Pinning down exactly what it is that business consults do isn’t a particularly easy task. There’s a degree of mystique around the consulting industry – for most of us, the term ‘consultancy’ will evoke images of suits, coffee catch-ups, number crunching, whiz-kids, hotel beds, free drinks and boardroom meetings. And while these are all part of the consultant’s lifestyle, each of these tasks and perks work towards one goal: the improvement of businesses.

In comparison to most of the others movers and shakers of the business world, business consultants tend to be quite young – sometimes fresh out of university. Some would be tempted to label these people as ‘upstarts’, but the consultants themselves would no doubt prefer the term ‘young guns’.

consultantOn a broad level, the biggest clue to what business consultants do is in the name. They offer businesses, large and small, advice on how they can improve their fortunes – financial, operational, managerial, cultural.

This can be a pretty big responsibility, especially when consultants are tasked with introducing and implementing a big change to the way a company works on a day-to-day basis. Consultants work in both the public and private sectors, meaning that the work done by the industry’s biggest players inevitably impacts you and I in some indirect way.

An important advantage offered by consultants is their sense of removal. As a business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in minutiae, losing perspective in the day-to-day dramas. A spokesperson from Lucidity BC, a Sydney-based coaching firm, believes that consultants’ own perspectives are key to their success. “Consultants are uniquely positioned to identify problems you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of,” the spokersperson says. “It’s that mix of objectivity and expertise that makes consultants so valuable.”

A key role of any consultant, then, is to help to sharpen or identify problems that might otherwise seem vague and distant. This comes back to the idea of efficiency, which is itself linked to change. Consultants are frequently called in when a shift is either warranted, or has thrust itself upon an unprepared business. The innovation displayed by consultants – who are frequently recruited from among the best and brightest business students in the country – allows them to help businesses weather storms they might otherwise drown in.

Even after this explanation, it’s quite likely that you’re still a bit unsure as to just what consultants do. Without direct contact with these thought leaders, it’s difficult to articulate. Consultants utilise frameworks and theories that non-experts struggle to come to grips with. The proof, one hopes, is in the pudding.

(In summary, though, they survey a businesses’ operations in order to identify areas that can be improved and streamlined. This is done in the hope of making a business more efficient, and ultimately making it function at a higher level.)

Part of the mystique surrounding consultancy comes from the long list of recognisable, impressive names who have sprung from the field to forge impressive careers in business, banking and politics. Consultancy has a pretty high turnover rate, as young alumni aspire and hustle to reach the upper echelons of their chosen field. They’re a uniquely tight-knit, motivated, intelligent and influential breed. This list of adjectives is itself demonstrative of the versatility required in the field – adding, again, to that mystique.

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