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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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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#70: Extending Your Consulting Service to Address Mother Nature

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 12, 2009
Updated: Friday, June 12, 2009
Several of my clients are facing issues in their businesses directly or indirectly related to climate change. Is this something I can build on as part of my practice?

As consultants, we are supposed to be a step or two ahead of our clients. Our ability to see emerging threats or opportunities is part of what makes us valuable. You are right that there are a lot of impacts on business generated from climate change and other natural phenomena. There are consulting firms that specifically focus on this but I recommend every consultant be conversant in how Mother Nature affects business. Regardless of your consulting discipline or industry, these issues will affect your clients and you don't want to be surprised when they start to affect your clients' bottom lines.

What are some of these impacts? For example, higher temperatures are increasing heating loads in office buildings, thus expenses. Changing weather patterns are already disrupting crop yields, changing demand for certain types of foods and recreation, and increasing the attractiveness of telecommuting. We are coming up on the eleven year solar max peak, which may start as early as late 2010, in which increased solar activity (expected to be the highest in 50 years) will disrupt radio, GPS and communication signals. These impacts of changing nature are also indirect, such as when a previously optimized supply chain needs to be totally reconfigured because carbon regulation makes offshoring less attractive than it was. Furthermore, consumer demand is also indirectly influenced by your client's perceived response to climate change, sustainability and resource stewardship.

Tip: Start to build a modest library of the concerns of business planners to climate change and their priorities for making decisions about responding. One example is Impact of Climate Change on Future Business Strategy. Share this and others in your growing library with your clients and start a conversation about how you can help them.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  customer understanding  marketing  product development  sustainability  trends 

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#69: Giving Advice Outside Your Area of Expertise

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 11, 2009
Updated: Thursday, June 11, 2009
My client recently expanded the scope of my engagement to include developing a new logo and marketing collateral. This is outside my area of expertise but I can certainly contribute some ideas. Is this a case where I must decline?

Be careful about your interpretation of the IMC USA Code of Ethics. It says in section 3.0 “I will only accept assignments for which I possess the requisite experience and competence to perform and will only assign staff or engage colleagues with the knowledge and expertise needed to serve my clients effectively." This does not mean that you must withdraw but that you must discuss this with your client. Be sure you fully understand the client's request. In many cases, it may be for no more than your insights based on your developed and trusted understanding of the client's strategy, capability, markets, etc. Don't automatically assume they are asking for your design or marketing expertise. The client should know well what you can provide. Just ask.

Tip: In any cases, even if you do not have focused expertise in an area your client needs, you can provide insights not apparent to others. If you have ever seen creative design work (and you are not a graphic designer), you know the joy of being shown something that never would have occurred to you. Your client can get insights from you that the "expert marketing or design person" can't. For example, see this collection of incredibly clever logo designs. Your reaction is like what your client would feel when they hear your unique "non-expert" opinion.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  consultant role  customer understanding  ethics  roles and responsibilities 

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#68: Build Your Skills, Network and Business All at the Same Time

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Updated: Thursday, June 11, 2009
I recently had an experience that I strongly suggest for any consultant, regardless of discipline, industry, firm size or level of experience. It is serving as a Baldrige quality examiner.

This is a terrific idea (based on my seven years as an examiner). Although examiners participate as volunteers, there is no better way to enhance your skills in diagnosis, evaluation and most of the other skills required for effective consulting engagements. The Baldrige program is more than 20 years old and was designed to improve organizational quality and performance. Originally aimed at American manufacturing firms, it has been extended to service, education, health care and small businesses and is now used around the world. Companies’ documentation of their approach, deployment and results across six areas of performance are evaluated by a panel of examiners. Examiners come from almost every discipline; I have served with bench engineers, hospital administrators, college deans, management consultants, military officers, business school professors, accountants, and manufacturing company executives, each of whom brings their unique disciplinary perspective and organizational context to the evaluation team.

The Baldrige program is sponsored at the national level, and most states have the same program for organizations within their states. Examiners all go through the same training and review one or two applications for a series of awards. Competition is intense, as is the experience of evaluation. Each examiner spends from 20-40 hours reading ,evaluating and taking notes on each application, preparing for a group feedback report. The learning that accompanies the diagnosis and negotiation leading up to the feedback report is unparalleled in that each person brings unique and valuable expertise to the mix. As good as you think you are, prepare to be humbled by the experience.

Tip: Contact NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) who administers the program, or see materials available from The Alliance for Performance Excellence. Consider investing in your professional development, your network (I've made some great contacts with highly professional people during my years as an examiner), and your business (yes, being able to conduct a Baldrige assessment is another line of business for you, and clients highly regard your experience as an examiner).

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  career  client service  community service  innovation  learning  market research  performance improvement  practice management  product development  reputation  your consulting practice 

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#67: Connecting With Other Businesses

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 9, 2009
My consulting network is just fine but I'd like to build out some more relationships with other types of businesses. What are some good ways to locate and cultivate such businesses?

Sometimes we focus so much on close-in relationships with other consultants that we forget that a strong network is built on a base of different businesses unlike our own. This means more than just other professionals like accountants, lawyers and other presumably direct referral sources. Your network can also be of people who can use your services and support as well as providers of services you use, but not obvious network candidates.

Set a goal of developing a dozen new relationships over the next three months (an average of one a week). Look in two places. First, reconnect to people you respect and have worked with in the past who are not consultants. If you thought highly of them before, they are likely to still be in sync with you now. Second, think of people who would benefit from your services but whom you don’t think of as clients. These might include sports club proprietors, auto dealers, commercial real estate brokers, travel agents, and engineers. Each of these might well use your management consulting services but perhaps not in the core area of your practice. Closer relationships with these businesses will give you both insight onto a broader set of businesses as well as an opportunity to provide advice to help them in their businesses.

Tip: Plan an open house or event hosted by yourself or with one or two colleagues. It's OK to present this as a networking event but make it clear that it is not intended as a hard core business development event, just a get to know you event. To make the introductions "sticky," arrange with some other attendees to host the next event a month or two later. It does take some effort to facilitate several of these different networks at one time but you will jump start your network and get better known well outside your traditional networks.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  networks 

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#66: Is a Virtual Office for You?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 8, 2009
My partners and I spend a lot of time at client sites and are wondering whether we need to maintain the expense of our office. It made sense when we started our boutique firm but we're not so sure.

How you structure your office environment is about more than just money. Your office can be a place where you meet with your clients, where you and your partners work together and, for some, it is a part of your image. However, you may fall into one of several circumstances that will affect your choice. First, if you work mostly at your client's location, especially if they are out of town, you may not need conference rooms of meeting technologies. Second, if you do not regularly need space to work in groups or to conduct production activities, then your need for common workspace disappears. Finally, the cachet of having nice office space has been disappearing for years, and many clients are starting to consider your "nice office space" as a non value added cost they are paying for.

This office space issue extends to large firms as well. Some large firms, particularly those where most staff travel a lot, have moved to a hoteling concept. This is where staff share office space by occupying an office or cubicle only when they are in town. When they travel, the same space is assigned to another consultant. The increasing use of virtual technologies further reduces the need to conduct meetings or work in groups that would necessitate office space. So, all trends are moving toward less need for office space.

Tip: Consider using shared or virtual office space. These offices, offered by firms like Regus (with whom IMC has an affiliation providing discounts for IMC members), provide furnished space with immediate move-in for a monthly fee. This usually includes furniture, communication, reception, answering service, mail, kitchen facilities, and conference rooms. As often as not, companies in adjacent spaces may be interesting at least or potential partners, referrers or clients at best. Finally, as a shared office client, you often can use the company’s office space in another city for free or a deep discount.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  practice management 

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