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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 

#941: Don't Let Expediency Ruin Your Reputation

Posted By Mark R. Haas CMC, FIMC, Friday, December 12, 2008
I have two prospective clients asking for my time over the next few months. Neither is a sure thing but I don't want to tell either one that I can't provide consulting services because I might be busy (I can't do both at the same time and this is something I have unique knowledge of, so I can't subcontract it). Should I just hope that I get one and not the other?

There seem to be two issues at play. The first is your desire to run your business by serving clients and keeping your client pipeline full. The second is your responsibility to your clients and your reputation by being honest with your prospects and yourself. This conflict is a pretty common one. Another factor is that of all the strategic planning methods proven to be effective, "hope" is not one of them. You should, and can, deal with this directly.

Despite the temptation to play the odds on this, your reputation depends on not getting caught promising, or letting your client infer, that you are available to do the work when there is a chance that you might not. Be honest with your prospects. Let them know that the nature of the consulting business is that not everything is certain and project delays, especially on ones that consume a lot of your time, are costly to your business. Tell them that you are not gaming or hard selling them but that you are being responsible just as you expect they would be to their shareholders or employees in the same circumstances. Let them know that all of your clients are important to you, that you value your reputation, and you want to be absolutely clear that you have potentially competing claims on your time.

Tip: There may be a way, depending on your prospects' circumstances, to alter the timing of your potential commitments so that a delay or part time availability may work for one or both. Be creative. They may be willing to offer you a retainer to be available but if they do not use your time, you still get paid and maybe even provide a partial credit for your time in the future. Maybe you really can train someone to help out if both prospect come to fruition. The one thing you don't want is for filling your pipeline to ruin your reputation by having to tell a client who is counting on your commitment that you have to break it.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  ethics  planning  prospect  reputation 

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#940: Latest Video Conferencing Technology

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 11, 2008
Traveling to and from meetings in other cities can take up a lot of time. I would like to take advantage of videoconferencing but scheduling a videoconference session is still somewhat difficult. One-to-one Skype video is an option but what if I want to have more than one other person in on the call?

Technology marches on and new services are now available that make it possible to have a multiway video conference from your desktop. Although little known, a service called Oovoo makes it possible to have three-way (free) and a six-way ($10/month, and these calls are in high definition) video calls.

Oovoo integrates VoIP, text chat and the ability to send files during the call. You can also leave video messages if the recipient does not answer. This would be particularly effective for working sessions where you need to collaborate with several people. For about the cost of a taxi to and from the airport for a single trip, you can have good quality video conferencing capability on your desktop all year long.

Tip: There are sure to be additional services that provide multiparty video (Ivisit and SightSpeed have similar, more expensive versions), but give this a try and save yourself some time and aggravation by traveling only when you really have to.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  videoconferencing 

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#939: Staying on Top of Trends

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2008
What are some places to look to stay on top of emerging trends?

As the saying goes, if you can't start trends, then at least keep up with those started by others. Where to keep up with trends depends on your industry or profession. Each industry and profession maintains a number of publications, if not full associations for practitioners. Most of these are known to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) or are listed in the Gale Encyclopedia of Associations.

But maybe more important than accepting what other people consider are important trends, why not look through materials that will allow you to divine some emerging trends based on your expertise? You do have expertise and perspective as a consultant to management in specific areas. It is reasonable to conclude that, presented with certain facts, you could just as easily spot a trend that others, lacking your perspective, would miss. Let others readabout your vision of what's to come. At a minimum, when you publish a well articulated prediction of the future and justify it with your own reasoning and facts, you will get both support and rejection. However, at least you will have created visibility for yourself (and a new network of people also engaged in the future of the industry or discipline about which you wrote).

Tip: Make a habit of regularly browsing through general magazines, especially at year end, when many publish "top trends," "what's coming next year," or "people in the news" type articles. You are not necessarily looking for items exactly about your profession or industry but rather for those parallel or connected trends that might have an impact. Whether it is Popular Mechanics' Tools and Gadgets for the coming year (ideas about what lifestyle consumers are aiming for) or Harvard Business Review's Breakthrough Ideas for the coming year, keep a list of publications and websites to look through every few months to keep yourself looking beyond the horizon. If you are really ambitious, spend an afternoon some time browsing through market research sites like Plunkett's or data sites like StateMaster to look for trends in the economy or demographics related to your industry.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  trends 

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#938: Is Consulting All You Do?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 9, 2008
My consulting career is going pretty well, with a full book of business and a growing staff. It does occupy a lot of time and there are times when I feel like I am giving up on other experiences. Does consulting preclude other activities?

Consulting can be time consuming, but doesn't have to overwhelm other aspects of your professional life. In its traditional form, consulting involves building relationships, developing professional skills and technology, and applying them through time spent solving problems. As a professional who brings together experience, skills and perspective, it doesn't have to all be time intensive one-on-one consultation with a client.

There are a range of opportunities to use your expertise in other ways:
  1. Writing - Take on a column, blog, book, white paper, etc. to bring new perspective to your practice, build your visibility and create some lasting value from your expertise.
  2. Speaking - At any level, speak to trade associations, business or consulting conferences, or to community groups about topics related to your area of expertise.
  3. Research - Conduct some data collection, surveys, analysis or other approach to generating new information about your area of expertise or interest.
  4. Volunteering - Give back to your community by offering your management and consulting skills to local nonprofit organizations.
  5. Productizing - Turn your expertise into tangible products such as book or DVD "how to" guides.
  6. Starting Another Business - There is no reason why you can't extend your work into nonconsulting businesses related to your area of expertise, as long as you manage conflicts of interest.
  7. Partnering With Other People - Find individuals with whom you have not worked before and who you respect to develop new partnerships with, getting out of your comfort zone and perhaps discovering a new way of practicing your consulting.
Any of these approaches are ways to freshen your consulting business and develop some new approaches outside of the traditional day to day advice business.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  career  consulting  planning 

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#937: Making Assumptions

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 8, 2008
Part of being a good consultant is being able to get through the diagnosis and to a solution as quickly as possible (but getting it right). To do that we must make assumptions, but where are assumptions short cuts and where are they acceptable?

You know what they say about assumptions. We can't realistically base our diagnostic conclusions entirely on our empirical research done at the beginning of an engagement. We make what we consider to be reasonable assumptions based on discussions with the client and staff, market or technical research, our own analysis and any other information we collect. It is a judicious combination of facts, intuition and experience that is the hallmark of a consultant's detective like skills.

However, professionalism compels us to be on watch for assuming too much, too fast. It is all too easy, after years of experience, to be impressed with our experience and comfortable with believing we "have seen this case a thousand times before." To keep this in check, a professional has processes in place, maybe even formal ones, to challenge and verify all assumptions made on the way to a diagnosis. What are the ways you make sure you are not assuming too much without knowing it?

Tip: Write out the steps you take in your normal process (or more than one) of scoping a project, collecting data, reaching diagnosis, and presenting findings and recommendations. Note the type and criticality of your assumptions at each stage. Finally, describe the implications on this diagnostic chain of each of your assumptions and what you could do to mitigate the risks of wrong assumptions. Now, when people talk about your assumptions, they will have only good things to say.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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