A Guide To The Work Of A Strategic Research Consultant

Research Consultants lead and structure the research and analysis of individual studies that form deliverables for consulting companies. They work closely with Fortune 500/Global 1000 companies and smaller firms to determine the strategic and operational challenges that they are facing. Research Consultants strive to identify and develop the best solutions to these important business challenges, and subsequently teach these solutions to their clients.

In general, Strategic Research Consultants must have proven analytical skills and a passion for research. Successful profiles for a research consultant include

(1) PhDs (Post-Doctoral professional experience in research, consulting or academia is highly desirable);

(2) MBAs who are interested in research problems rather than daily management issues;

(3) JDs – JDs with business experience or experience writing legal briefs extremely desirable;

(4) strategy consultants from top firms; and

(5) policy analysts who have a proven ability to undertake original economic and financial analysis of a high professional standard and can persuade clients to adopt their position on a wide range of economic and financial policy issues.

Although different firms seek strategic research consultants with varying backgrounds, they do share some common attributes. Most of these assignments will require the consultant to have a rigorous intellect, creativity for products, and experience in management and teamwork.

Intellectual Capabilities

· Strong inductive and deductive reasoning skills.

· Experience in hypothesis-driven research.

· Insight generation – the ability to generate ideas that have an impact.

· Basic quantitative facility- relevant coursework or work experience.

Deliverable Product Creation

· Strong writing ability — published candidates highly desirable.

· Ability to scope terrain – evident through research experience.

· Teaching and framing — experience or ability to teach and relay ideas. Candidates who have been teaching assistants in graduate school classes are desirable.

· Effective communication skills.

Management and Teamwork

· Project management skills.

· Experience/ability to engage clients.

· Experience/ability to work in a team. Candidates with military experience, extensive. team projects in graduate school are desirable

Consultants will find that the impact they have on their clients translates directly into the impact their work will have on their career progression. It is common for firms to extend either second engagements or even offers of employment to consultants whose work they consider valuable. With every assignment, the consultant should strive to add value and have an intentional, positive impact on their clients and their business objectives.

The client firms must do their part as well. Intellectually curious consultants can become bored easily. Therefore, the clients should provide a dynamic and intellectually challenging work environment with intelligent and creative people. They should provide growth in responsibility while maintaining a balanced lifestyle and sense of fun. One of the best managers I have had in my professional career used to ask other staff and me, “Are you having fun?” That one question seemed to sum up a variety of good consulting features: did the staff member enjoy his work and actually managed to find some fun in his or her assignments?

Strategic research consultants are sometimes needed on global tasks, which afford the consultant an opportunity for international travel paid for by the client. That is the best way to experience international work: when someone else is paying the bill.

Generally, the strategic research consultant will work onsite with the client for a project’s entire lifecycle, from strategy development to implementation. Working side-by-side with clients helps the consultant understand how the client views the project and what information the client receives. With these insights about the client, the consultant can more easily monitor progress and quality of the project deliverables and facilitate their implementation downstream. Clients do not want to receive esoteric reports that sit on shelves and are never read. Instead, they want to achieve tangible results from the consulting assignment.

These positions require skills to analyze and develop financial models utilizing spreadsheets and database management software. Assignments will vary but are likely to encompass many aspects including strategic planning, due diligence, change management, business review, project management, global purchasing studies, etc. Consultants sometimes move into a line management role with their clients after two or three years.

One area where strategic consultants practice is the due diligence research that support mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity. For that reason, the big four accounting firms have created M&A Strategy groups, which combine the competence of strategy consulting with the high growth market of M&A and private equity. These groups often have the culture of an entrepreneurial strategy boutique specializing in M&A.

M&A strategic research works with private equity, banking, and corporate clients to assess the commercial potential of acquisition targets and to deliver clear, actionable, strategic recommendations. The core product is commercial due diligence from the beginning to the end of the M&A lifecycle. Commercial due diligence provides potential investors with an assessment of the key strategic issues and opportunities of a transaction, including market attractiveness, competitive dynamics, customer relationships and cost position, and therefore helps investors understand how they can create value.

Given the importance of M&A activity to the future direction of the firm, it is not surprising that firms seek to staff these consultant positions with experienced professionals who have the rigorous intellect, product/deliverable creativity, and management acumen to get the job done.