A planning consultant assists the top management of companies with planning their business--determining how best to employ the company’s resources to increase revenues and profits. The consultant is often called in because the company does not have an in-house planning staff. Planning consultants help small or early stage companies prepare business plans or other materials to present to potential investors. Their consulting engagements with larger companies can involve assisting with implementation of a strategic planning or budgeting system. They may also be called in to help with special projects that require planning expertise, such as a merger or acquisition project.
The planning consultant is a true generalist who must be skilled in a number of business disciplines, particularly financial analysis and strategic marketing planning. The consultant must also have an understanding of general business management principles and operations. The consultant must be proficient in word processing and spreadsheet software, and be highly effective with both oral and written communication.
Education and Training
Planning consultants are expected to have earned a college degree in business. Many major in finance or accounting. Consultants often have earned an advanced degree such as a MBA degree as well. Planning consultants often begin as financial analysts with large corporations, where they learn the principles of corporate planning and budgeting. They may also come from marketing management or operations positions.
A planning consultant usually works with companies in a number of different industries, so a primary challenge is quickly learning about the client company and the industry it operates in at the beginning of the engagement. Consultants must be able to quickly gather information needed to create the strategic plan. They have to be skilled interviewers who can work with people in all different departments of a company. The consultant often plays the role of teacher--or coach--to help non-planning oriented managers understand how a strategic plan is constructed and how it contributes to the future success of the company.
Keys to Success
Consultants often quote fees on a per project basis. They must be highly effective at time management, so the project can be completed on time and within the number of hours estimated. If not, the profit they earn on the project is reduced. They must be able to work on several projects at once. They must be persuasive and personable enough to be able to convince company executives to hire them. A consultant must be able to collect money from clients in a determined, but tactful way.
Planning consultants can earn fees of $50 to $150 per hour depending on their experience. Besides the financial rewards, the consultant gets the psychological reward that comes from helping a client succeed. The consultant often contributes strategic ideas that the company uses to increase revenues and profits. Independence is one very significant reward. A planning consultant gets to be his own boss.