internal strategy, white board

Consulting to Internal Strategy: What to Expect

The move to internal strategy from consulting is the dominant transition for consultants when entering the corporate world, and that makes perfect sense to us at Raines International.

This move leverages the skills that make consultants most valuable to a company, while allowing for an adjustment to all of those other (and usually less pondered) environmental factors that come with the internal workings of a business – setting a base off which to go into different functions and businesses down the line.

So before you decide that nothing of substance separates internal strategy and consulting, or for consultants moving into corporate in a strategy capacity, we’ve gathered some collective insight from former consultants who have since moved into industry that highlight the not-so-small differences between consulting and internal strategy roles (and corporate in general).


“It’s a rare consultant who is going to be an immediate success in the operating world. It takes an adjustment. You have to roll up your sleeves more in corporate, and it’s not always as intellectually stimulating as the CEO-level issues that consultants are used to working with (though it is equally as rewarding in other ways). Sometimes it’s about the day-to-day and more tactical work, which, by virtue of the type of work they do, is something consultants often skip past. You have to get comfortable dealing with challenges that will have more immediate – though not as high-level – impact, and with people who may be directly / immediately affected and with whom you’ll need to continue working.

The combination of understanding the smaller challenges along with the grand, overarching strategy will enable you to take apart the abstract and make it personal to each person involved. That is the key to successful execution. Once you prove you can execute, you’ve earned your stripes and then you can get a real seat at the table.”

– Peter Bailey, CEO, LABVANTAGE Solutions | McKinsey alum

Ownership / Accountability 

“Once you’re in [corporate], your recommendations do not stop at the PowerPoint presentation – you are around for the implementation stage (or lack thereof!). Your value to the company becomes tied to whether your recommendations are actually put into action, so you have to be incredibly sensitive to whether your proposals can really work, and make sure you gain buy-in from senior leaders in the beginning as well as throughout the process.”

– Aneesh Kumar, Head of Consumer Engagement Strategy, Aetna  | Accenture/Booz & Co alum


“Internal company strategy groups are not training grounds – you’re expected to have the required skill sets and to work independently. You may also not have the same research resources readily available to you, and will have to find them and argue to fund them (e.g. report access). Unlike large, top-tier consulting firms, internal strategy groups don’t have research departments at their disposal.

Importantly, you’ll be expected to do more with less, as corporate strategy groups are often small. When you’re assigned a problem to solve, you may not have a team behind you to execute the work – you will be the Analyst, Consultant, and Engagement Manager all at once. Plan and set execution expectations accordingly, and be prepared to roll up your sleeves again.”

– Jeremy Muench, SVP, Operations, McKesson Corporation  | Bain alum


“[In management consulting] there’s less long-term ownership of people, and Managers typically don’t have to deal with a lot of the difficult management issues that come with true reports within an official org structure. In corporate, where there are official reporting structures, you have to figure out how to get the best out of every person on your team – you have to make it work for the long-term and mold / shape individuals. Individual capability will also tend to be less uniform in corporate, which adds to the challenge.”

– Eng Tan, Vice President, Client Marketing, Asurion  | Booz & Co alum


 “You cannot underestimate the value of building a network as soon as you land in corporate. Consulting firms are built to create those networks to facilitate team work and group success. In industry you have to make your own way because it is not always part of the corporate structure. Also, you do need to adjust your expectations on the pace at which things can move or get done. Projects have longer lead times and decisions involve more people than in consulting.”

– Lanchi Venator, Head of Global Strategic Pricing, Estée Lauder Companies | A.T. Kearney alum

“[A prominent] difference is influence, and realizing its dynamics / importance in business. This can be a difficult one for consultants who are used to leveraging their influence at the C-Suite and Board levels during engagements. When you’re in corporate, influence is leveraged differently and in a more balanced way. It is a give and take across functions as well as an exercise in building personal / organizational brand and credibility. For example, you could pull rank maybe once or twice, but it’s more political than that – you’ll get a bad rep very promptly. You have to find different ways to influence the actions of others.”

– Eng Tan, Vice President, Client Marketing, Asurion | Booz & Co alum