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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 

#621: Help Your Clients Connect With Influencers

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 1, 2011
Updated: Monday, August 1, 2011
Clients often ask us to spend much of our time improving people, processes and technology inside an organization. Are there ways we can complement these services other than just to provide inside, technical services?

The value of consultants to clients is to improve the client's condition. Just because you were retained to provide technical advice on one specific issue doesn't mean you can't use capabilities that extend beyond just the immediate challenge. This is not an unethical promotion of your services or trolling for more work. It is being a competent and mindful advisor.

One area often overlooked by consultants is to introduce their clients to influential people and organizations in the consultant's own network. We all know people and organizations (in the public, private and nonprofit sectors) whose knowledge, activities or assets might be of use to our clients. Perhaps we know someone who is introducing a new product our client might use. Maybe a government agency is selling off assets our client would be interested in buying. Or our client needs expertise on staff and we might know of appropriate individuals considering a career move. Even if an introduction of your client to one of your influential colleagues might not be part of the scope of your engagement, it could prove to be among the most useful services you can provide.

Tip: Make an active effort, regardless of your engagement scope, for opportunities to connect your clients, and this includes client staff, to influencers you know. As with any introduction between individuals, be mindful of any ethical or conflict of interest conditions raised by such an introduction.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  customer understanding  referrals 

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#620: Tame Your To-Do List

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 29, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 29, 2011
Professional services like consulting and law generate lists of tasks that never seem to decline. Especially if you are running a litigation team or consulting practice, it is like two steps forward and three steps back. How do you get through the day without being pulled in all directions?

There are two issues - your inbox and your outbox. Logic, and a lot of time management techniques, focus on the path between the boxes. Presumably, if we work faster, the inbox pile magically becomes the outbox pile. Improvements like delegation, streamlining and parallel processing (all familiar to operations consultants) dispense with your work faster and hopefully better.

However, consider a different approach - constraining the size of your inbox. This probably horrifies most consultants trying to market and sell, serve their clients and manage the practice. There's just too much to do! Well, consider what happens to many of the tasks that move from one To-Do list to the next To-Do list, some of which are finally abandoned. We know urgent and important are not the same thing, but how are we going to set priorities, execute with discipline and feel like we have had a productive day (week, month, year)?

Here is a clever idea - adopt the open and closed task list concept. Basically, you create a list of tasks for the day and once done and affirmed, the list is closed for the day. Any new tasks that come up (with consideration for different job types and how much of your job is responding to emergency requests) go on another day's list. This really forces you to trade off the urgency and importance of tasks and, when they can't go on today's list and there is no room compared to other tasks on tomorrow's list, many tasks may disappear without ever landing on any list.

Tip: If It Won't Fit On A Post-It, It Won't Fit In Your Day discusses this intriguing approach. I suggest you adopt this for a week or two to see how well it enforces the discipline needed to manage your inbox. Combined with the time management tips to dispense with tasks once they have landed in your inbox (on your post it note), you will be able to say "no" more often with minimal impact on your productivity or effectiveness.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  planning  practice management  project management  time management  your consulting practice 

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#619: Strengthen Your Online Identity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 28, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2011
I guess we need to accept the fact that, even if consultants aren't identified by clients through online search, we are being investigated and vetted online. My firm is ramping up our presence on Twitter and LinkedIn Groups, adding more blogs, videos and written content to our site, and working on increasing our inbound links. My question is how does anyone know whether all this effort is working?

You are right that more vetting is being done online partly because it is easier but also because it is faster. An interesting thing about online market research is that the proliferation of search and analytical tools creates a potentially confusing array of information. The burden, then, is on the consultant to make sure that our online brand is both pervasive and coherent.

You are certainly well along the path to greater online visibility with the activities you suggest. While the effectiveness of your online campaign ultimately has to be measured in the volume and quality of inquiries and clients you get, there are some ways to measure the intermediate impact. The Online Identity Calculator is a useful tool to estimate the level and trend of your online identity campaign. The tool shows not just where you rank in Google, but what Google says about you. You will get an identity assessment in terms of volume, relevance, purity and diversity. This should give you a sense of what refinements to make.

Tip: Another way to see how visible you are is to use Addict-o-matic (gotta love the name). Enter your personal or company name, a phrase that defines your practice or principal industry, and see an array of top stories from social media, web, blogs, news, video and other sources (you have some control over which ones are displayed). This will give you a broad sense of what topics are most related to the areas in which you want to be found and to what extent you have the desired online presence.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  market research  social media  website 

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#618: How to Get Your New Ideas Off the Ground

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I have lots of ideas about new consulting services and ways to market them. The problem is that I am so busy keeping up with my current business I am not sure what to give up to carve out time to try some of these new lines of business. It's not that I can't prioritize, but more that I am not sure what ideas are worth investing in.

In some ways, the fortunate consultant doesn't have many new ideas to try out. Their business just runs itself and evolves slowly as needed. The truly cursed consultant generates a steady stream of new ideas about practice management, marketing, client services and even entirely new lines of business. There's not enough time, capital, mindshare or energy to tackle even a few of these. The first of many decisions is to understand what risks are involved with trying new ideas (e.g., psychic or financial risks of failure, conflicts or branding risks of succeeding, among many others). What holds many of us back is not having a clear sense of both the path and the outcome of trying out such ideas.

That's just the pregame warm-up. The real issue is actually how to get off the ground what is likely to be a more complex, time consuming and costly idea than you planned. Is the concept really complete? Do I really have the capital? Who will backstop my current business while my attention is diverted? Can I jointly launch several of these ventures? If this sounds like a business plan, you're right. What keeps many of these ideas in the draft stage is a lack of thorough analysis of design, deployment and operation. Once we know exactly what is involved, a lot of these ideas either make no sense (so we can stop worrying about them) or they are obvious investments (and we can get started).

Tip: There’s one more step. Even after we have a competent business plan, we sometimes need a kick in the pants to get moving. No amount of risk or business analysis will give you this. It is all about personality, enthusiasm and feedback from your peers or the market. 99% is a smart collection of articles and (blissfully short and non-pedantic) videos about making ideas happen (there's a book by the site owner as well). Whenever you need some juice for your ideas, watch a few videos on areas like discipline, bias to action, focus and collaboration.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting tools  decision making  intellectual property  motivation  planning  risk analysis  your consulting practice 

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#617: If the Conclusion Is Obvious, Think Again

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2011
I consult to boards of mid-sized companies. Several of my clients have most board decisions either on the consent agenda or that result in a unanimous vote up or down. Is this normal for governance of this size organization and, if not, how should I, as a consultant, raise this with my client?

This raises a lot of behavioral, decision-making, and group dynamics issues, beyond the organization and governance point I infer you are making. A key function of governance is to set direction and limits and of management is to make decisions. Well -structured governance and management provide for diverse points of view. Therefore, a well constituted board and good management team will necessarily have vigorous discussion - and likely disagreement. If there is not, opinion is either missing or is being suppressed for some reason. Think about some legislatures when votes are taken on strict party lines rather than representing constituent interests.

Just like your value as a consultant depends on your independence and objectivity, too much conformance and not enough independent thinking can compromise the potential value of governance and management functions with our clients. Reaching a conclusion on what is presumably an important strategic, operational or cultural issues should be a warning sign that more discussion is needed. It is part of your responsibility to raise this with your client and suggest ways to increase the diversity of discussion. this could be through different individuals, structure, process or expectations.

Tip: Lack of vigorous discussion between you and your client should also be a warning sign that you may be losing a part of the value of the interaction. Do you really want your client to agree with everything you say? If he or she does, how can you be sure they are critically evaluating your recommendations and are fully engaged? Likewise, if you are agreeing with everything your client says, it is likely you are not sufficiently critical or engaged in your project. Don't be disagreeable but do think critically, and expect others to do the same.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  communication  consultant role  decision making  facilitation  roles and responsibilities 

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