Some Thoughts on Value

Throughout my career, I cannot recall a time when the value of management consultants wasn’t a topic of conversation and some heated debate. Many people call themselves consultants; fewer refer to themselves as management consultants and even fewer carry the CMC designation. The fees charged by consultants of all stripes are often reported by the media in a way that makes them appear excessive. The real test of a consultant is the value he/she brings to the assignment.

Fees and Value

Fees are both market and cost driven. The public and unfortunately many clients are under the false impression that the fees that they are charged end up directly as cash in the pockets of their consultants. The truth is that fees are intended to provide a living for the consultant and their employees, pay the business related bills, as well as assure adequate investment in the intellectual and physical capital required to deliver a professional service.

Clients, however, are looking for value – “what do I get for my money?” If you are highly visible and accomplished in a sector or if you have the benefits of a strong global or national brand, it is a lot easier to make the case for higher fees. Ultimately, it comes down to what you can bring to a client and especially, to their issues and problems. It is up to the client to assess whether the fees provide value – a value derived from the benefits realized by the client as a result of the work with the consultant, often improved revenue, reduced costs, or increased capacity.

The Basic Value of Management Consulting

When a client calls upon external expertise to address the unsolvable, the ‘ask’ generally comes with a number of risks to senior leadership. As a consequence, long-term success in the consulting profession rests upon building and maintaining trust-based relationships with proven results. To that end, mature consultancies invest in creation of an environment that fosters trust; professionals are expected to adopt, integrate, and demonstrate a corporate culture, a set of values, practice ethically, and aspire to intellectual and community leadership.
Value for clients and the public rests upon assurance that the professional consultant undertakes their work diligently, with care, and under the watchful eye of experienced leaders. In short, the value tradeoff is professional fees for access to leading edge methods and collective wisdom applied to a high risk and often, complex set of issues delivered by highly skilled consultants.

Value is Relative

It is inevitable that many consulting professionals who begin their careers in the structured and disciplined world of a major consultancy will seek out new platforms – often as individual practitioners, or members of a smaller collective of experts focused on a sector, geography, or method. Once removed from the large firm environment, the culture in which these consultants were so deeply ingrained shapes their future practices.
There are many other consultants who have worked directly in an industry or government and step out and set up practice to deliver management advice to their industry or government portfolio.
In all cases, how does one explain consulting fees in an era of deep discounting and radical, low-cost business models? For current and potential clients assessing the fees and by extension, the value of the contribution of a consultant depends on the combination of experience, specialized knowledge, trust, and proven results.

Where Does Certification Fit – for clients?

Regardless of a consultant’s circumstances, the CMC designation assures the client that they have engaged a professional who will deliver a higher level of management consulting through assurance that the individual has:

  • Completed a rigorous certification process;
  • A record of successful assignments;
  • The endorsement of recognized practitioners;
  • Demonstrated an ongoing commitment to management consulting as both a profession and a career; and
  • Is subject to the Professional Code of Ethics.

The result of all of the experience, independent verification, and validation training and oversight is that a client can expect better value from assignments delivered by CMCs. Clients can have faith that their consultants will act in a professional and ethical manner. Good management will reduce times to deliver and lower project costs, while consistent application of the consulting process in an ethical framework will enhance the quality, consistency, and reliability of the assignments. CMCs work effectively with multidisciplinary teams to integrate expertise and ultimately, how to solve big problems.

Where Does Certification Fit – for consultants?

Practitioners who carry the CMC designation set themselves apart from the larger group in the marketplace who identify themselves as management consultants.

Achieving the CMC designation indicates that a person has committed to a career as a management consultant. Applicants for the CMC designation must have a minimum of three years’ experience in management consulting before they can be certified. The designation process and the resulting CMC certification are regulated in most provinces. The provincial institutes provide oversight and deliver disciplinary action if required. The designation process and regulatory oversight assure a high caliber of standardized management consulting service delivery from CMCs.
When it comes to setting fees, individuals who have earned the CMC designation have the experience to understand the value of the services they bring to their clients and can justify their fees in context of that value.

What is the Value of the Association?

CMC-Canada strives to advance the practice and profile of management consulting in Canada. Value thus is tied to our purpose and thus may be viewed as the sum a number of parts including delivering a rigorous certification process, assuring opportunity for continuous professional development, promoting ethical standards and professional competency, and advocating on behalf of the profession.

The Association is an integral element of your personal value proposition. What is it worth to you to stand apart?