Consulting Has Its Enticements

By Farrell Kramer Ap Business | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 16, 1993 | Go to article overview
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Consulting Has Its Enticements

Farrell Kramer Ap Business, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

It's not the kind of career people dream about when they're growing up, like becoming an astronaut, or a baseball player or even president of the United States. Being a consultant doesn't rate quite that high.

Few people probably even know what consultants do for a living.

But in the slow growth, nose-to-the-grindstone 1990s, where "hot" careers like law and investment banking have cooled, young people are searching for new directions in their work. In growing numbers, they're turning to consulting.

Beth Bradmon, 28 years old and sporting a newly won MBA from Columbia University's business school, ranks among them. She's just been hired by the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand as a real estate consultant.

"I liked the idea of consulting," Bradmon said recently. "Especially the way the market is now."

The term consultant covers a lot of ground. Consultants analyze management practices, the very way companies are run. They suggest methods to organize operations and staff, devise ways to improve the quality of products and services offered and come up with ideas for companies to win market share from competitors.

Consultants also sell expertise in technology, compensation, personnel practices and more. When companies go through reorganizations, repositionings or other major changes, consultants thrive.

That accounts for some of the industry's recent popularity.

"Part of my choosing to go into consulting was that I knew that you have your hands on everything, and that's good in terms of personal growth and personal development," Bradmon said during a recent interview.

"There are people out there who love to come in and push the same papers day in and day out in the same order and that's great. . . . That would make me insane!"

Consultants can be found everywhere, working for firms of all sizes. They can be self-employed experts, university professors who consult part-time or retirees looking for extra money.

David Lord, editor of Consultants News, an industry newsletter, said about one in five MBAs from top schools today go into consulting. Most are hired by large consulting firms or other companies offering consulting services, such as accounting firms and computer maker International Business Machines Corp.

The enticements of a high salary, prestige and a fast track to the top are powerful, particularly in a weak economy.

Worldwide consulting in 1992 generated $28.3 billion in revenue, up 12 percent from a year ago, according to Consultants News. Revenue generated in the United States totaled $15.2 billion and the world's 10 largest consultancies were U.S. firms.

There are about 80,000 consultants in North America who specialize in management issues such as reorganization and restructuring.

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