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The Rise of the Independent Consultant

​Consulting is evolving.

The traditional strategy houses are an obvious example of this and the changing landscape is reflective of the cost-conscious times that we live in. HBS review recently reported that the share of work that could be described as ‘classic strategy’ has steadily decreased from 70% thirty years ago to approximately 20% today.

The fundamentals of the management consulting business model have remained the same since Arthur D. Little was founded by Arthur Dehon Little in 1909. For more than a century it involved sending smart ‘outsiders’ into organisations for a period of time and tasking them with recommending solutions to solve key business problems, often creating more problems to solve in the meantime! Only recently has this classic consulting approach been challenged by a model seen elsewhere within the professional services industry – the rise of the independent.

Looking back to 2007, the alumni of MBB (Mckinsey, Bain and BCG) totalled 50,000 and this has continued to grow at a serious rate over the past few years. This mean there is now a high calibre group of ex-consultants able to provide companies with a more flexible, cost efficient solution, hence the rise of the independent consultant. This development has also encouraged some new alternative professional services firms to come to the fore. An example of this is Eden McCallum, who have built their business on the rise of the independent consultant. They assemble leaner project teams of freelance consultants for clients at a fraction of the cost. This can be achieved because they don’t carry the costs attached to year round staffing; expensive offices, recruiting and training.

This type of alternative business provides a platform for the independent consultant and allows them to focus on delivery, but there are many independents who are enjoy the challenge of ‘selling their product’, pitching and delivering.

Independent consultants and the likes of Eden McCallum may not be able to deliver the entire project lifecycle, but they do provide many advantages to the client. Whether it be a single consultant or a project team, the client will generally be engaging with more experienced consultants who can bring a greater degree of pragmatism and likely, a more industry-specific skill set. The client will also assume a greater control over the approach and the outcome.

Things evolve and the consulting landscape is certainly evolving. Being an independent consultant is now seen as a viable career choice, one that many high calibre professionals are making. This provides options for clients, large and small and this alternative model is getting real traction with business traditionally served by the likes of MBB. This is a fascinating time to be working in the industry with a plenty of market share to be won.