The basis for a constructive relationship between management consultants and clients (SMEs)


In a historical retrospective, although the existing literature calls the management consulting industry an extraordinary sector and a unique phenomenon in the business context, in fact these statements are not accompanied by a number of academic studies that emphasize the importance of the effective management consultant’s work. To battle the lack of studies in this emerging area, this article aims to understand the most important factors from the perspective of consultants and managers to build successful relationships in management consulting projects. Semi-structured interviews and questionnaires were conducted to management consultants and SME managers. Our findings suggests competence and experience of consultants, their ability to understand clients, their professionalism and credibility, the transparency of the processes, values and goals they can put in the performance of their work are the five key factors for building successful relationships.

Keyword : management consulting, relationships, strategy-as-practice

How to Cite
Costa, R. L. da, Dias, . Álvaro L., Pereira, L., Santos, J., & Miguel, I. (2020). The basis for a constructive relationship between management consultants and clients (SMEs). Business: Theory and Practice, 21(2), 666-674.
Published in Issue
Oct 9, 2020
Abstract Views
PDF Downloads
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Biech, E. (2019). The new business of consulting: the basics and beyond. John Wiley & Sons.

Buttle, F. (1996). Relationship marketing: theory and practice. Paul Chapman Publishing.

Buttle, F. (1997). Exploring relationship quality, em marketing without borders. Annual Academy of Marketing Conference Proceedings (July) (pp. 143–155). Manchester.

Canback, S. (1998). The logic of management consulting (part one). Journal of Management Consulting, 10(2), 3–11.

Canback, S. (1999). The logic of management consulting (part two). Journal of Management Consulting, 10(3), 3–12.

Clark, T. (2004). Strategy viewed from a management fashion perspective. European Management Review, 1(1), 105–111.

Carmo, H., & Ferreira, M. (1998). Metodologia da Investigação: Guia para Auto-aprendizagem. Universidade Aberta, Lisboa.

Czerniawska, F. (2016). Management consultancy: what next? Springer.

Davey, N. (1979). The consultant’s role. Organizational change in the client consultant handbook. Gulf.

Drucker, P. F. (1979). Why management consultants? In Z. Melvin and R. G. Greenwood (Eds.), The Evolving Science of Management. AMACOM, New York, NY.

Engwall, L., & Kipping, M. (2006). Management education, media and consulting and the creation of European management practice. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 19(1), 95–106.

Fincham, R. (2010). The client in the client-consultant relationship. In M. Clark, & T. Kipping (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of management consultancy. Oxford University Press.

Fincham, R., & Clark, T. (2002). Preface: management consultancy – issues, perspectives and agendas. International Studies of management and Organization, 32(4), 3–18.

Fincham, R., Clark, T., Handley, C., & Sturdy, A. (2008). Configuring expert knowledge: the consultant as sector specialist. Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 29(8), 1145–1160.

Ford, C. (1974). Developing a successful client-consultant relationship. Human Resource Management (pre-1986), 13(2), 2.

Greiner, L., & Metzger, R. (1983). Consulting to management. Prentice-Hall.

Gronroos, C. (1998). Marketing services: The case of the missing product. Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, 13(4/5), 322–338.

Gummesson, E. (1996). Relationship marketing and imaginary organisations: A synthesis. European Journal of Marketing, 30(2), 31–44.

Jackall, R. (1988). Moral mazes – the world of corporate managers. OU.

Jarzabkowski, P., Balogun, J., & Seidl, D. (2007). Strategizing: The challenges of a practice perspective. Human Relations, 60(1), 5–27.

Jarzabkowski, P., & Spee, P. (2009). Strategy-as-practice: A review and future directions for the field. International Journal of Management Reviews, 11(1), 69–95.

Kaiser, S., & Kampe, T. (2005). A strategy-as-practice perspective on the work of profession of strategy consultants. EGOS, Professional Service Organizations and Professionalization at Work. Berlin, Germany.

Karantinou, K., & Hogg, M. (2001). Exploring relationship management in professional services – A study of management consultancy. Journal of Marketing Management, 17(3–4), 263–86.

Karantinou, K., & Hogg, M. (2009). An empirical investigation of relationship development in professional business services. Journal of Services Marketing, 23(4), 249–260.

Kürb, M. (1976). Management consulting: a guide to the profession. International Labour Office, 1ª Edição: Geneva.

Lăzăroiu, G. (2015). The role of the management consultancy industry in the knowledge economy. Psychosociological Issues in Human Resource Management, 3(2), 71–76.

Lundgren, M., & Blom, M. (2009, July 2–4). The practice of strategy consultants. In 25th Egos Colloquium. Barcelona.

Maister, D. (1989). Marketing to existing clients. Journal of Management Consulting, 5(2), 25–32.

Margerison, C. J. (2017). Managerial consulting skills: a practical guide: a practical guide. Gower Publishing, Ltd.

McGivern, C. (1983). Some facets of the relationship between consultants and clients in organizations. Journal of Management Studies, 20(3), 367–386.

McLarty, R., & Robinson, T. (1998). The practice of consultancy and a professional development strategy. Leadership and Organisation Development Journal, 19(5), 256–263.

Momparler, A., Carmona, P., & Lassala, C. (2015). Quality of consulting services and consulting fees. Journal of Business Research, 68(7), 1458–1462.

Nikolova, N., Möllering, G., & Reihlen, M. (2015). Trusting as a “leap of faith”: Trust-building practices in client–consultant relationships. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 31(2), 232–245.

O’Farrell, P., & Moffat, L. (1991). An interaction model of business service production and consumption. British Journal of Management, 2, 205–221.

Oliver, C. (2018). Reflexive inquiry: A framework for consultancy practice. Routledge.

Rogers, C. (1961). The characteristics of a helping relationship. Houghton Mifllin.

Stryker, P. (1954). The ambitious consultants. Fortune (May), 82–85.

Sturdy, A. (2009). Popular consultancy critiques and a politics of management learning? Management Learning, 40(4), 457–463.

Swartz, D., & Lippitt, G. (1975). Evaluating consulting process. Journal of European training, 4(5), 309–326.

Torbert, W. (1976). Creating a community of inquiry: conflict, collaboration, transformation. Wiley Interscience.

Werr, A., & Styhre, A. (2002). Management consultants friend or foe? International Studies of Management & Organization, 32(4), 43–66.

Whittington, R. (2006). Completing the practice turn in strategy research. Organization Studies, 27(5), 613–634.

Whittington, R. (2007). Strategy practice and strategy process: Family differences and the sociological eye. Organization Studies, 28(10), 1575–1586.