Group consulting can work better if support expands over several sessions and group members face similar management problems so that peer learning is feasible. One-on-one consulting might be preferred when only shorter interventions are to be provided.
What’s the rationale behind this?
The most evident upside of individual business consulting support is that it can be highly tailored to the specific problems, needs and opportunities of a specific business. However, this type of support is usually expensive. Such high costs might be prohibitive for many SMEs to finance themselves and for governments aiming to scale up programmes to assist a larger number of firms.
Using group consultancy instead of individual formats has been suggested as a strategy for delivering business consulting more efficiently. The group approach lowers costs by spreading the consultant’s time over more firms and compensates for losses in the degree of personalisation by introducing the benefits of group-learning dynamics.
Business owners and managers
Outcomes of interest
Business practices, business performance, business growth
Does it work? Here’s what we know so far…
Continued consulting support
- Group consulting sessions over several months involving SMEs that face similar management problems but aren’t direct competitors can have similar effects in terms of the adoption of business practices as individual sessions.
- However, only the group sessions seem to lead to higher sales and a greater number of employees, by fostering learning among peers that compensates for the lack of personalised support at the core of one-on-one formats.
One-off consulting session
- In less intensive programmes where peer learning isn’t feasible, like single-session interventions, one-on-one formats can be more effective in triggering adoption of standard business practices and increasing sales, profits and survival rates.
- One-on-one formats can be three to ten times costlier than group sessions. However, for light-touch interventions, like one-session formats, the additional cost of using a one-on-one format might be worth it given the positive short-term effects on adoption of better practices and business performance.
- If consulting expands over several months, group consulting can be more cost-effective as peer-learning can compensate for personalised attention while allowing for a significant cut in the cost.
Ideas worth trying
- If you’re offering several sessions of business consulting to SMEs that face similar management problems but aren’t direct competitors, try substituting or complementing one-on-one sessions with small group sessions.
- If you’re considering a single consulting session, try using a one-on-one format to grasp the benefits of tailored advice.
What to avoid
- Avoid using group consulting sessions in contexts where peer learning isn’t feasible, such as very short programmes where there isn’t enough time to build trust among participants.