Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

The Impact of Consulting Service on Spanish Firms

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

The Impact of Consulting Service on Spanish Firms

Article excerpt


Specialized services that help in efficient decision-making in company management--that is consulting service--undoubtedly make up one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy in most European countries and in Spain (Rubalcaba 1997; Camacho 1998; Gonzalez 1999).

There is a huge amount of literature available on the subject of consulting, and it often is stated that the consultant contributes a large dose of common sense to a management situation that is not always rational. (1) However, the consultant is not a magician who discovers what the client did not know, although the consultant is able to look at the problem from a more appropriate angle and his or her services should be more widely used. Technically speaking, this paper asserts that consulting is the planned intervention in a company with the aim of identifying the problems that may exist in its organization and implementing those measures considered suitable and fitting in order to resolve them (Shapiro, Eccles, and Soske 1993).

The evaluation of the effects of the consulting process generally is per formed by looking at the behavior of the company (Schein 1988; Aharoni 1997). It is accepted that the benefits of the management process are not limited to just putting the recommendations into practice (Aharoni 1997); they also should include the changes and development brought about by the process. In this study, from the recommendations made by the consultant, only the short-term financial benefits of the project can be evaluated given the difficulty involved in evaluating the quality of the service (Ivancevich et al. 1996). This is increasingly so, taken into account that Spanish firms find themselves in a difficult moment, as they currently are adapting themselves to the implementation of the "culture of quality" regarding both their products and suppliers. Quality management systems, such as the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) in the case of many European companies, are still a long way from being part of the cultural and strategic reality of the commercial sector in Spain.

The present study analyzes external consulting in Spanish commercial and distribution firms by looking at management decisions concerning activities related to organization, quality, marketing, and strategy. (2) This analysis can be extrapolated to other European areas, especially those around the Mediterranean Sea. Authors such as Cuadrado and Rubalcaba (1993) do not observe regional differences in the demand for services, but other studies show different behavior according to the sector to which the activity belongs (Quasar 1988; (3) Quasar 1990 (4)) and according to location (Quasar 1988; Quasar 1990; Hermosilla 1997). This study examines the effect of management consulting on the company when there is the intervention of an external adviser--in other words, when there is an increase in the company's knowledge and capabilities in these activities, enabling a later investigation and evaluation of its impact on the firm's situation in the future.

The Research

A questionnaire was devised to allow face-to-face or over-the-phone interviews in a sample of Spanish commercial or distribution firms, which were selected from the most important throughout Spain. Using sampling criteria from the Spanish Ministerio de Economia y Hacienda's Subsecretaria de Comercio, this segmenting was done from those medium-sized companies (between 50 and 250 employees) that were considered innovative, according to the 1999 database. That is to say, they had been judged favorably when it came to granting them aid or subsidy according to whether or not they were meeting goals concerning management, location and products, growth strategy, and future planning.

The Data

The sample was Spanish companies that were potential users of consulting services. 1,000 companies were selected using judgment sampling criteria and insuring the inclusion of firms with a greater capacity to seek consulting services. …

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