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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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#160: The CC of Client Communications

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 23, 2009
Who should I include as "CC" or "BCC" on my communications with my client?

Obviously, the best answers we can give without knowing the specifics of your situation are, "It depends" and "Remember your ethical responsibilities."

But there are some things to consider. What has been your practice on the engagement until now? A deviation will be spotted immediately so be sensitive to entrenched norms inherent to this particular corporate culture. In many cases, you are dealing with client confidential information. Even though you are generating content, as a work for hire, it may or may not in fact belong to the client and not you. It would be wise to establish the parameters with the client sponsor. To make it easy on your client, you might suggest in advance a predetermined list of types of information and to whom they might be copied, but that you would like permission to copy in additional relevant parties at your discretion and that you will not abuse that privilege. Inform the client that, where appropriate, you will sometimes send confidential notes to people without copying in others. Ask your client to immediately bring it to your attention if he or she ever feels you have overstepped in any way. Being sensitive and taking responsibility up front should not only result in the clarification you desire, but additional respect from the client.

Tip: Make the decision on whom to copy an easy one for the client and a reduced risk of mistakes for all. Establish and communicate your proposed plan and your client can either accept or modify it. In the interests of transparency and risk avoidance, when dealing with client information, never blind copy anyone unless you have the unambiguous permission (or better, direction) to do so.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  engagement management  ethics  goodwill  reputation 

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#159: Handling Pushback on Hourly Rates

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 22, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 22, 2009
Most clients in my industry insist on time and material billing rather than project based//value billing. Inevitably, someone on staff extrapolates this to an annual rate and raises a stink. Is there a way to defuse this?

This kind of pushback usually does not come from the executives or project sponsor, who is ultimately responsible for accepting your rate and managing how these rates (if disclosed) are dealt with by staff. Executives compare the value you provide to fees paid to lawyers or other experts for specific high-skilled services. So we are talking about someone who does not appreciate the value you bring and may well be comparing it to their own salary. If salaries are under pressure, for whatever reason, and management calls in an "outsider" to do what some staff feel they could do.

To complete the picture, many engagements involve consultants interviewing staff about company history and prospective interventions. The resulting perception is, "We are paying this consultant $400,000 a year and I have to tell them everything that's going on in this company." This can seriously affect your relationship with the staff on whose cooperation you depend. Resentment is not a good start to a trusting relationship.

Tip: Although your sponsor is ultimately responsible for justifying investments in consultants, you can contribute one logical argument that works well. Consider the 80/20 rule, where the first contribution is the most valuable. You should be compensated at a higher rate for your initial work, but the marginal value of this contribution goes down over time, negating the "$400,000 salary" argument. You are contributing dozens of years of expertise and your first 20% of time is worth 4 times the average of someone with comparable expertise over the long term. You might be able to save a company a million dollars with a few minutes of advice, but eventually the value of each additional piece of advice declines. This is when your engagement is over, and you can go to another organization, to which your advice is once again valuable at 4 or more times a comparable rate for salary.

P.S. The other obvious part of this argument is that your consulting rate includes overhead that a salary does not. You might want to do the math to calculate your equivalent salary, which might be, say 4 fold (for 80/20 value) times 2-3 fold (for overhead) equals 10 times salary.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  customer understanding  fees 

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#158: Using How You Feel About Your Day to Set Direction

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I have found a good compass to help me set new directions in my practice. I have started to keep track of how I feel at the end of the day and what the main activities I had that day. After a few months, the evidence begins to pile up where I really want to spend more time and where I want to spend less.

This is a great idea. Professional service providers can unknowingly get stuck doing something that no longer invigorates them. Conversely, they might be missing signals that there is something they could really enjoy with a change in practice. We tend to take an intellectual, left-brain look at our practices to evaluate, analytically, how we should navigate our market. Don't ignore facts, but your gut is probably a better gauge of value than we'd like to admit.

Tip: Try the practice of giving yourself a "score" from 1 to 5 each day. A "1" means it was among the best days you have, you feel invigorated, excited to take whatever activity that occupied your day to the next step. A "3" is an average day and a "5" kind of day leaves you depleted, upset, disillusioned, etc. Set up your own criteria so that your days are more or less normally distributed. Then, next to each day's score, write down the major consulting activities of the day: client briefing, marketing, staff work, administration, research, going to a conference, professional development workshop, reading in your field, analysis, negotiation, client presentation, etc. After about three months, what patterns do you see? How can you begin to shift your business so that you are having more "1" days and fewer "5" days?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  change  consulting lifestyle  learning  practice management  trends  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#157: Using National Trends to Identify Consulting Opportunities

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, October 20, 2009
As the economy rebounds, where can I find broad targets for my consulting services?

Race car drivers accelerate coming out of a turn instead of waiting for the straightaway. This is also a good model for consultants. What areas of the economy and your market are going to be slow to recover or never recover? Which of your clients will you stand by if it takes longer to get back to their former strength? What trends were you counting on that are picking up strength or were shut off by a changing economy? Now is a great time to be looking at national trends to see where you can begin to cultivate opportunities.

Many major trade organizations publish occasional "state of the industry" summaries. Recognizing that these are promotional to some extent, they still contain good information on current structure, capacity, demand for products, and changes in production practices or consumption of its products. Look at the State of the Carwash Industry as an example. Here is an industry that many management consultants might consider "under the radar" as a prospect but the industry faces some challenges for which you might be able to provide value. Go to the trade associations to which your clients belong and see what they have. Also consider government reports that address more macro trends or longer term trends. These reports, even if they are not in your industry, can provide some deep insights into how the economy is changing and where your opportunities may lie. For example, a report on measurement of productivity in the construction industry highlights a lot of opportunities for consulting work related to assessment, performance measurement, and project evaluation (if that's your area of interest and expertise).

Tip: If the trade association for your industry has no such "State of the Industry" research, and you feel reasonably sure you know a lot about the industry, suggest teaming up with the association's research staff in developing such a report. This is something their members would value and what better way to get known as the "industry expert" than to have the implicit endorsement of a trade association.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  planning  trends 

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#156: Pump Up Your Website Visibility

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 19, 2009
I don't rely on my website for most of my business but I'd like to know that I am as visible as possible, especially with my speaking business starting. How can I get more visibility at a reasonable cost?

Search engine optimization is a real skill and needs to address factors such as site design, frequency of updated content, appropriate keyword meta tags (although their power is much less than it once was), site and page titles, anchor text, keywords, links and reciprocal links, site structure, image tags, etc. Each search engine has its own protocol for indexing and ranking sites. The point is that getting your website to do for your business what you want it to does require some effort.

Think twice about your perspective as a management consultant (i.e., that you are resourceful and a quick learner) and any inclination to "do it yourself" in website optimization. Find a competent site optimization expert and work with them to come up with a strategy to target your desired markets (e.g., speaking in your case).

Tip: At a minimum, you do not have to pay a company to submit your website URL to "thousands" of search engines. Most traffic goes through the "big three" search engines so, if your site is indexed by these, you are in pretty good shape. Use these links to submit your site: Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  innovation  marketing  website 

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