an Outside Opinion

The old adage “think outside the box” is a lot easier when you hire someone from outside your “box.” A problem that you have been hashing about for months can quickly get new and fresh perspectives to consider.

8. When You Need to Make the Most of Data and Analytics

You probably know how many people visit your website, but do you also know where they came from, how long they stayed, what pages they visited and every other move they made on your site? An experienced web consultant can evaluate user data and leverage the results to help your business grow. If you don’t get that kind of attention to detail from your in-house staff, that’s when you know it’s time to hire an outside consultant.

9. When Your Business is Struggling

Perhaps your productivity is low. It could be that you have too many staff, or that the staff you do have are in the wrong roles. Or, maybe some of your operations are causing you to leak money. A business consultant should be able to come in and identify the parts of your business that are holding you back. It may not be that there is anything inherently wrong with your business, just that it has outgrown it’s original plan and the original business owner is left with a hodge podge system that was implemented without much thought to sustainability.