What In-House Corporate Strategists Do
Corporate strategy encompasses many aspects of a company’s overall growth plan. This includes development aspects, such as mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships, as well as general areas of business, such as identifying trends, creating forecasting models, detecting potential business threats, and finding ways to capitalize on new markets and opportunities.
Entry-level strategists are typically tasked with gathering data and carrying out support tasks, but at a higher level, strategists work with department heads to identify opportunities and ensure plans are executed, as well as work with corporate executives as they pitch ideas and collaborate on new strategies.
Who would enjoy a career in Strategy (Internal)?
Corporate strategists often have a background in corporate development, M&A, or business finance. This is beneficial because of the degree of planning, modeling, and measuring necessary to be effective in the position. A deep understanding of business practices and the industry one serves are also essential components. Additionally, strategists tend to have soft skills, such as strong verbal and written communication skills, the ability to negotiate effectively, creative thinking skills, and professionalism.
Who mightn't like the career?
A career in strategy requires long-term goal setting and planning, so it’s not a good fit for someone who expects immediate results or is not comfortable performing heavily qualitative or quantitative analysis. However, it is still a results-driven role, and those who cannot effectively communicate why their strategies will be effective or deliver results won’t do well in the profession.
Companies often look for a finance or business background when hiring strategists. Occasionally, large corporations will offer internships and graduate schemes, which can make it easier to enter into the field immediately upon graduation.
In addition to the analytical aspects of the career, individual companies will have specific duties for strategists to fulfill, and will therefore be looking for people with specific traits to fill their needs. Even two companies within the same niche may be looking for different things. For example, one software as a service (SaaS) provider may be expecting knowledge of programming languages, while another SaaS provider may expect more financial and operations experience.
People who are still attending university will do well to search for graduate schemes and internships as a way to gain experience and perhaps a path into a long-term career with that company. It may be sensible to first gain experience in a management consulting firm before moving in-house. Those who are considering corporate strategy after graduation or as a second career should investigate the opportunities available thoroughly to ensure that any job applied for is not only a good fit, but that they have the right skillset for the company’s needs.
- So You Want to Work in Corporate Strategy? Learn What It Takes.
- Interview preparation tips for Strategy professionals
Moving into Strategy (Internal) from another career
Management consulting and corporate development are common paths to a career in corporate strategy. It’s common for these business professionals to also have experience working in mergers and acquisitions as well. For more information, see the Wall Street Oasis discussion, “Corporate Strategy Career Path.”
Corporate Strategy Analyst
Role: Analysts support the work of managers and senior staffers. They handle a lot of the in-depth research on companies the organization is considering acquiring or partnering with as well as the market, review documents, run financial models, and manage processes. Analysts also collaborate frequently with the rest of the strategy team and sometimes the development team as well.
Corporate Strategy Manager
Role: Managers are typically given individual goals or projects to oversee. They may be responsible for creating strategies to help the company reach specific goals or may simply be expected to carry out tasks under the direction of superiors. Managers also assign work to analysts and oversee their work.
Director of Corporate Strategy
Role: Directors have more strategic roles. They help define what the company’s long-term goals are, and map out how the company will reach them. Because of this, they spend a lot of time following market trends, researching competitors, and identifying what developments are occurring across the industry. Those who excel as directors often move into a VP role, but there’s no linear path after being a director. Some may become VP of strategy, marketing, sales, or business development. Following this, some may make take a CFO or CEO role.
Corporate strategists travel frequently for work, particularly at the upper levels. This may be international or domestic travel, depending on what markets the company wants to grow in and where potential partners or companies to be acquired are.
Analyst: Data from PayScale indicates that base salaries average USD $72,000 in the United States, ₤45,000 in the United Kingdom, CAD$75,000 in Canada, AU$103,600 in Australia.
Corporate Strategy Manager: USD$97,728, £50,816, and CAD$89,072, and AU$122,521.
Corporate Strategy Director: USD$157,500, £100,000, CAD$146,074, and AU$128,055.
Bonuses and profit sharing do not typically amount to more than a few thousand dollars at the early stages of a strategy career. At the upper levels, take-home pay may increase by as much as a one-third margin.
Why In-House Corporate Strategists move on
For many, a career in corporate strategy is the end goal, and they stay in it for the duration of their careers. However, others get burned out by the travel or the number of hours expected.
Although 45 hours per week can be standard, others put in 65+, leaving little time to pursue outside interests. Lastly, those in corporate strategy who perform well may prefer to build their own companies, rather than growing someone else’s. In which case, entrepreneurship is the obvious path.