At a time when a number of segments within the consulting industry are seeing lower demand amid the Covid-19 crisis, Gary Williams, the founder of professional services business development coaching consultancy BD Coaching Hub, explains how consulting leaders can win a bigger slice of a smaller pie.
Professional and business services make up 25% of UK businesses, with a combined turnover of £399 billion – and adding £190 billion to the economy. The sector employs 4.6 million people – 13% of the UK workforce – and accounts for 27% of the UK’s services exports, worth £66 billion to the UK economy.
One of the industry’s flagship segments, management consulting, is worth around £10 billion. While the overall market grew by 2.5% last year, the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus-induced downturn has meant that some segments within the industry are contracting.
So, in the face of a shrinking ‘business pie’, how can consulting companies carve out a bigger slice for themselves in the coming months? There is no template for how best to survive the pandemic disruption – let alone thrive in the face of such a catastrophe. But the global financial crisis of 2008 taught us that organisations prepared to be proactive in terms of business development and client experience management are the ones most likely to emerge from a crisis faster and in better shape than their ‘ostrich-like’ competitors who stick their heads in the sand to avoid facing reality.
There are six key things consultancy leaders can do this year to increase their chances of winning a bigger slice of the smaller business pie. The first thing to do is get focused on your target market. You need to be able to clearly outline to new and existing clients how you help them achieve their goals. Businesses that really know their sweet spot and stick to it are more likely to succeed.
You also need to have a plan – a three-year vision is crucial, with 12-month objectives and rolling three quarterly actions. Having clarity about the destination and the journey will make decision making a lot easier – if something doesn’t take you towards your goal, don’t spend time on it.
It’s vital to communicate – talk to your people, tell them where you’re heading, explain your plan for how to get there and emphasise that you can’t do it without everyone playing their part. A sense of purpose is the number one motivator.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that you need to take care of your people – ask individuals how they’re doing and tell them how much they are appreciated. They are key to you surviving and thriving this year – and every year.
It’s also crucial to get the right people in the right roles – release your work winners from the shackles of utilisation and ensure you have strong leaders in leadership positions. Hire for attitude and train for skill. Too often people are promoted due to longevity – but that is not a good reason.
And finally, develop necessary skills – everyone who is client facing is selling the business, whether they know it or not, so encourage them to improve their business development and client relationship skills, confidence and behaviours. It’s a simple equation – the more people you have who are confident, proactive and effective, the more opportunities you will uncover.
Although this is likely to be a tough year, there will still be plenty of opportunities for consulting firms in the UK. What you have to decide is how you are going to win your share of a potentially smaller pie.