PracticeConsultingThe corridors of power…

The corridors of power...

Why anyone would ever hire a management consultant is a mystery to me. These anonymous men in suits specialise in barging in at poorly performing companies and leaving them even worse off than they were in the first place. They charge eye-watering fees and leave a trail of destruction.

British Airways and J Sainsbury have each made extensive use of consultants. The phrase ‘money down the drain’ comes to mind.

Lynton Barker, chairman of the Management Consultancies Association, insists that my image of consultants is out of date. Firms today are more likely to be paid on a results-basis rather than earning big retainers. Not all consultants are MBAs: everyone seems to offer an MBA course these days, and they have become devalued.

Yes, Barker admits, consultants can be self-important and abrasive. But they can provide valuable input for senior management. It’s not just a case of telling the chief executive what he already knows.

One of my complaints was that any failed executive could set himself up as a consultant. Barker says this only applies to one-man bands. The bursting of the dotcom bubble, and subsequent jobs shakeout, has left only the best working for the bigger firms.

Barker called me in for a briefing on consultants – but can’t claim to speak for everyone. The MCA represents 38,000 consultants. Its members including Accenture and Capgemini. But the big strategy firms – notably McKinsey and Bain & Co – are not members. They see themselves as a cut above the consulting pack.

When asked whether it was interested in joining the MCA, McKinsey is said to have replied: ‘We are not a consultancy. We are “McKinsey”.’ Small wonder that it produced the likes of William Hague.

Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times

Related Articles

5 tips for SMEs to protect cash flow

Accounting Software 5 tips for SMEs to protect cash flow

5m Alia Shoaib, Reporter
Tyrie on Finance Bill 2017: ‘Making Tax Policy Better’

Consulting Tyrie on Finance Bill 2017: ‘Making Tax Policy Better’

11m Stephanie Wix, Writer
Managing partner Q&A - the year ahead: Richard Toone, CVR Global

Accounting Firms Managing partner Q&A - the year ahead: Richard Toone, CVR Global

12m Kevin Reed, Writer
Deloitte 'self-imposes exile' on government contracts to defuse PM row

Accounting Firms Deloitte 'self-imposes exile' on government contracts to defuse PM row

12m Kevin Reed, Writer
Managing partner Q&A - the year ahead: Julie Adams, Menzies

Accounting Firms Managing partner Q&A - the year ahead: Julie Adams, Menzies

12m Kevin Reed, Writer
Friday Afternoon Live: Deloitte's tech thing; PAC wants HMRC 'contingencies'; and Sports Direct

Business Regulation Friday Afternoon Live: Deloitte's tech thing; PAC wants HMRC 'contingencies'; and Sports Direct

1y Kevin Reed, Writer
Friday Afternoon Live: HMRC complaints rise; Deloitte scoops big audits; and corporate reporting woes

Audit Friday Afternoon Live: HMRC complaints rise; Deloitte scoops big audits; and corporate reporting woes

1y Kevin Reed, Writer
New head of equity capital markets for KPMG

Accounting Firms New head of equity capital markets for KPMG

1y Stephanie Wix, Writer