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is commercial career better than consulting?

#1 is commercial career better than consulting?
18/06/2012 12:34


Is commercial career much better than consulting?

Rajat Gupta who used to advise CEOs and billionaires aspired to be one of them and this aspiration led him to commit mistakes for which he is potentially facing life behind bars.

I am realising that the commercial career is much better than a consulting one in terms of growth, cash and satisfaction. Most of the CEOs, Managing Directors and VPs have commercial backgrounds that help them to achieve those leadership positions. If you have spent years in consulting irrespective of brand, you end up developing strategies at best in corporate houses but hardly ever be the one who takes those decisions. (of course there will be exceptions)

I will welcome others opinion. am I completely wrong here?

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#2 RE: is commercial career better than consulting?
18/06/2012 16:42

marsday to jet (#1)

jet frankly if you have the potential to make CEO of any significant business you'll get there via either route.

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#3 RE: is commercial career better than consulting?
19/06/2012 15:21

DR79 to jet (#1)

Hi Jet,

I currently work in an sector outside of consulting, but have a background in Strategy Consulting that has helped me see both sides of the coin. When I made the decision to move to industry, I was very heavily advised by my consulting director not to! His argument was that in Consulting your role is to advise people, whereas in Industry you largely manage them… however it was that fact that made realise I was making the right decision!

My role in industry has been largely Commercial but I cannot have had the success I’ve had in the last few years without the consulting background I have. Even though very junior then, the experience of making smart and focussed presentations, modelling and excel skills set me out right from the start in industry. But for recent years as I’ve moved into more senior roles, the focus and requirements have been entirely on leadership, management and good judgement.

From my limited experience, I think some Consulting experience is extremely valuable for senior roles: an understanding the nitty-gritty of a company’s performance, likely to have accounting/financial analysis experience, and can base decisions on ‘best-practice’ from a range of industries that might be similar. But it is essential to have the right character and experience to be able to understand industry staff (who have v different motivations to consultants), manage them and above all not be out of touch in your leadership.

I’m now in a fairly senior generalist role – and it’s amazing quite how much wider experience I use to base my judgements and decisions on, in fact Commercial analysis is very much just a part of my decision process, I’ve learnt that customer experience, perceptions and distributors to be heavily influential too, even more so than I had imagined – it’s very hard to analyse human behaviour! As you say yourself, once you have a role in implementing your plans and actually taking decisions, you very quickly learn not to gloss over hurdles that you might have otherwise done based solely on a Commercial background.


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#4 RE: is commercial career better than consulting?
29/06/2012 10:35

jet to DR79 (#3)


Thanks for your detailed response. I think all that makes a lot of sense. I am sure there are many cases like yours where moving to industry from consulting has been very successful. However, it is not always the case. I know a few people who moved and progressed quickly to a certain level but they see major road blocks now. Many large commercial organisations are biased towards sales people – ‘GM is the king’ as they say in FMCG, pharma, computer hardware industries to name a few. Given this fact, people with consulting background end up in support functions no matter how fancy their titles are. Blue chip companies has these so called ‘corporate strategy department’, ‘office of the CEO’, ‘strategy group’ etc but what they do is supporting decision making.

So the question i am seeking the answer of is – if you are not the profit centre for a company are you equally qualify to be on the path to c-suite or senior leadership?


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#5 RE: is commercial career better than consulting?
29/06/2012 12:13

baykus to jet (#4)

You are conflating a number of things.

A commercial career is better than consulting in terms of cash only if you make it to the very top, and progress in business is much slower than in consulting (e.g. 6 years from associate to partner vs 10-15+ years in business to hit levels earning partner salary).

As for getting to take decisions, most corp strat roles are only temporary landing pads - the idea is usually to spend a few years, then move into a line position.

Furthermore, you are far more likely to become a F500 CXO as a consulting alum than having spent your whole life in industry:

None of this is to say that either career path is superior to the other overall. Horses for courses.

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