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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 

#30: Help Your Clients Broaden Their Perspective

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, April 17, 2009
My client just told me he is going on vacation next week and wants to spend time away from the details of the project and think more broadly about the company. How can I help him do this?

This is a golden opportunity to add value to any engagement. Since our primary job is to execute a project, we tend to dive into the project plan and individual tasks and sometimes lose perspective on the big picture. For the benefit of both ourselves and our client, it would be productive to create the space around where your project fits into the overall company strategy and environment. If your work is on strategy or markets, then go one level higher to national economy, demographics or product markets.

Think about your project and its ultimate intended outcomes. How do you intend the client's organization to differ when your project is complete? Now, what (relatively brief) articles or podcasts can you provide your client to help think more broadly about his or her big picture responsibilities? It could be the introduction to a book on trends in their industry, or an article of interesting research, or profiles of a few newsmakers in their main technology, or a podcast of a panel interview of futurists. Executives barely have time to stay on top of operations, much less step back to find and think about the bigger picture.

Tip: Spend some time thinking about the bigger picture on behalf of your client. Prepare three items: (1) a single article or two that can be consumed in 15 minutes, (2) some podcasts that can be listened to in the car or on a treadmill, and (3) a short book that insightfully addresses emerging trends in the industry or discipline most relevant to the client's success. Make sure you have read and understand whatever you give to your client. The last thing you want is to engage them and then not be conversant in what you gave them. The upside of this is that you will educate yourself and broaden your own perspective about your client's situation.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  consultant role  goodwill 

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#29: Recruit Your Partners Like an Athletic Coach

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 16, 2009
I've gotten to know a lot of fellow consultants, but most not very well. I've teamed with some of them, and the results were OK in most cases and sometimes not as well as I'd have liked. How do I know who is a good teaming partner?

This raises an interesting topic that consultants think about but rarely talk about. If a partnership provides teaming parties more than they could get without teaming, how can I make sure that I am getting far more than just the sum of the parts? This affects small consulting firms as well as large ones. A decade ago, when the world didn't change so fast, we could take time to build relationships with prospective partners and get to know them fairly well through low risk collaboration. As engagements have become more focused, faster and require more specialized knowledge, this is getting harder to do.

Think about all the ways sports teams are created. The goal is the same as a consulting teaming partnership - assemble the right mix of talent for the job (game, conditions and opponent) at hand. You can mimic pick-up basketball where you go with the tall or muscular kid, or the kid you know. Anyone you don't know , even if they are the best player, you pick later. Compare this to a college or pro sports team. A huge amount of effort is spent getting to know every potentially available player. Coaches spend precious time learning about a player from their coaches, opponents and teammates. When the opportunity arises, they know exactly who to pick. Coaches who don't recruit well are out of a job pretty soon as the quality of their team declines.

Tip: Think about the kinds of engagements you currently pursue, or the industries or markets in which you work. What skills or experience are you missing that would give you a leg up? Who are the key players who would know the best consultants in that space? Could you talk to them to find out who they recommend as a consultant and why? Talk to those consultants now, before you need anything from them or can provide anything to them. Develop a list of the 10-20 consultants you'd like to team with when a specific opportunity arose. Keep the list updated (and establish whatever level of relationship you think appropriate). When you need that great point guard/facilitator, you'll know exactly who to choose.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consulting colleagues  planning  teaming 

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#28: Keeping Time Records

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, April 14, 2009
My client just wants me to track my hours on a weekly basis and submit totals with my monthly invoice. How good should my records be to track time for a client?

Tracking your work is for your benefit as well as for your client. Just because your client only wants a number of hours does not mean you should settle for this level of detail. More important than the hours you are tracking is what you did during that time. Many consultants will write on their time record nothing more than the hours worked and a cursory "interviews." This is insufficient to help you recall what you did, why or where the products of that work are now. Also, it won't help you evaluate whether your time was estimated correctly or whether you are working on the right tasks. You and your client are best served by a full accounting of work and the context for that work.

Tip: Create a tracking sheet for your own use that records five items: (1) time, (2) where you did the work (your office, client site, or other location), (3) what you did (description of the nature of the activity), (4) what value this provided in terms of the project deliverables (tie to milestones, project task, or deliverable), and (5) reference to work product produced (briefing, analysis, interviews, slide deck). You can share these with your client of not (they are sure to be impressed with your professionalism) but these make a good record for your own. Also, use them to better understand how accurate your estimated times foo future tasks.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  engagement management  performance improvement  planning  practice management  project management  recordkeeping 

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#27: When You and Your Client Disagree

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, April 14, 2009
How should a consultant handle a situation when you strongly disagree with the client? I mean the kind of disagreement where the client plans to ignore my advice and do something I think will destroy the company.

There is a simple answer to this question but the action you may take may be complex. First and foremost, you are the consultant and he or she is the client. You are paid to provide your expertise and perspective in an independent and objective manner. It is not your call to make - the client is fully accountable for the decisions.

If you believe that the client is making a decision that endangers public safety, is about to commit a crime or is acting in a way outside their legal authority, the IMC USA Code of Ethics advises you to notify the appropriate authorities. However, assuming you consider the imminent decision just bad judgment, then you have three main options.

First, you can state your disagreement and shut up. Second, you can make your case strongly and offer unambiguous (to you) proof that the client's decision will harm the company, and then shut up. Or, finally, you can state your case and offer to withdraw from the engagement, citing the fact that you do not want to be associated with the coming decision. The nuances of how each case should be decided depend on the circumstances of the decision and your relationship with the client. However, the third option is not one many consultants consider but may well be your best case.

Tip: You can head off the likelihood of this happening by having a discussion with your client at the outset of the engagement. Acknowledge your respective roles and raise the prospect of strongly held opinions - yours based on years of experience and the client's based on the fact that they are, well, the client. Decide how far and by what process you foresee resolving these types of disagreements. This takes a few minutes but may save your engagement, or the client from making a big mistake.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  engagement management  recommendations  roles and responsibilities 

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#26: Learning From Failure

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, April 13, 2009
Despite management's best efforts, including advice from consultants, to improve a company, sometimes things go wrong and a company fails. Shouldn't we, as consultants, be able to see these failures coming?

Granted, a consultant's experience in a range of industries and exposure to a lot of business settings should give us a good perspective and sensitivity to imminent problems with a business that may lead to failure. However, we are not totally in control of all the factors that lead to business success, even if we would prefer to take credit for the success of our clients. Sometimes a business falls victim to a flawed strategy, a distressed economy or shifting market. We may not be able to help as much as we'd like.

It is possible, however, that we can better serve our clients by increasing our sensitivity to and awareness of the range of possible failure modes of a business. If we understand why businesses falter, instead of just focusing on why they succeed, we may be able to head off a bad situation for our client. We spend so much time reading about and trying to implement "best practices" that we may be missing a time bomb in our midst. It is highly unlikely that any company failed because they were trying to; most were trying their best but never saw it coming until it was too late. This is where you, as a consultant, come in.

Tip: Regardless of your particular discipline, part of your job is to serve as an independent and objective early warning system for your clients. In addition to reading about best practices, spend some time learning about business failures. Learn the patterns and early signs of businesses like your client's that failed or got into trouble. Collect articles of companies that, in hindsight, made a series of bad decisions or, if they were more aware, might have been able to prevent problems. Even read about some of the classic business failures, despite management's best efforts, so that you can recognize possible warning signs with your own client. Consider each classic failure and see what lessons you can learn that might apply to your client.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  learning  recommendations 

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