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06/16/2012

German Consultants in Demand

Thorough, punctual and persistent: management consultants from Germany are held in high esteem worldwide

By Julia Leendertse

Normally, Denis Abrams rather trusts his managers than any consultants. The CEO of Benjamin Moore Paint Company, America's third-largest paint manufacturer, made an exception, however, with Barkawi: Since April 2011, four consultants of the Munich-based company specializing in the organization of supply chains, are working on improving not only the U.S. company's product development, production, logistics and sales, but its operating results as well.
Abrams is not the only one to appreciate German brain work. "Management consultants from Germany are a sought-after export hit", says Antonio Schnieder, President of the Bundesverband Deutscher Unternehmensberater (BDU – Federal Association of German Management Consultants). "Similar to German car makers, they enjoy a reputation abroad of being among the premium service providers."
Hardly any other consulting market is as competitive as the German and has as many high-caliber specialists. If you want to convince thrifty, gnarled heads of small and medium-sized companies, you have to put high-class workmanship on the table – word of that has spread fast around the world. Setting up project plans and schedules for complex tasks and work them off with great discipline, getting employees involved as well, sticking to tight time schedules – people around the globe trust Germans to do just that. And not only when they are working for major U.S. strategic consultancies like McKinsey, BCG or Booz. Medium-sized specialists are also doing well in the business – often worldwide considered hidden champions: for instance, Management Engineers from Düsseldorf who only use industrial specialists with management experience. For their expertise clients at times pay higher daily fees than for top McKinsey consultants. Or Simon Kucher & Partners – worldwide considered leaders in pricing.

International networks are becoming more important

That pays off: According to BDU, the percentage of German consultancies which were able to realize double-digit sales increases in recent years despite the financial and economic crisis is particularly high for firms with 10 to 25 consultants. Also because clients no longer expect consultants to have merely strategic competence for top management at fixed fees. Instead, they are increasingly expected to implement – with results-oriented fee payments – their theoretical concepts in practice with close collaboration and networking of the client's staff. And that worldwide. "To provide international top performances as a consultant, it's not necessary to have own offices everywhere", says Fiona Czerniawska, head of the market research institute Source for Consulting in London. "Even specialists with eminent authorities can certainly present themselves as global management consultancies."
And it's precisely that ability which is becoming ever more important: According to BDU, more than half of the German consultancies expect that international networks will become more and more important even for small and medium-sized consultancies. After all, their clients' sales abroad are also steadily increasing.
For the development and organization of its supplier management in India, the German concrete pump manufacturer Putzmeister from Stuttgart also did not want to go without consultancy expertise made in Germany and specifically signed on specialists from the Düsseldorf-based purchasing consultancy Kerkhoff Consulting when Putzmeister wanted to increase the percentage of local suppliers in India last year. "On the subject of purchasing, Kerkhoff is a brand name consultancy", says Michael Schmid-Lindenmayer, Managing Director of Putzmeister in India. "We wanted to be sure that the project would be completed in the specified time and that the new supplier network would be of top quality."