• Bio: Ian is a consultant at The Berkeley Partnership having previously worked in EY’s Advisory Practice. He has nine years of experience on a variety of client engagements from strategy definition, operating model and organisational model design to business case development and major programme implementation.

Ian Herbert

Why did you choose a career in the industry?

I wanted a career that would let me get involved in solving big problems, work in a strong team, allow me to get really into the detail of how businesses tick and most importantly, provide a real variety of experience. I hate the idea of being bored at work doing the same thing over and over. With little knowledge of the industry as a student, I was fortunate to meet some consultants during my gap year and it seemed like the industry would offer what I was looking for. Nine years later, I’ve not looked back.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The most enjoyable part of my job is being involved in the really big issues that businesses face. Helping to shape what a company should do about a particular challenge is immensely rewarding – particularly once you get to a stage where your clients actively seek your opinion. Playing a big role is the most satisfying aspect, but it wouldn’t stack up if it didn’t involve working with great people. I’ve been hugely fortunate to have worked with some incredibly bright and inspiring colleagues over my career, and the opportunity to learn is ever-present. I also particularly enjoy consulting at Berkeley. Firstly, we’re allowed a huge amount of autonomy in the way we deliver our projects and much more freedom to manage our scope and clients than in most consultancy firms. Rather than being a slave to a tightly worded contract, we’re encouraged to flex our roles to ensure we’re always delivering value – and this is something our clients really appreciate. Secondly, there’s a very strong sense at Berkeley that work should be enjoyed. It should be challenging and rewarding, but it’s also got to be fun and we have a great social culture that underpins this. Life is too short to not enjoy what you do.

What are the current challenges the industry faces?

Delivering value for money should always be front and centre of any consulting engagement. With often substantial fees being charged, clients expect a return from their investment – and the industry must therefore always be self-critical of the value it brings. As the economy continues to improve and budgets for consulting spend grow, there is a risk of firms winning more work than they can deliver, which inevitably leads to poor quality and poor value for money. The reputation of our industry depends on the delivery of value; this should come ahead of opportunism for rapid growth.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?

My first piece of advice would be not to worry too much about what degree or experience you have, as the consulting industry is made up of people from a wide variety of backgrounds – this is what makes it such an enjoyable and diverse place to work. When considering experience try and take roles that demonstrate you can generate ideas and implement them.

Good consultants are known for their ability to listen, to process complex information, and to communicate difficult messages in a simple way. They are also adept at managing people and being able to flex their personal style to different circumstances. It’s the balance between IQ and soft skills that are what anyone thinking about a career in consulting will need to demonstrate.

Finally, I would suggest that you should thoroughly research the culture of the consulting firms that interest you. Grad schemes are great places to start, but they do vary and it’s important to go into them with eyes open to what they’re offering.

What would you like to accomplish in your consulting career?

In my career I want to help my clients to solve the biggest and most strategically important problems they have and to be known for the value that I bring to my clients. I want to continue to work for The Berkeley Partnership because of the high levels of exposure, freedom of action and accountability I have. It’s somewhere I feel I can make a real contribution to my clients without the pressure to specialise in any particular industry or to meet any specific revenue target. It’s also great fun.

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