For a business owner interested in business consulting, it’s important to recognize that business consultants fall into one of two distinct categories.  A business consultant can either be a generalist or a specialist.  What defines them is the development and application of their knowledge and skillset.

Sometimes, finding out whether a business consultant is one or the other is not so easy.  That’s because not all business consultants have given much thought to the subject.  You can, however, discover the answer yourself by asking a consultant the right questions:

  • What is your area(s) of expertise?
  • How much do you know about those areas?
  • Are your knowledge and skills across those areas equal?
  • How did you attain that knowledge or skillset?
  • What is your ideal client situation?
  • Where is your knowledge and skillset most needed?

The answers to these questions will provide valuable insight, but how must they be interpreted?  Let’s take a look at the main differences between a consulting generalist vs. specialist.

What Is a Consulting Generalist?

A consulting generalist is a business consultant who has knowledge and skills that pertain to a variety of business functions.  As a result, their value is in the breadth of their knowledge, not its depth.

A consulting generalist, for instance, may be well-versed in operations, marketing, branding, management, strategic alliances, and so much more.  Yet, they are often not an expert in any of them.  This doesn’t mean that consulting generalists aren’t experts in any one particular business function.  Sometimes, they are.  They simply understand a lot of other subject matter to the extent that they’re able to put that knowledge to good use.

How Is a Consulting Generalist Valuable?

The value of a consulting generalist comes in the application of their knowledge.  Because of their extensive understanding, analysis, and evaluation across a wide array of topics, they’re able to cast a broader net and help businesses in a number of different industries and scenarios.

Consulting generalists are typically experts at seeing the bigger picture of a business’s struggles.  They’re able to use their diversified knowledge, experience, and skillset to make critical connections that most lack the ability to do.  More importantly, they understand the effects of their recommendations on all the other areas of a business, allowing them to make better, well-informed decisions.  As a result, they can provide exceptional value to almost any business.

What Is a Consulting Specialist?

A consulting specialist is essentially the opposite of a generalist.  Instead of having knowledge and skills that apply to a vast amount of businesses and situations, consulting specialists are experts in just one or two areas of business.  However, the depth of their knowledge in those fields is extensive.

Consulting specialists can specialize in almost anything.  Though, this usually involves years and years of first-hand experience and education.  Just how a consulting generalist can simultaneously specialize in one or two business functions, a consulting specialist can also have a basic understanding of a variety of other subjects.  Their knowledge of these subjects, however, is often very limited, making them unable to actually apply and use this knowledge to help others.

How Is a Consulting Specialist Valuable?

Similar to generalists, the value of a consulting specialist is in the application of their knowledge.  However, theirs is in the depth of that knowledge, not the breadth.  As a result, consulting specialists naturally cast a smaller net.  Although they are not able to help as diverse of a market as generalists can, they are extremely valuable to businesses that are in desperate need of their very-refined and profound skillset.

Where consulting specialists sometimes fall short is their perspective.  Because they’ve devoted so much time to perfecting such a specific craft, consulting specialists are often more narrow-minded.  Therefore, it is difficult for them to see the bigger picture.  Anticipating the effects of their work or recommendations on all the other areas of a business can be equally as tough.

Don’t let this deficiency deter you though.  The value that a consulting specialist provides can be life-changing for many businesses.

For performance-based business consulting, contact The Business Turnaround Group.

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