It’s true that most management consultants spend a lot of time out of the office, in their client’s locations. It’s a continual part of the job.
Management consultants travel for the following 5 reasons:
- To conduct interviews with employees and stakeholders
- Observing business operations
- To assess current systems and processes
- To identify strengths and weaknesses
- Review documents and data
In this post, I’ll look at the five most common reasons why consultants travel a lot. I’ll also look at how often consultants travel.
Do Consultants Travel A Lot?
Though it’s not true that every consultant will travel a lot, most of them will.
Why is this?
Travel comes with the very nature of the work. Consultants are required to be on-site at the locations of their clients.
Being on-site will help them to:
- Observe business operations
- Gather information
- See paperwork
- Conduct interviews with employees and investors
It is common for consultants to spend a lot of time on the road. This helps them to carry out their work more effectively and helps build strong relationships with clients.
How Often Do Consultants Travel?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this question.
Pretty much all consultants travel, but the amount that this happens will depend on several factors, such as:
- Their field of expertise
- The location of their clients. If these are relatively local, then less travel is required. The further away the clients the more travel (obviously!)
- The specific demands of the projects they work on
Many consultants will maintain a balance of on-site work with more remote work.
Some consultants will be traveling most of the week, some just half the week, and others just several times a year.
5 Reasons Why Consultants Travel A Lot
Let’s take a look at why consultants travel so much, and what they do when they travel.
1. Interviews With Employees, Executives, And Stakeholders
One of the big roles of going on-site with clients is to interview different people to gather insights and information about the business.
Consultants will regularly interview:
- Stakeholders and investors in the business
A consultant will often follow a six-step process for interviews such as these. The six steps are:
Step 1 – Preparation
Before engaging in interviews, the consultant will review background information on the company. They will formulate some questions.
Step 2 – Introduction
Establish rapport at the beginning of the meeting, and explain why they are there and the purpose of the meeting.
Step 3 – Questioning
Consultants aim to use open-ended questions to encourage in-depth responses. They will ask follow-up questions to get more information.
Step 4 – Listening
Listen carefully! And take detailed notes of the interactions.
Step 5 – Follow-Up
Continue asking follow-up questions, and probe for as much information as is required.
Step 6 – Closing
Thank the person that has been interviewed for their time. Give an overview of any next steps if this is appropriate.
The big goal of all these interviews is to gain the deepest possible understanding of the client’s:
- Areas for development.
2. Observing Business Operations
Another key role of working on-site is to observe business operations at the client’s location. The consultant is aiming to gain a high-quality understanding of the company’s:
They will do this using the following methods:
- Planning – Discuss with objectives their observations with the clients. Jointly decide what particular areas of the business need to be observed to be able to formulate an action plan that will have the most impact
- Interviews – As discussed above, the consultant will conduct interviews with employees and investors
- Shadowing – The consultant will observe employees as they carry out their day-to-day tasks
- Data Collection – Consultants will gather data on the company’s operations, such as process times and production data.
- Documentation – Consultants will create detailed notes on what they observe and areas for improvement
The observations that are carried out will inform what the consultant recommends as action points to move forward. (Source)
3. Assessing Current Systems And Processes
When on-site in a client’s location, a consultant will assess all the current systems and processes. They will be getting an understanding of strengths, and areas for improvement.
Assessing systems and process normally follows these steps:
Step 1 – Review
Examine data and documents related to the systems and processes
Step 2 – Assessment
Evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the systems and processes
Step 3 – Testing
Conduct tests to see how the systems and processes actually perform under different possible conditions
Step 4 – Feedback
Get feedback about the systems and processes from:
Step 5 – Analysis
Analyze the data and give detailed feedback on areas for development.
4. Identifying Strengths And Weaknesses
A big part of a consultants role is assessing strengths and weaknesses.
This can only really be done effectively on-site.
The consultant will be assessing strengths and weaknesses by evaluating a company’s:
- People – including the skills and abilities of the workforce and leaders
- Performance – the financial and operational performance of the company (revenue and market share)
- Operations – The efficiency and effectiveness of the company’s operations and systems
- Market – How are the company positioned in the market?
- Technology – How is the company’s technological infrastructure working, and is it aligned with the company’s goals
5. Reviewing Documents And Data
As well as witnessing all the real-world work, consultants will also be interested in reviewing documents and data at a client’s location.
Documents will be particularly used to understand a company’s:
- Financial performance
There is often a 5-step plan used, which is the following:
Step 1 – Request
Ask the company for all relevant documents and data (usually before the visit)
Step 2 – Organize
On receipt of the documents, organize them into categories for easier analysis
Step 3 – Analysis
Make a full analysis of the data to understand patterns, and trends
Step 4 – Verification
Verify the data is accurate. Cross-reference other sources if this is necessary.
Step 5 – Synthesis
Synthesize all the data to gain a full understanding of the company’s performance.
Consultants review documents and data at a client’s location to gather information about the company’s operations, financial performance, and goals. They typically follow these steps:
As with all the other benefits of on-site working, the consultant will then use the information gathered from this exercise to inform the next steps for the company.