What is Strategy Consulting and How Does it Differ from Management Consulting?

Strategic consulting is a type of professional business advice that focuses on the big questions and strategic direction of a company. It is often confused with management consulting, which is more focused on the implementation of the strategic vision. When companies hire strategy consultants, it is usually when a new CEO is appointed, as they will want to establish a strategic vision for their term of office. Strategy consultants will then work with the executive to decide how best to achieve those goals based on competition, market conditions, and so on.

Strategy consulting requires a strong aptitude for problem solving and arithmetic, as well as innovative thinking and great adaptability. The best strategy consultants also need excellent people, time management, and organization skills so that they can quickly interact with a company's multiple stakeholders to extract the information they need to make sound decisions. The ultimate goal of strategic consulting is to provide clients with a clear path to greater market share and competitive advantage in their industry. McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company are known as the “Big Three” of the consulting industry and are the most competitive and established strategic consulting firms in the world.

Management consultants can specialize in various business areas and therefore have in-depth knowledge of their respective fields of work. For example, IBM consultants specialize in cloud solutions, and consultants such as Accenture and the “Big Four” offer consulting services on risks, taxes, people and technology. In general, quantitative and problem solving skills are required for both strategic consulting and management consulting; however, for management consultants, excellent communication and interpersonal skills are even more important, as they often work side by side with the client's employees on difficult topics. Our analysis of 60 of the world's top consulting firms suggests that, on average, strategy consultants can expect to earn 23% more than management consultants. Some examples of the types of projects and services offered by strategy and management consultants are evaluating strategic options, supporting business planning processes, developing growth agendas such as market entry strategies, launching new products or services, providing professional business advice during implementation stages, helping companies understand economic factors of mergers or acquisitions, designing future-proof strategies for business model transformation (BMI), defining corporate mission during major changes in external environment, developing business cases to understand economic factors of mergers or acquisitions, helping clients with due diligence work to achieve potential objectives. MBB is the acronym given to the three largest strategic consulting firms: McKinsey, Bain and BCG. These firms are accompanied by many other strategy firms competing for the same work; Strategy& and Oliver Wyman are two of them.

It's a bit of a dead end: you need experience to get a good job but you can't gain experience without a job. Many strategy consultants start out in other business roles such as business analyst. Strong analytical skills are vital for strategy consultants as they work closely with a company's top management to develop realistic long-term goals. Needless to say, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree to get into strategic consulting; most likely in business administration or a similar field. At the end of the day, companies will turn to a strategy consultant with a proven track record and the obvious skills and competencies to transform their organizations. Given the wide overlap between management and strategy it should come as no surprise that the three big management consultancies (McKinsey, BCG, and Bain) are also ranked as the top strategy consultants on the planet. Strategic consulting represents around 12% of the industry overall making it similar in size to human resources consulting.

You should also remember that strategy consultants are often experts in specific business fields and topics. Business leaders will work with strategy consultants to develop and execute plans to close gaps overcome challenges and find opportunities. Most likely you'll need at least a few years' experience in order to get into this field but if you have what it takes then you could be well rewarded for your efforts.