When your kids ask you: 'what you do at work?' and you’re a ‘business strategy consultant’

4 min read
Sep 19, 2023 5:17:59 AM


My kids are old enough now to be, at least occasionally, interested in what Dad does at work but at 10 & 7 telling them I’m a ‘business strategy consultant’ probably isn’t going to help – and let’s face it, saying that to adults is probably also, for the most part, going to get a blank look or a polite ‘that’s interesting’.  But getting asked the question did get me thinking about how we might simply put what a strategy consultant does that adds value because it’s a question clients ask too. 


"What is a business strategy consultant, Dad?!"

I’m obviously biased, I’ve been consulting for over ten years now and have heard from clients lots of different ways we add value. Some are very large and some are much smaller and more personal, all of them make a difference.  While undoubtedly there are some really technical ways in which strategy consulting adds value here are a few things, that for me, often make the biggest difference in some of the simplest ways: 
Fresh eyes to reframe what’s possible 
First and perhaps most obviously we bring fresh eyes.  We see things that it can be hard for organisations to see when they are immersed so deeply in current ways of working or find that their frames of reference that have become second nature.  Our external point of view is valuable precisely because it is not limited to approaches repeated so often that they have become second nature.  Switching this frame of reference can almost immediately help generate new opportunities for anything from business growth to ways of working.  With fresh eyes we’ve helped clients reconsider how they see the category they play in and open up opportunities for double digit growth. 
Challenge & stretch to take teams further 
In a similar vein we are also able to challenge and stretch teams, to drive focus and clarity.  We can enable teams to prioritize, defining where they can make the biggest potential impact.  We help channel resources, energy and engagement into these spaces helping teams deliver disproportionate success by helping not just say ‘yes’ to some priorities but equally importantly ‘no’ to others – and we all know that saying no can be incredibly challenging to do.  We’ve challenged teams to step back and focus on the priority choices that will drive growth, reducing project workload and increasing potential growth at the same time. 
Consumer & category reality that drives success 
Often, we find that our addition to a team or project helps restore, or step up, an external consumer and category-driven perspective for a client.  Sitting outside the immediate business we can encourage a focus on the wider environment and underlying insight that team has and how this threads through their thinking (or doesn’t).  This enables us to increase the chances of success for a project by ensuring it is built on candid, realistic insights into what people really want, and how this fits into the category itself.

We’ve all seen projects that, in retrospect, are based more on internal reality and a well-intentioned desire for success that they might have otherwise been.  We help clients build consumer driven foundations for growth that clearly articulate real in-market behaviors they can understand and address in tangible ways that will help them create more value for consumers and shoppers. 
Show what good really looks like 
Sitting outside the day-to-day business means we’re also able to bring new perspective on what good really looks like.  This can simply be interrogating existing work to elevate it further, identifying areas where there are opportunities for improvement and enabling teams to step up to accelerate their thinking and we can be a catalyst to create change.  Equally, sitting outside the business means we bring a wealth of external examples to the table so we can show teams what good really looks like out there beyond their own four walls and then support them to elevate their own capabilities to match or exceed them. Finding the right idea is often about finding the right stimulus to help teams see what is possible and our collective ‘team brain’ has years of experience and tons of ideas contained in it. 
Joining the dots 
We also help by taking a step back, to borrow from an old analogy, we look for the wood not the trees.  This bigger picture helps us join the dots between projects, teams and priorities in simpler or more intuitive ways.  We’re not bound by the current ways of working and we’ve experienced a huge range of alternatives across the array of clients we work with.  So, we can help simplify and integrate different parts of processes or connections between teams to make them seamless– as well as remove things that duplicate effort or add minimal value in return for the time they take.  We’ve taken complex brand building or category vision processes and distilled it down to a single digit number of steps with simple tools to support the thinking teams need to do at each 
Finally, while not perhaps your typical consulting deliverable, empathy is a huge value add.  It allows us to both champion and challenge the clients we work with, while ensuring that doing so is a constructive process that moves work forwards.  Empathy lets us challenge respectfully and be the catalyst that accelerates the development and implementation of solutions to problems.  Empathy is a cornerstone for candid conversations that lets teams work faster and more collaboratively together.  Empathy is essential for building solutions that really stick long after we’ve left the building. It helps ensure there is a genuine understanding of the problem we’re trying to solve and how.

I believe this is one of the big reasons so much of our business is repeat business, we have longstanding client relationships (of over 10 years in many cases) because we’re partners who can empathise and clients know we’re committed to making a difference when large scale behavior change takes time.
So, while these are what came to mind when I started thinking about just how a business strategy consultant adds value, the one answer I suspect people still want to hear is, what did I tell my kids?   

I told them:  
“I help solve problems people have so they can make a bigger difference at what they do” 
And, just perhaps, this is really the only thing we need to think about when it comes to adding value. If I can help solve a problem, so you can make a bigger difference, give me a shout. 



Jon Plant

Jon is a Director here at Oxford, focused on finding beautifully simple growth solutions to business challenges. Can we help you too?  Get in touch.  



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