Business consultants need cars

Nobody knows what they are really doing with their Excel tables and PowerPoint slides. Nevertheless, the consulting firms in Germany have been growing for years - over the past eight years it has been an average of 7.5 percent per year. And they are constantly hiring additional consultants. In view of this development and many bad prejudices, one can certainly ask what role consultants have in the success of a company.

Many railway workers, for example, are currently doubting that more external advice is always better. Deutsche Bahn spends hundreds of millions of euros every year to get better with McKinsey, Boston Consulting and Strategy &. Even so, the trains often arrive too late, and there is a lack of profitability. The railway "does not need any more external consultants, it needs the expertise that is available in-house in the operational business and only has to be accessed," said the head of the railway and transport union Alexander Kirchner recently. How it would have been for the railways without the consultants: You don't know.

It is often said of consultants that they knew everything better, spoke incomprehensibly and ruthlessly turned companies upside down. And, even worse: consultants usually have no idea. In fact, the industry relies on newcomers who often only know the business world from the classroom. This does not even apply to career changers, for example from physics, psychology or philosophy. Can they really help experienced specialists and managers? The management consultant Elke Benning-Rohnke is convinced, she says: "What makes the young consultants so efficient are the methods and techniques that they learn very quickly in the consulting company."

Whoever says management consultant often means the big strategy consultancies, those who are called in to turn entire companies upside down, to smash them, to cut jobs. That's why they have a reputation for being the really bad guys. Your clients are also quite happy with this, because they overlook the fact that it is always up to the management, the supervisory board or the owners to accept suggestions or not. Increasingly, companies are also calling on consultants for special tasks, experts or trainers for specific areas such as IT and new applications, as moderators who bring departments together and lead constructive discussions, as data analysts.

Always a night ahead

To do this, they do not necessarily have to understand anything about the product or market segment. "What management consultants have to be good at: recognizing, processing and evaluating the right data from a high level of complexity of data," says Benning-Rohnke. The more companies and problems a consultant has got to know, the better he gets at it.

The expertise is in the company. That is one of the rules according to which the consulting business functions with its tasks for newcomers and career changers. The often reported high number of overtime that consultants have to work is also due to the fact that the consultants have to do research every evening and do preliminary research for the next day.

There are three reasons to get advice in-house: The company wants to buy specialist knowledge. The company needs people who can recognize and name problems without hierarchical obligations - and who can work out proposed solutions. Or: the company is overloaded. The more intensive the cooperation with consulting companies, the more often this can be observed. "Today, consulting assignments are often about doing tasks that the company used to do itself and which it can no longer cope with today with a thinner staffing level," says management consultant Benning-Rohnke.