When Should You Bring in a Freelance Strategy Consultant?

June 26, 2018 Emily Slayton

freelance strategy consultant people writing on whiteboard

Growth can come from many directions. Should you move your current products into an adjacent market or build the next big thing? Should you focus on growing margins or on optimizing your product portfolio? What’s the best way to streamline your strategic priorities?

And how can you avoid what Richard Rumelt so memorably called bad strategy—failing to face the problem, mistaking goals for strategy, and incorporating too many fuzzy, jargon-filled objectives into strategic plans?

One way is to make sure you’ve put the right team in place. Successful strategies require talent with the expertise to evaluate new opportunities, develop winning strategic plans, and implement those strategies. That can be a tall order for even the most sophisticated companies, which is probably why freelance strategy consulting was the second-most common service requested by BTG clients last year.

The right team at the right time

When it comes to building successful strategies, the hardest part—and the most critical—is identifying, acknowledging, and resolving your weaknesses. At BTG, we find that businesses seek support from our freelance strategic planning consultants to fill the following gaps:

  • Growth planning expertise
    Most companies don’t lack for ideas about new avenues for growth. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to determine which products/services, markets, or geographical areas are most likely to promote and sustain optimal growth.
  • Operational efficiency expertise
    Cost-control is always a big concern. So how can you cut the fat in your company’s processes without severing critical muscles?
  • Organizational development expertise
    Aligning corporate culture with broader corporate goals is essential to successful strategy execution.
  • Lack of resources
    It’s impractical for even the largest companies to keep all the expertise they need on staff. So what happens when updating strategic plans requires a detailed analysis that can’t be done internally?
  • Lack of bandwidth
    In other cases, the team is simply stretched too thin to take on another strategy project.

How freelance strategy consultants can help

For companies that don’t have an internal strategy group, the benefits of seeking freelance strategy consulting assistance are apparent. Other companies, however, already have an internal strategy group in place. Even then, there might be areas in which additional support is warranted.

An example would be a business that is eyeing unfamiliar new markets, or one that is evaluating an acquisition. The experienced, objective perspective offered by an independent strategy consultant makes an ideal complement to the business’ internal resources.

Freelance strategic planning specialists offer specific domain expertise without the hassle and expense of big consulting firms by providing:

  • Targeted, practical strategic advice
  • A cost-effective external perspective
  • Detailed evaluations of potential markets, competitive dynamics and major trends

Many also have experience with developing a structural framework for problem solving. By combining this with a thorough understanding of the industry, market, customer base, or competitive landscape, they’re able to help companies develop and implement an effective top- or bottom-line strategy.

Dispelling myths about freelance strategy consultants

Though an increasing number of businesses are picking up the freelance model due to the many benefits it offers, some are still hesitant to bring in an outsider to help with critical strategic initiatives. Executives worry that an independent strategic consultant might want to change their methodology, or that they might not have access to enough—or the right kind of—data, or that a permanent hire might be a better solution.

It’s smart to be selective in whom you bring on board, but rest assured that these particular worries are unfounded. Freelance strategic planning consultants are trained to work with your team and your methodology; any tweaks or shifts will be designed with optimization in mind. Many consultants also partner with research firms to provide the data they need for thorough strategic analysis.

And though a permanent hire is appropriate in many cases, this is probably not one of them. You’ll lose momentum and miss out on potential opportunities while you search for and onboard a candidate you can only hope works out. The agility of on-demand talent is likely why, according to Randstadt Sourceright’s Q4 2017 Talent Trends report, 61% of employers plan to replace up to 30% of their permanent positions with freelancers, gig workers, and independent consultants.

A flexible solution for strategy projects

It’s important to work with consultants who “get” your vision and who complement your existing team. If you go to a large consulting firm, however, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to handpick the team you’re working with. You’ll often get whoever’s available, without as much attention to whether they’re a fit for your project. They might have functional experience or industry experience, but rarely both.

At companies like Business Talent Group, you get a lot more flexibility of choice. We let you pick from a robust pool of world-class strategists who have trained at top firms and have real-world executive experience. The team you assemble can be selected based on background, skill set, and experience level, and our consultants can ramp up or down on their given projects, as needed. Plus, you’ll frequently find our freelance planning consultants possess both functional and industry experience, which allows them to provide not just a comprehensive strategy but a practical one.

Here are just a few ways we’ve helped growing businesses achieve strategic success:

  • Growth Strategy
    The product team at a multi-billion dollar financial services company was too busy to craft a long-term strategy for maintaining the success of a newly acquired business. Business Talent Group put together an experienced team of freelance financial services consultants that identified and prioritized four major avenues of growth in just eight weeks, resulting in a sizable expansion of the company’s technology platform and its ability to serve a new channel.
  • Sales Strategy
    A medical device manufacturer had just launched a product that dramatically cut patient recovery time—as well as recovery-related expenses. Could the company accelerate sales by working with healthcare payers and IDNs, rather than physicians? Business Talent Group assembled a tight two-person team of freelance healthcare experts. Together, they interviewed payer representatives, refined value propositions, and provided a topline estimate of the opportunity’s magnitude.
  • Supply Chain Strategy
    The board of a major consumer goods company wanted to explore the innovations that were most likely to disrupt its supply chain in the next ten years—from POS labeling to 3D printing—and where the top threats and opportunities lay. Business Talent Group’s team of freelance operations consultants to investigate. The eight-week project culminated in a board presentation and a prioritized action list of more than 20 transformational concepts.

Learn more about what our freelance strategic planning specialists can do for you, or tell us about your project. Then we can help match you with the right consultant to keep your business growing in the right direction.

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About the Author

Emily Slayton

Emily is an award-winning writer who specializes in B2B marketing. She has been helping global brands reach targeted audiences to drive sales and awareness for more than 15 years. As a small business owner herself (skeletonkeybrewery.com), she understands what it's like to source a team that can scale with sudden growth.

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