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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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#956: What's Climate Change Got To Do With Consulting?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 2, 2009
Several of my clients have started asking about how I can help them address climate change in their business or changing supplier or government policies about climate change. Is this likely to be a long term issue that consultants need to know about?

If your clients are asking about it then, by definition,it should be of concern to you. Climate change issues are so pervasive that every consultant should be knowledgeable about the issue and its impact on business. Regardless of what discipline or industry you work in, climate change is already affecting how your clients run their businesses and plan for its future.

If you are in human resources, higher fuel prices and congestion are leading to a growing demand for teleworking, which will require operational policies and procedures, new management skills, and new collaboration technology. If you are in transportation, weather will affect operations. If you are in banking or risk management, increasing storm intensity and frequency will alter your exposure and possible liabilities. If you are in facilities management, consider how your clients will need to alter heating and cooling across their facilities. If you are in hospitality, food prices affected by rising temperatures will affect your overall cost structure. If you specialize in corporate governance, a range of new state, federal and international regulations are coming, knowledge about which you need to be ahead of your clients. As a consultant, your failure to advise clients of potential criminal liabilities they face relative to environmental regulatory compliance will not go over very well. Finally, employees want to work for, and other companies in thesupply chain want to work with, green companies.

Tip: Climate change is a complex issue but don't get caught up in the political debate and forget that the impacts on business have been significant and increasing for more than a decade. Learn about the interrelated impacts on food supplies, water resources, energy costs, risk management, required retraining and corporate strategy and governance. This issue pervades everything a company does and you need to be regularly reading up on its impact on business. For a good fast primer on the issues your clients face from climate change, see a recent Pew Trusts report.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  planning  sustainability 

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#955: Regular Check-Ins

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, January 1, 2009
I have recently discovered the idea of taking time outs at various stages of my day, week and month to do a "process check" and reconnoiter. The nature of each check is a function of its timing, with daily checks being relatively short and monthly checks lasting an hour or two. I highly recommend it.

What is old is new again. The origin of the concept of taking a time out during cycles to stop, reflect and prepare for the next cycle is lost to history. Many of these reflections were born of spirituality, then formalized in various religions. The annual observance of annual agriculture cycles are meant to close out one season and prepare for the next. Daily rituals on a personal basis and weekly rituals on a community basis are part of many people's lives. These serve to regulate and remind us of the balance that comes with observance of repetitive observations and activities.

So what does this have to do with consulting? More than many, consultants can be busy marketing, selling, delivering services, conducting your research, professional development, spending time in professional and community activities, family time, and sleep. It is very easy to come to a logical daily, weekly, monthly or yearly demarcation and to just "let it slide," thinking we will catch up later. Only we never seem to do it. More than most, we probably need to pause once daily to take stock of where we are and where we need to go in the next day. Every week, we could do a"weekly level" check in - different than the daily or monthly check in. Annually, same idea. Find a way to stop for a few minutes and make sure you are doing the right things, for the right reasons, with the right goals in mind.

Tip: For an interesting perspective on how we came to even create annual holidays and how even our most formalized religious observances are just replacements for pagan or prior religious observances (conquerors always get to coopt the religions of the conquered), see The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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#954: Order Before Midnight! - The Place for Incentives in Professional Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 31, 2008
In tough economic times, many businesses provide incentives for buyers of their products and services. As unseemly as it might be for professional services providers to offer such inducements, does doing so make any sense?

Never say never. A decade or two ago, no lawyer or doctor would dream of advertising their services. Now it is commonplace, and, in some cases, rather dog eat dog. Management consulting firms never used to advertise but now magazines (mostly business), television (usually public channels) and sporting events (of course, mostly the more "refined" sports like golf and tennis) are home to ads of big name firms.

As for incentives, they come in all forms. An incentive is any tactic, financial or otherwise, used to make a buyer select your product over another. In a sense, we all use incentives already. Although maybe not a rebate or discount on fees, it might be a modest free consultation, white paper, access to our research, or inclusion in a semi exclusive special group. These range in impact from economic (free) to social (being a member of a group). When economic conditions create pressure on substitutable services (i.e., your services are not unique and may be pressed into becoming a commodity), many consultants should consider some form of differentiation, even if it means an incentive of some kind.

Tip: Consider what drives buyer behavior in your market. For many in tough economic times, it is not so much sticker price but the aversion to making a mistake and wasting money or time. Any incentive you can provide that reduces perceived risk and begins to contribute some value to a prospective or current client will be appreciated. Be creative without diminishing the perceived value of your core services (i.e., don't cut your fees). For example, think about a loyalty program for your best clients (maybe invite them as your guest to an IMC program) or participation in a industry executives roundtable (invite a dozen executives to meet one another at a hosted dinner to discuss a specific topic in your industry, which you would facilitate). Well-designed incentives can really work for consultants.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  fees  marketing  prospect 

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#953: WYGIWYS

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 30, 2008
No, this is not a typo. We are all familiar with the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). However, there is another acronym WYGIWYS (What You Get Is What You See) and it refers to data visualization, an important concept for consultants, both for their own use and for clients.

Data visualization is the graphical display of data and information to communicate its meaning more clearly and effectively. In its simplest form, this would be a line graph, pie chart, histogram or other basic representation of scale, order and sequence. But, with the advent of computers, the past decade has seen many new ways of presenting data that provide insights we were previously unable to achieve.

The importance of this concept to consultants becomes obvious when we try to make sense of increasingly complex information and present it in an understandable and compelling way to clients. There are some by now familiar ways to present multiple types of information in a single graphic. Think of a tag cloud, where the frequency of the occurrence of words or data elements are reflected by their size and relationships by their location and proximity to other words. Or consider Visuwords, which presents itself as an "online graphical dictionary." Enter a word and, based on its meaning and relationships with other words, it is displayed in a relationship diagram. Try it out.

Tip: Here are two data visualization sources. The first is a set of 16 visualization tools that you may use yourself. The second is some elegant examples of ways to visualize data more powerfully than in a simple table or chart. Remember, What You Get (meaning understand) Is What You See meaning visualize).

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  data visualization  information management 

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#952: We Can't See What We Don't Look For

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 29, 2008
My partner and I run a boutique consulting firm with essentially no competition. We are looking to expand and wonder what markets are likely to have similar low competition, sort of a "Blue Ocean" strategy.

Claims that "we have no competitors" are fairly common among small consulting firms. At first glance, this would seem to be because service quality is so exceptional and client access so robust, that no other firm could hope to break into this gravy train. What is more likely is that the market for services is so provincial that it is overlooked by any serious competitors.  This is not a bad thing, but shouldn't be mistaken for noncompetition.

Service commoditization, globalization, fast cycle mimicry of new services - all are trends that may make a consultant's small parochial market in danger of being invaded. Around the world, native species of plants and animals are being overwhelmed by invasive species. Most of these invaders have been ignored by most governments, despite warnings from biologists. Finally, after commercial losses have mounted into hundreds of millions of dollars, suddenly snakehead, kudzu, lionfish and melaleuca are household words to farmers, ranchers and fishers. So much for protected "markets."

Tip: If we presume there is no competition for our services, we will never see it coming when it does. Be proactive and ask your clients if they didn't use you to provide advice and technical services, who would they use. How would they go about finding another source, including insourcing, to receive what they receive from you. Conduct a survey in your space of what consulting services are most valuable for your industry. Then, ask how users of those services would cut expenses or increase speed or breadth of service delivery. If you think hard enough, you may come up with some troubling answers on your own. But don't presume you are free from competition.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  competition  planning  sustainability 

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