How to become a strategic planning consultant

How to become a strategic planning consultant

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Strategic planning consultants help organizations plan the future development of their business. They analyze their clients’ business environments and research market trends and political, economic and social developments that could impact them in the future. They use their analysis to create a number of scenarios and present their findings to clients. They make recommendations on future strategy and provide clients with ways to implement the strategy.

Attributes

You must have strong analytical skills for this role. You should be familiar with business and market research techniques and sources of information. Interpersonal skills are important as you will be interviewing clients at senior level and working closely with them to develop plans. Good presentation skills will help you explain complex concepts and gain acceptance for your proposals.

Qualifications

Clients will want to know that you have the qualifications and credentials to make recommendations that determine the future success of their business. You will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in business, management, accounting, marketing, economics or statistics, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A higher qualification such as a master’s degree in business administration or certification from an organization such as the Institute of Management Consultants USA will enhance your credibility.

Experience

To offer clients advice, you must have consulting or business management experience. Experience as a finance director or marketing director would be useful in your role as a planning consultant. You should also have industry experience if you aim to offer strategic consultancy in a specific sector, such as information technology, financial services or manufacturing. If your background is in consulting, you should have experience at different levels in a firm and progressed to a position as a senior consultant.

Employment

You can develop your career as a strategic planning consultant by joining a consultancy firm or setting up your own business. If you want to join a firm as an employee, research the career pages of consultancy websites to assess the opportunities and type of projects they handle. Registering with executive recruitment agencies can also help you find opportunities. Apply for positions that interest you and ensure that your resume provides a complete picture of your credentials. At the interview, be prepared to discuss strategic projects that you have completed. You may also have to demonstrate your abilities by explaining how you would tackle a fictitious project set by the consultancy.

Business

If you decide to establish your own business, you must find clients and take on a range of management responsibilities. A website is a useful marketing tool. You should list your qualifications and include case studies of projects you have completed. Set out a list of strategic planning services that you can offer. To find clients, identify businesses that you feel could benefit from your services and contact them by mail or email to introduce your firm and explain how you believe you could help them. Presenting papers at business conferences can also help build your reputation and give you the opportunity to meet prospective clients.

2016 Salary Information for Management Analysts

Management analysts earned a median annual salary of $81,330 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, management analysts earned a 25th percentile salary of $60,950, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $109,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 806,400 people were employed in the U.S. as management analysts.

  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Management Analyst
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Consulting Careers: A Profile of Three Occupations
  • Entrepreneur.com: How to Start a Consulting Business
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Management Analysts
  • Career Trend: Management Analysts

Based in the United Kingdom, Ian Linton has been a professional writer since 1990. His articles on marketing, technology and distance running have appeared in magazines such as “Marketing” and “Runner’s World.” Linton has also authored more than 20 published books and is a copywriter for global companies. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and economics from Bristol University.

A career as a strategic planning consultant requires a bachelor’s degree, typically in accounting, economics, or business. Many people in this career go on to earn a master’s degree. Additional qualifications include extensive business management experience, including consulting experience. Many clients prefer candidates with expertise in a particular industry, such as finance, healthcare, and information technology. Analytical and communication skills are necessary to be successful as a strategic planning consultant.

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I recently received a reader question about consulting:

About 10 years ago, while living in the Midwest, I started my own HR consulting business. I left it (kinda, it’s never been out of my mind) to take a “real” consultant job and move to Arizona. I was laid off in last year and want to establish my business again. I want to offer “virtual” HR services and be the HR department of small and medium sized businesses. I’d appreciate any advice/support you can give! Thanks!

I’ve written before about my life as a consultant. You can check those posts out here, here, here and here. Since I’ve already written about my consulting life, I wanted to give you a fresh voice in answering this question. So, I called professional colleague and blogging buddy, Alicia Arenas, to share her thoughts.

Alicia brings over 15 years of experience as an HR leader in Corporate America to her client companies. Her last corporate position was director of training and development. And, she’s SPHR certified. Her business, Sanera, is dedicated to helping small business owners become successful in their business. Take it away, Alicia!

Becoming a Consultant

Well, this is it. You’ve decided you want to become a consultant. Congratulations! Welcome to the exciting world of entrepreneurialism. Now what?

You, like most small business owners, may have the naturally intuitive idea that the more you know how to do + telling the world about everything you do = business success. It seems logical to think that, if you offer a plethora of services to all kinds of clients, you are guaranteed to get business. Been there. Done that. And it doesn’t work. That strategy will deplete your time, energy and your savings.

It’s like deciding you want to drop food coloring into a lake to turn it red . It’s going to take a lot of food coloring before that lake even shows a tinge of pink. Unless you can buy the red food coloring in bulk, (which is incredibly expensive) the process of turning the lake red will take a loooong time. In fact, the conditions of the lake may be such that your red food coloring will be absorbed and processed by the plant and animal life in the lake. In that case, your efforts were worthless.

But what if you aim to turn a glass of water red? How quickly could you accomplish that? How much less food coloring would it take?

That is what niche marketing does for you.

How to become a strategic planning consultantIf I could share only one piece of advice with you it would be this: identify a niche and market the heck out of yourself to that niche.

These are some of the Guiding Principles I use when helping clients identify their niche market:

  1. Something You Love Running your own business is challenging. There are going to be lots of good times and times spent in the valley too. If you are doing something you’re not passionate about, the times in the valley will feel endless. In these times, it’s often your excitement about what you do that will sustain you.
  2. People You Like See above. This is huge folks. If you think being in the valley is hard, imagine working on a long-term project with a client whose personality rubs you raw and whose values do not match yours. Do what you love to do with people you like. It fills you with energy, gives you passion and enthusiasm which is contagious and makes you fun to be around. (PS – That usually equals more clients and money.)
  3. People You Can Reach Evaluate your network. Ideally, your target market will be in your first level contacts. If it’s not, look at your second level contacts. Is your target market there? Can your first level contacts introduce you to them? Are there networking groups or Chambers of Commerce than can help you meet your target market? You may like professional sports players, but if you can’t reach them, seriously consider the amount of time, effort and money it would take to break into that niche. Analyze your network.

Thanks Alicia! As you can see, Alicia really understands the challenges of being an entrepreneur and uses her experience to helps others be successful. If you aren’t familiar with her business, I hope you’ll check it out. She focuses her practice in three specific areas. (1) Passion. So often business owners go into what they think they “should” do rather than what they want to do or what they are passionate about doing. Big mistake. (2) Profitability. Alicia told me about a current client she has who is bringing in $40k+ a month in revenue and is netting $2k a month. Something is wrong there. And, (3) Personal life. We don’t go into business for ourselves because we long to work 80 hours a week. We do it because we want our business to help us achieve something in our personal lives – more family time, better quality of life, etc. But small business owners (particularly solopreneurs) really struggle with finding time for personally fulfilling activities.

Many thanks to Alicia for sharing her expertise with us. As I read Alicia’s post, it reminded me that the year I started my business – as well as the year I purchased another business – I used coaches, like Alicia, to help with that transition. If I had only known her back then…

I’m sure there are several people out there who are considering consulting right now as a career option. There’s every reason to believe that consulting and freelancing will be considered the new normal as our economy recovers. Creating a good foundation for your business – even freelancing business – will make you successful.

How to become a strategic planning consultant

John Wildgoose/Caiaimage / Getty Images

The needs of customers and organizations (large and small) are changing at the speed of technology and increased diversity. More than ever, businesses need strategic thinkers.

Strategic planning is an important skill for a number of jobs. While some people hold the specific job title of “strategic planner” (or “strategic planning associate” or “strategic planning manager”), there are other jobs that require strategic planning skills even though “strategic” may not be in the position’s title. Basically, management consultants, business developers, corporate developers, strategic cost analysts, and operations analysts all need strong strategic planning skills.

What Are Strategic Planning Skills?

Strategic planning is the process of setting a vision for a company and then realizing that vision through small, achievable goals. People who work in strategic planning help set goals, decide what actions need to be taken by employees, and help employees achieve those goals.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the required skills listed by the employer.

Types of Strategic Planning Skills

Analytical

People working in strategic planning need to be able to analyze and evaluate a company’s business plan. They have to be skilled in market analysis, feasibility analysis, and more. Only through an analytical eye can strategic planners decide what steps a company needs to take.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Calculating Costs for Implementation
  • Critical Thinking
  • Defining Mechanisms for Input
  • Defining Purpose of the Strategic Planning Process
  • Developing a Plan for Implementing Strategies
  • Logical Thinking
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Systematic Thinking

Communication

A large part of a strategic planner’s job is communicating a business plan to employers and employees. They have to explain (by both speaking and writing) the steps employees need to take to achieve company goals. Strategic planners also need to be active listeners. They have to listen to the needs of the employers before devising a plan of action. They also need to listen to the concerns and ideas of their peers and subordinates.

  • Collaboration
  • Facilitating Group Discussion
  • Creating Mission/Vision Statements
  • Handling Constructive Criticism
  • Engaging Reluctant Members in Discussions
  • Negotiation
  • People Skills
  • Persuasiveness
  • Pitching
  • Public Speaking
  • MS PowerPoint
  • Presentation
  • Tact
  • Team Building
  • Teamwork
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication
  • Active Listening

Decisiveness

Strategic planning involves frequent decision making. Strategic planners must select a course of action to help a company achieve its goals without constant doubts and overthought. They need to be able to examine all of the information available to them and then confidently make a thoughtful decision.

  • Delegating
  • Assigning Leaders
  • Building Consensus
  • Establishing Measurable Objectives for Goals/Projects
  • Creating and Enforcing Timelines
  • Prioritizing
  • Goal Oriented
  • Confidence

Leadership

A strategic planner has to lead subordinates, peers, and supervisors towards a common goal. This takes strong leadership skills. He or she has to inspire, motivate, and ensure all team members remain loyal to project goals.

  • Energetic
  • Establishing Incentives
  • Charisma
  • Flexibility
  • Interpersonal
  • Management
  • Motivational
  • Recognizing the Contributions of Key Players
  • Resourcefulness

Problem Solving

Often, strategic planners are there to solve a problem. Perhaps a company is not meeting its financial goals, or its processes are running inefficiently. A strategic planner analyzes data related to the problem and then offers a solution.

  • Aligning Business Practices with Emerging Strategy
  • Assessment
  • Brainstorming
  • Creativity
  • Evaluation
  • Identifying Obstacles
  • Problem Sensitivity
  • Multitasking
  • Stress Tolerance

More Strategic Planning Skills

  • Defining Milestones
  • Project Management
  • Auditing
  • Recruiting
  • Memory
  • Human Resources
  • Talent Management
  • Scheduling
  • Process Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Marketing
  • Manufacturing
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Data Analysis
  • Statistics
  • Research
  • Customer Segmentation
  • Recognizing Industry Trends
  • Intentionality
  • Mind Map Software
  • Long-term Planning
  • Sustainability
  • Restructuring
  • Risk Management
  • Benchmarking
  • Causal Relationships

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Add Relevant Skills to Your Resume: You can use these skill words in your resume by including these keywords in descriptions throughout your work history.

Highlight Skills in Your Cover Letter: In the body of your cover letter, try to mention one or two of these skills and give specific examples of how you have demonstrated those skills in the workplace.

Use Skill Words in Your Job Interview: Make sure you have at least one example of a time you demonstrated each of the top skills listed above.

How to become a strategic planning consultant

How to become a strategic planning consultant

Focused women wearing masks in office.

For decades already, strategy consulting is seen as an excellent career starter and high-status job. One makes good money and works for respected clients on interesting and challenging engagements. And those clients are willing to pay large amounts of money for strategy consulting services.

At the same time, strategy consultancies are heavily criticized—by their clients, by former employees and in numerous articles and books carrying titles such as Dangerous Company, Consulting Demons and The Witch Doctors. They are criticized for their arrogance, their pretence of knowledge, their fad-selling, their lack of ethics and responsibility and a host of other criticisms.

Being a strategy consultant myself, this paradox has always intrigued me. It suggests that strategy consulting is important, but that there is something not entirely right about the way it is done. Apparently, the approach used and roles fulfilled by strategy consulting don’t match the real need of their clients in today’s world.

Given that the criticisms date back more than three decades, this has been the case for a while already. But today, in times of radical changes and uncertainty caused by Covid-19, the criticisms apply even more. This means something needs to change in the way strategy consulting is done.

But there is a second paradox here. Traditional strategy consulting (against which the criticisms are leveraged) is expert consulting: clients have problems and questions for which strategy consultants are supposed to find solutions and answers based on their expertise and experience with other clients. In times of uncertainty—especially the magnitude of uncertainty today—clients want solutions and answers even more, because they don’t know these themselves. So there is more need for expert consulting. However, consultancies don’t have these solutions and answers. They don’t know either (or at least I don’t) because they face uncertainty and change too. This suggests that expert consulting is not the way forward.

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As part of the research for my new book Strategy Consulting (freely available until August 24 here), I have tried to identify what the role of a strategy consultant needs to be today, in the “new normal” of continuous uncertainty and disruptive change. I found that, to be effective, a strategy consultant ideally needs to combine no less than nine different roles. They are:

Role 1. Attentive Listener: Listening is crucial. Not just to find out what clients need or what their problems and aspirations are, but also because clients want to be heard. They need someone to share their anxiety and doubts with.

Role 2. Principal Investigator: Strategy consultants don’t need to be data analysts. But they need to be able to connect the dots. By listening to people they can obtain relevant information and turn these into valuable insights.

Role 3. Discussion Leader: Organizations are groups of people. This means that helping organizations generate and execute strategy involves working with people, collaborating and guiding productive dialogues and discussions between them.

Role 4. Critical Inspirator: Consultants don’t need to have the answers, but they are not mere process facilitators either. As valuable outsider, they need to give their ideas and question assumptions and claims that are made. As such, they inspire and challenge their clients to think differently.

Role 5. Communication Channel: Working with people all over the client’s organization, the strategy consultant is a de facto communication channel. They can help make sure that employees’ voices are leveraged and taken into account by the board and management.

Role 6. Progress Manager: Good strategy consulting doesn’t end with a strategy, especially when strategy needs to be updated frequently. To effectuate actual changes, strategy consultants also need to be involved in execution—as mentor and coach making sure progress is being made.

Role 7. Stable Anchor: New strategy tends to lead to significant change. Add to this the uncertain and disruptive world of today, and it is evident that there is much uncertainty and anxiety. This requires an (emotionally) stable anchor on which clients can rely.

Role 8. Moral Guide: The times that consultants could stay neutral and simply follow their client’s requests are over. Especially in these uncertain times, moral guidance is important—not by preaching but by weaving ethics and sustainability intrinsically into the consulting.

Role 9. Practical Educator: With their knowledge of strategy, strategy consultants can have most long-term added value when they help their clients develop and improve their strategic competence. By working closely with clients end educating them, clients learn from the consultants in a practical manner.

Many of these roles were already relevant pre-Covid-19. Listening, for example, was always important. But the roles have become more important today than ever before. This applies specifically to the last three roles—of stable anchor, moral guide and practical educator. It is in these roles that strategy consultants can help their clients develop and improve into organizations that are ready for the new normal.

How to become a strategic planning consultant

Laying the Foundation: Every CDFI needs a policies and procedures manual to guide its operations, strategy, and workflow. But you deserve more – a playbook for daily operations, with all the bells and whistles, but anchored in your specific mission, values, staffing, and borrowers.

Deep Dive of CDFI Loan Fund Operations: What’s holding you back from realizing new growth and increased impact? We evaluate loan fund operations against industry standards and best practice. You get a detailed roadmap to achieving the performance and impacts you aspire to – backed by a one-year implementation plan.

CDFI Fund Applications: We don’t just write these applications; we use proprietary software that reveals your financial health and performance and accelerates preparation of the application. That’s just for starters.

CDFI Fund Certification: Certification is the gateway to achieving your vision for widely shared economic opportunity. Give us 30 minutes and we will tell you if you are ready for certification – at no cost. We then prepare your application and track it until approval!

Financial Growth Model: for growth-oriented lenders, F|A, in partnership with Bumpercrops Consulting, offers a CDFI Financial Growth Model to predict your financial performance into the future. Now you will know what it will take – for capital, reserves, and operating – to reach your 5-year deployment goal. We include a ​ Strategic Financial Growth Plan​ – designed for strategic planning and funding requests – that lays out your growth strategy with crystal clarity.

Strategic Planning: What are the big bold goals that will drive your growth over the next few years? Are they measurable? Will they be driven by action-oriented tactics? This is the kind of strategic plan we facilitate. It produces a unified vision and answers your next question: What do we do tomorrow?

How to become a strategic planning consultant

How to become a strategic planning consultantThis week’s column was sparked by a question from Twitter. An @BlackEnterprise follower, @darishstill, asked @realTAYLORmade:

“I’m considering becoming a self-employed consultant. Do you have any recommendations on self-employment in the current economy?”

Self-employment in this economy is not impossible, but it does require hard work and a strategic approach. Consultancy can prove to be a very lucrative career path, however, there can be uncertainty in whether you’ll close the deal, get a contract renewed, or maintain regular clients. Here are four tips on what you should do before quitting your job to become an independent consultant:

EXPAND YOUR NETWORK. Ideally, you want to be consulting in a field that you’ve been working in for quite some time or have some degree of experience in. Also, you should have established relationships with colleagues, companies, and experts in the field. These relationships could potentially result in future business deals for you as a consultant.

Before you take the step toward working for yourself, it’s important that you have a significant network of individuals or businesses to support your vision. It’s difficult to get work as a consultant when no one knows who you are or can vouch for the great work you do. Growing your network will be the most important step toward self-employment because you’ll start off with a base of professionals who can attest to your skills based on past experience.

Grow your network by establishing and cultivating as many relationships as you can with key stakeholders while you’re still an employee in the field. Once you move on, people will remember who you are.

DRAFT A FINANCIAL AND BUSINESS PLAN. Because consultant work can be uncertain, it’s extremely important you have saved enough money to make it through times when work isn’t pouring in.

Before quitting your job to become an independent consultant, be sure that you’ve saved at least six to 12 months of living expenses. Yes, this may be hard to do in today’s tough economy, but it’s a sacrifice that must be made. In the event that you aren’t able to save this much money—maybe you were laid off)— the alternative is to create additional streams of income while trying to get your consultant work off the ground. If you have a hobby or talent, turn it into a side-hustle and make extra money doing things that you normally would do for free. Clean out your garage or attic and sell some items on eBay. Become a substitute teacher, a dog walker, or a secret shopper.

Do whatever it takes to generate income while you remain focused on your goal of becoming an independent consultant. You’ll reap the benefits soon enough.

Also, create a business plan that takes into account expenses for marketing, travel, technology, taxes, and other essentials. Know your rates and standards for doing business beforehand, and set goals for yourself in terms of profits and revenues.

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About this course

This program is a certification program of the Institute of Certified Business Consultants. This is a highly practical course to help develop and enhance your strategic business skills. Certificate in Strategic Planning satisfies the educational requirements of the Certified Strategic Planner designation.

Experience requirement for the certification is three years.

Who should take this course?

This course is designed for those responsible for strategic management, finance management, business analysis, group accountancy, corporate development, operations, business development and planning, business performance, planning
and budgeting, marketing information, research and development, business systems management, business project management, business information and corporate planning.

The Strategic Planning Process

In today’s highly competitive business environment, budget-orientated planning or forecast-based planning methods are insufficient for a large corporation to survive and prosper. The firm must engage in strategic planning that clearly defines objectives and addresses both the internal and external situation to formulate strategy, implement the strategy, evaluate the progress, and make adjustments as necessary to stay on track.

Therefore strategic planning is not a product but a process. It requires the ability to work closely with a management team, to provide a framework for exploring options, to challenge conventional thinking, and to build consensus around a pragmatic plan.

Learning Objectives

  • Makethe best strategic choices to ensure better bottom line results;
  • Evaluate your business strategy to increase business effectiveness;
  • Formulate business strategy in the face of increased globalization;
  • Successfullyimplement strategic change across the organization and match business operations with your business plan;
  • Maximizeyour marketing and sales strategies to beat competition and align financial planning with your business;

Examination

Completion of the certification program requires completion of a multiple choice examination.

Professional Designation

Successful candidates are granted the designation of CSP. The designation CSP may be used just as similar recognitions are employed in accounting, insurance, medicine, law, and other professions. Either the full expression or the initials may be used after the individual’s name on business cards, stationery, etc.

If you are interested in taking this course, please contact: