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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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#55: Keeping Up With Emerging Trends

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 22, 2009
Once we come out of this recession, we want to move our consulting practice into strong markets. It's hard to see from here what those markets are going to be. What advice do you have to help us predict the future?

Rather than trying to predict the future, first figure out what is driving change now. Your objective is to develop skills that can help managers get to the future, a year at a time. This is mostly seeing trends in technology, demographics, markets, social and business attitudes, and regulation. There is a skill to separating genuine trends from fads. The emergence of a hot new business or technology does not prove a sustainable trend.

There are also companies and services that can help you separate a fad from a trend. For example, check out Trendwatching.com. This provides a nice set of tips on how to know the difference and how to develop a good strategy to build your own skills in tracking and finding trends relevant to your practice.

Tip: This is also exactly why your network is so important. People with different perspectives, consulting specialties, age, culture, etc., are some of your best sources of possible trends. Ask people in your network about what they see changing in their areas and see how you might work together to provide consulting services.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  planning  trends 

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#54: How Clear Is Your Writing?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 21, 2009
Our consultancy recently brought in a person to help us improve our writing. We weren't happy about spending the time. After all, we were senior consultants who wrote brilliantly. I can't remember the name but we put our reports and memos through an analysis that told us how clear our writing was (it turned out it wasn't very). Do you know what it was?

You are probably referring to any of several readability formulas. The most popular is Flesch-Kincaid, which looks at how many words in a sentence, how many letters per word, incidence of passive voice and other factors. Consultants, like many practitioners of many professions with specialized vocabularies, tend to puff up language when they write. It is hard to break this bad habit. We do this to explain a complicated concept, but this is when we should be focus on the simple and clear.

There are several tools for doing this kind of analysis. One that uses Flesch-Kincaid is embedded in MS Word, but some criticize it for poor implementation. You can use an alternative tool to analyze your text. This tool combines Flesh-Kincaid and other readability formulas to give an overall grade level for your writing.

Tip: Analyze a draft memo to your client with this tool to see just how clear (or not) you write. Use this like training wheels. You don't need to use it for every memo or report, but every once in a while would keep you attuned to improving your readability. After all, your primary goal is to communicate effectively, not impress anyone with your vocabulary.

For a bit of fun, look at the readability of Presidential inaugural speeches. President Obama's recent speech was at a 9th grade level, which is excellent for reaching citizens with an understandable message. I will leave you to make your own conclusions about this historical graph of readability over time.

P.S. Since you are probably thinking about it, this tip rated an average grade level of 9.84.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  learning  writing 

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#53: Consulting Conferences

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Are there any good upcoming consulting conferences?

IMC USA sponsors the oldest and largest consulting conference in the US for and by management consultants. Confab will be held on October 24-27, 2009 at the Silver Legacy Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada. Its theme is that it is a conference "for successful consultants, and those who want to be." Through a series of tracks:
  • Launch: setting direction for a new consultant or if you are thinking of retooling your practice.
  • Expand: growing your network and building your practice.
  • Refine: developing new practice elements and diversify your business and revenue sources.
In addition to these critical ways to develop your business, you also have a fabulous opportunity to meet with and build colleagues for future teaming and referral.

Tip:
Confab is a conference that many IMC members return year after year to builds and maintain relationships with some of the more senior consultants in the profession. It is in your interest to check out this event.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  professional development  your consulting practice 

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#52: Is Your Consulting Lifestyle Acceptable?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Maybe I am getting too old or changing my mind but the consulting lifestyle isn't what it used to be. Is this a common concern of consultants or is it just me?

Lifestyle is, and should, be a consideration of every consultant. Two points. First, just because a lifestyle once agreed with you doesn't mean it is right for you now. Second, consulting lifestyle can change with changes in markets and may change several times unless you adapt your practice to maintain a particular lifestyle.

When you started as a consultant, perhaps you were working for a large firm. Camaraderie, a social network, access to specialized team skills, moderate travel to great locations, and generous benefits might have been a big contributor to a great lifestyle. Then you moved up the ladder and, as a partner, hours, travel, and team interaction changed, so you decided to leave your firm, take your clients with you, and go out on your own. Lifestyle changes again but you select your clients to focus travel on interesting places, manage hours seasonally through teaming, and pick markets with fees to provide desirable fees and benefits.

Tip: This is not as easy for some of us as it sounds. It depends on how important lifestyle is compared to other aspects of your consulting career. What is the relative importance of lifestyle when compared to compensation, professional growth, intellectual satisfaction and other reasons you entered consulting as a profession? Look at your original plan to enter consulting and your decision criteria and weights. Are they the same or have they changed? How would your "lifestyle score" stack up now? If it is not what you want it to be, what do you need to do to get it back to where it needs to be? If your lifestyle is more than you expected and your other factors are not correspondingly suffering, then congratulations!

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting lifestyle  your consulting practice 

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#51: Have You Lost Touch With Your Clients?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 18, 2009
Delivering client service and keeping the pipeline full takes a lot of time, leaving little time to keep in touch with past clients. Any suggestions?

First of all, keeping in touch with past clients should be one of your top activities in keeping your pipeline full. As you know, it is easier to retain (or reactivate) an existing client than it is to generate a new one. Just because a project has concluded does not mean the person or organization is not your client anymore.

Keeping in touch means two things. First, it means keeping up with what is going on in their business. Just because your project is over doesn't mean their needs have been satisfied. Even if you solved a problem or captured an opportunity for all time with your brilliant advice, there remain other parts of the company that can benefit from your insights. Keep up with current events in your clients' operations, including setting up a clipping service with Google or other vendor. The second part of keeping in touch is to keep you top of mind to them. Their memories of your superlative service will soon fade away with the press of business. Your mission, therefore, is to find ways to be relevant and valuable to them, even when you are not serving them directly. Connecting in person is best, if you can do it professionally, but a phone call or email is the minimum every few months if you want those memories to last. Most important is to have a specific plan for staying in touch and working the plan. Don't let this task just "happen" for when something reminds you to get back in touch with a client.

Tip: As with most things, when you aren't sure how to proceed, ask. Approach your client with a proposal for keeping in touch. Don't just inform them that you will email them every few months to keep in touch. There is little in this approach for them. Instead, ask them if it would be OK with them if, based on your knowledge of their business needs, you forwarded relevant news items with your commentary and suggestions for how they might benefit. This gives you permission to contact them and an understanding of specific items you can be on the lookout for. Since managing this across all clients can be difficult, instead set up a list of business topics to monitor with client names and context associated with each. Before long, you'll be well informed on a specific set of current events and can start writing your own commentaries to send instead of commenting on items by others.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  client service  communication  customer understanding 

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