The retention by a client of an experienced strategic planning consultant will be pivotal to the medium to long term commercial success of an organization.
Strategic planning is driven at the highest levels of an organization, usually formulated by a board of directors with input from expert third parties and executed by the executives. These are the men and women who strategic planning consultants work with.
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A company's strategic plan is its blueprint for the entire organization and it spells out the functions and expectations for all areas of the business. The plan will include clear direction on the strategic objectives of the organization covering areas such as:
- Which markets will a company operate in?
- Which products will be offered to the market?
- Which customers will be targeted?
- The tactical and strategic responses to the whole spectrum of enterprise risks
- Growth strategy including plans to grow either organically or through acquisition
The strength of the plan and the effectiveness with which it is executed will determine the entire organization's success. As such, the development and application of the strategic plan is the preserve of the sharpest and most experienced business minds - enter the strategic planning consultant.
Strategic planning consulting, also known as business strategy consulting, involves the creation, implementation, and maintenance of a comprehensive plan that will integrate the various functions and resources of a business to operate cohesively in achieving an organization's goals and objectives in the most efficient way. The strategic planning consultant is called into the executive boardroom to help corporate leaders map out a direction for their company. To successfully operate in this niche takes decades of business experience.
The Role of the Strategic Planning Consultant
In a broad sense, the strategic planning consultant will endeavor to clarify an organization's objectives and the outcomes required for all key stakeholders including customers, shareholders, staff and community. The strategic plan will be formulated within a given framework of corporate policies and procedures and against economic and regulatory backdrops.
The process requires a blend of skills:
- Relentless focus on clarity of corporate objectives
- Vision and imagination to consider and select the most appropriate approaches to achieve these objectives
- Pragmatic planning and organization skills to create the financial, risk management and operational plans that will organize and focus the resources needed to execute the strategic plan
- Proven experience in business model design to be able to give clear direction on the blueprint for the business that will be required in order that the strategy can be realized and the 3-5 year business plans achieved
Strategic planning consultants will typically call on a range of individuals to bring supplementary expertise with depth of experience in particular areas for example: economic, financial, risk management, marketing, enterprise resource planning, supply chain management. information technology and human resources.
The strategic planning consultant first analyzes an organization's current business practices, both internal and with its customers and suppliers. From the assessments made as a result of the analyses, the business strategy consultant formulates the objectives, both tactically and strategically. Once the plan has been stabilized and baselined, the consultant works with the executive team on an ongoing basis to implement the strategic plan and manage amendments, usually at specified intervals for example quarterly or annually.
Skills of the Strategic Planning Consultant
The skills requirements of a strategic consultant are extremely high because of the complexity involved in formulating an effective long term plan that will enable an organization to achieve its stated goals and objectives.
As a guide, in order to be able to operate with credibility with the leadership teams of large organizations, whether public or private sector, the strategic planning consultant will be expected to possess, at minimum, some or all of the following experience depending on the client brief:
- Fifteen or more years of direct business experience, preferably across several functional areas
- Significant tenure in a leadership role including executive accountability for business planning across a number of organizations and probably in different industries
- Experience as an external adviser or consultant to organizations
- Continuous training and an advanced degree, possibly an MBA, to keep up with strategic advances and technological innovations
- A solid background as a senior business professional involved in technical activities within a given niche or profession, perhaps including consultancies, academic research, thought leadership and presenting white papers at conferences
Career Potential for the Strategy Consultant
As can be surmised from the significant experience and knowledge that is required to offer one's services as a strategic planning consultant, the field of qualified consultants for organizations to choose from is quite slim.
At the same time, many corporations are in need of specialized knowledge in the strategic planning arena and look towards the small pool of experienced advisors for help. Not surprisingly, consulting fees in this area of work tend towards the higher end of the spectrum.
Furthermore, given the commercially sensitive and business critical nature of organizational strategy, it is likely that a consulting firm or individual will be retained under contract by the client for a long period, perhaps three to five years and also during that period prevented from working on strategy related assignments for businesses that are in competition with the client.
Strategy consultants with the right experience and knowledge are in demand across every major industry sector on a global scale, providing travel opportunities and the chance to broaden experience and further hone skills.
In addition, your network of professional and corporate contacts will benefit greatly from exposure at this senior level and the financial rewards are likely to be substantial.
Rewards for Strategic Planning Consultants
Technically, there is no ceiling to the rewards available to the business strategy consultant. You are only limited by your experience, knowledge and contacts.
A strategic planning consultant's compensation can quite easily range up in the millions of dollars over the life of an assignment. These fees can be supplemented quite substantially if you hire other experienced, niche consultants to contribute specialist insights.
An experience independent strategic planning consultant can make $250K or more in a year without too much difficulty. It is all within your reach given the right experience, knowledge, and drive.
If you work with a large strategic consulting firm, like McKinsey & Company or Roland Berger, for example, you can expect to be paid in the six figures; total compensation will be determined by your background and skills.
There are also the non-monetary rewards: the kudos of being known as the expert in your chosen discipline and being in high demand among the world's top corporations. The potential in this field is great and very exciting.
If you have been operating at the highest levels in large corporate or public sector entities, you will probably already possess the majority of skills and experience that will be required to operate with credibility as a strategy consultant.
The demand for skilled consultants is likely to remain high. Competition will be fierce, although the absolute number of credible competitors will be relatively low. Since the formulation of business strategy planning is an ongoing and evolving process, your consulting services will be required for a long time to keep the plan current and the organization on track. Just think of what that means for you and your consulting career.
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