What do consultants actually do?

What do consultants actually do?

16th May 2021

Last month LinkedIn (and many of my connections) reminded me that it’s been 2 years since I started working as a freelance consultant.

One of the questions I get asked most frequently about my work has to be: ‘So what do you actually do?’

Over the last 12 months it seems more and more people are choosing consulting whether as a profession, or as a resource.

In this post I’m going to try my best to explain the role of a consultant in the world of hospitality (as I see it), look at why consulting appears to be on the rise and whether it’s here to stay.

So what do I actually do?

Put simply, the vast majority of my projects fall into two categories:

1. The client doesn’t have the skill set or expertise within their business for a specific project. This is especially true for small start-ups that don’t necessarily have a dedicated internal purchasing, HR, or marketing resource.

2. The client doesn’t have the capacity within their business at a given time for an urgent project that needs to be done but those who’d normally work on the project are committed to other projects or have other priorities.

Consultants typically specialise in a few areas – in my case new store openings, drinks and international but will often have the experience to offer wider support and/or insight and experience.

A key benefit for businesses choosing to work with consultants is knowing that the project will be delivered on time and on budget (at least if the consultant wants to get paid!). As long as a clearly defined brief is agreed by both parties at the start, the client doesn’t have to worry about something else coming along to throw things off course.

On a related note, consultants will typically work on a day rate or project rate thereby offering true transparency of the cost of the project and the added benefit of the client not having to risk overburdening their payroll costs with a regular salary (or salaries) throughout the year – they can flex and adapt their spend to react to the needs of the business. This isn’t to say that salaried employees should be replaced with consultants but that consultants can offer a useful stepping stone before a business commits to adding a permanent employee to their payroll, indeed it’s not uncommon for consultants to take up permanent positions with their clients after completing projects knowing that their a good fit for each other.

I think it’s a fairly common myth within the industry that consultants charge thousands of pounds a day to tell you what you already know! The truth is that whilst there will be some consultants out there able to charge huge fees, in reality, there are consultants and solutions to suit pretty much any budget and hopefully more than outweighing their cost with the savings/added value they bring to the business.

A second myth is that as soon as a consultant completes the project and gets paid they're gone, never to be seen again. The reality is that most of us care about our clients and often build longer term working relationships – whether offering informal advice at the end of a phone or dipping into and out of the business to support on projects required.

Finally, consultants can often act more like a Non-Executive Director, sometimes informally, other times more formally to offer ongoing support, advice and access to their network – a little like the Dragons from Dragon’s Den, a good consultant – if they can’t help you themselves – will know someone who can.

So what’s the future for consultancy?

Given the challenges and turmoil of the past year, it’s likely that the role of consultants will only continue to become a more common fixture within hospitality.

As established businesses look to streamline their overheads - whilst continuing to innovate and grow - consultants offer the opportunity to move forward at pace but with the confidence that the spend on resources can be quickly increased or decreased to react to changes in the marketplace or the economy.

As we’re emerging from the pandemic, the time also feels right for new businesses to launch and for smaller businesses to seize on the opportunities for growth.
In each case it’s unlikely these businesses will look to build a full permanent central team initially and will look to consultants to bridge the skills and resources gap as they start to build their teams for the future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – whether you’re a consultant yourself, have used consultants in the past or are considering it.

As ever, if you think I may be able to help your business – please don’t hesitate to drop me an e-mail at [email protected], give me a call or drop me a message! You can find my contact details at the top right of the page.


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