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What is a Business Strategy Consultant? Do I Need One?

By Anthony Taylor - March 10, 2023

Are you uncertain about the potential benefits of hiring a business strategy consultant for your business? While they are sometimes confused with strategic planning facilitators, there are key differences between these roles and other consulting positions.

In this blog post, we will delve into the role of a business strategy consultant, the benefits of partnering with one, and how they differ from other consulting roles and strategic planning services. If you want to align your team, gain clarity on your mission and vision, and make informed decisions for your company, this post will assist you in determining whether hiring a business strategy consultant is the right decision for you.

If you've been scrolling through social media recently, you've probably stumbled upon some hilarious videos mocking the vague job descriptions of business consultants. It's time to shed some light on this topic. At SME Strategy, we've been offering strategic planning services for over 13 years, and we'd love to share some insights into the world of business strategy consultants.


So, what does a business strategy consultant actually do?

In simple terms, a business strategy consultant is a professional who assists business owners and organizational leaders in making well-informed decisions and developing effective business strategies. They specialize in the field of strategy, particularly in areas such as strategic planning, analysis, and decision-making.

When you engage a business strategy consultant, they become part of your organization and collaborate closely with you. Their main objective is to determine which specific strategic initiatives align with your desired outcomes and current capabilities. They work alongside you and your team, utilizing tools like market research, competitive analysis, scenario planning, and change management to identify the most suitable options and guide you in making strategic decisions.


What Makes a Business Strategy Consultant Different from Other Consulting Roles?

The primary difference between a business strategy consultant and other roles involved in strategic planning lies in their level of influence.
The role of a business strategy consultant often allows them to have a say in your organization's decisions and provide guidance on what actions to take. When you hire a consultant, they bring specific expertise and often offer recommendations on what strategic goals and actions your team and organization need to prioritize. However, this influence can be manifested in different ways.

One approach is the "expert model of consultation", this is where you seek a consultant with specialized knowledge in a particular area. They conduct industry surveys and provide recommendations without conducting a comprehensive diagnosis or audit of your organization. This research-based and external perspective is often focused on data gathering, analysis and action recommendations.

Examples of organizations operating in this manner include Gartner and McKinsey Solutions, who provide specific consulting solutions and research reports. They typically operate on a transactional basis, allowing clients to obtain tailored information or services without engaging in long-term consulting relationships.

On the other hand, there are consultants who build long-term relationships and provide strategic advisory services across various industries. Companies like Bain & Company and Boston Consulting Group offer comprehensive management consulting services that cover different aspects of a business. These consultants collaborate closely with organizations, conducting audits and offering recommendations to optimize operations and strategy. They bring valuable industry experience and expertise to help uncover inefficiencies and explore new strategic opportunities.

However, since they are external to the company and not bound by its culture, their focus is primarily on improving success in the specific initiative or project they are assigned. This can sometimes introduce conflicts or disruptions to your current state of affairs, as they have limited knowledge of your organization and may propose significant changes that impact it.

In Summary, one approach focuses on a shorter-term relationship with an emphasis on specific information and expertise, while the other involves a longer-term relationship where consultants are given the license to conduct diagnoses and provide feedback on the next steps to take.

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Exploring Alternatives: When a Business Strategy Consultant Isn't the Right Fit

If none of the options mentioned above resonate with you, there is another alternative to consider: strategic planning facilitation. This approach is centered entirely around your needs and preferences.

A strategic planning facilitator is a professional who specializes in assisting organizations with their strategic planning process. Their main role is to guide and facilitate this process, ensuring that it is productive, inclusive, and outcome-driven. They help organizations conduct strategic assessments, define goals, create action plans, and foster alignment among its stakeholders.

A facilitator's role is to assist and support your leadership team in identifying the right actions and goals. They bring a proven process and use a behavioral approach to help your team find its own solutions.  Facilitators emphasize aligning your leadership team with the company's mission and vision and cascading that alignment throughout the rest of the organization. They prioritize the process rather than imposing directives. By addressing behavioral and psychological barriers, they help break through misalignment and avoid the multiple destination trap. This allows your team to tap into the expertise and knowledge within the organization, promoting effective leadership and performance.

Business strategy consultants and strategic planning facilitators both play important roles in strategic thinking and planning. However, they differ in their focus and approach. A strategic planning facilitator primarily focuses on guiding the strategic planning process itself, often through an offsite facilitation. They emphasize effective collaboration and alignment among stakeholders, helping your team work together to solve problems without imposing their own suggestions.

On the other hand, a business strategy consultant offers strategic recommendations, guidance, and expertise across different areas. They assist organizations in developing and implementing comprehensive business strategies, which may sometimes challenge your preferred actions.



Understanding the Differences: Facilitators, Coaches, Consultants, and Advisors in Business Strategy Consulting

As you delve into the world of business strategy, you'll come across various professionals offering their expertise. It can be challenging to figure out which role is the right fit for your needs. In this breakdown, we'll explore the differences between strategic planning facilitators, coaches, business strategy consultants, and advisors.

Facilitator Coach Consultant Advisor
A strategy facilitator manages an organization's strategic planning process, not the content of its plan. They lead a group to an outcome without having input on the content of the outcome. Asks objective questions and provides neutral guidance to help an individual leader think through an issue, understand a concept, or implement strategy without giving them an “answer” and/or specific guidance on business content.
A business strategy consultant has a depth and breadth of expertise in a specific topic.
For example, SME Strategy is a Strategy consulting company, while Accenture is a technology consulting services company
Advisors provide counsel and guidance based on their extensive knowledge and experience in a particular field. They offer advice on various areas and help you identify the best path forward.
They use an outlined process to pose objective questions and provide neutral guidance to help executive leadership teams design and align around a strategic plan.  
An organization hires a consultant to do a specific job when its team doesn’t have the needed expertise internally. 


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When engaging in strategic planning, it's important to consider the various roles discussed earlier and evaluate your specific needs, organization size, and budget. Keep in mind that strategic planning is an ongoing process, and successful organizations regularly review their strategies. Collaborating with external consultants offers additional advantages, such as:

  • Getting your team onboard and aligned on your strategy - this is key for later strategy implementation. 

  • Setting strategic priorities and measurable goals so you know what success looks like for your organization and your team. 

  • Finding opportunities to differentiate you from your competitors to create a more valuable value proposition.

  • Looking at your systems and processes to find improvements that will support future growth.

  • Doing a cost/benefit analysis to determine the best opportunities for growth.
  • Creating strategies to gain new market share or protect existing market share.
  • Help you figure out what to do next with organizational change and development.

Happy Strategizing!

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