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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 

#581: Consultant "Bedside Manner" May Be More Important Than You Think

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 6, 2011
Updated: Monday, June 6, 2011
I don't think consultants do their clients a service by becoming chummy with them. I even know many clients consider this an attempt by consultants to "go native" and settle in for a long stay, but I just think it is unprofessional. Shouldn't we just go in and get the job done?

As with many consulting challenges, the answer is: it depends. We consider "bedside manner" important in some professions, like medical treatment or social work, and not in others, like auto repair and mining. The difference is the role of the provider in helping the purchaser or consumer better understand, accept or transact the service or product. Some people don't want or need any help. I might want a skilled surgeon to remove my gall bladder and I am paying for a procedure and could care less about making friends. Alternatively, for a life-threatening condition, I might consider procedural and emotional factors equally and may even want to include my family in this need for emotional service, making bedside manner a critical decision point in selecting a provider.

It is about the emotional component of the engagement. A divorce lawyer needs skills but possibly the more important service is emotional care through the change process. A consultant's bedside manner can be just as important. Consider that clients only hired you because the organizational change process was long, complicated and difficult. You know how hard (if not impossible) it is to effectively change an organization without adequate emotional and cultural preparation.

Tip: The emotional mechanisms needed to communicate, understand and accept change may differ significantly for each of your clients, even within the same industry. If you are not spending significant time understanding these factors, then you are not doing your job as a professional or change agent. Even if you are providing a commoditized service (e.g., diagnostic survey or workshop), consider the emotional care required for effectiveness before you dismiss your service as "just technical."

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  communication  consultant role  customer understanding  goodwill  professionalism  trust  values 

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

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 3, 2011
Updated: Friday, June 3, 2011
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.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  competition  market research  planning  product development 

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#579: Pay Attention to Culture Even Within Your Own Country

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 2, 2011
Updated: Thursday, June 2, 2011
I get that consultants should attend to cross-culture issues when doing business in foreign countries. However, in some cases, there are cultural issues from region to region within one's own country. Aren't these also important?

They absolutely are. Although perhaps the biggest (and potentially most embarrassing) gaffes occur in misunderstanding across nations, the need to understand your audience does not go away within one's own country. It is more than just differences in dress, language, business customs and how one conducts a meeting. It extends to how one uses technology, expectations about making and keeping commitments, and tolerance for lateness.

With a global business audience, a person's ethnicity, country of origin, and the region of your own country in which they generally conduct business all flow together to create a unique social construct for each person. No longer can you say, "He is from Germany so he will behave like X." or "She has worked in the southern part of the state, so she will not mind Y."

Tip: Despite all the books that claim to tell you how to deal with a person from country X, recognize that each person is more complex and requires a nontrivial bit of research to best understand how they work and think. Consider it like dating, where you spend some time understanding someone before deciding how best to develop a relationship.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  client development  customer understanding  market research 

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#578: Get Control of the Old Kind of Information: Paper

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I've got pretty good processes and tools to filter and control electronic information but paper is another matter. Is it easier to convert to an all electronic info system or is getting control of paper going to be just as hard as electronic?

Whether your business is paper–based or paper–less, consultants waste an unbelievable amount of time and energy looking for things that should be properly filed and easily retrievable. It doesn't really matter how you do it—alphabetically, by subject, by category or type, by follow–up date, etc.—just choose the way that works best for you and make sure it gets done on a regular basis.

The simple trick is finding the reason your paper piles up in the first place. Avoiding having piles of unknown content sitting around "waiting to be filed," gets us off to a good start. You can figure out a triage system that works for you but a few failsafe ideas I have used may help. For paper magazines and journals (remember those?), set aside a file folder (e.g., 4 inches wide) and add new issues to the left side as they arrive. Commit to not have any issues except those in the file folder, and when it gets full, discard issues from the right side. Depending on your compulsiveness and curiosity, it is amazing how fast you can go through a journal when it is headed for the trash. I also take those on plane rides and don't bring them home.

Tip: The key to effective filing is a logical system and disciplined execution. Everything goes in a file folder - no piles of unread or unfiled paper, just like your electronic files should all go in a folder. This helps you categorize everything and highlights when something has no home and is just "interesting," a likely sign that it will never be acted on and should be discarded or recategorized. Don't forget the "round" file or shredder. For many non-critical pieces of information we encounter, these are the most appropriate permanent filing locations.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  information management  your consulting practice 

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#577: Are You A "Karaoke Consultant?"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011
There are times when a conflict arises with a prospect about the methodology we propose to use. Some clients are uncomfortable using an approach we have developed and successfully used and prefer we use approaches that are more widely recognized in the management literature or popular books.

The work of a professional management consultant extends to more than just dispensing common sense advice. Although it is possible to create some value by applying principles and practices developed by others, this relegates you somewhat to the role of a contractor or, at most, a journeyman. Traditionally, a journeyman was one who had completed a period of apprenticeship but had not developed the skill, independence and creativity of a master craftsman.

This is a two-part problem. First, it sounds like the prospect is more enamored with the "trusted" books and literature than with the approaches and processes that have successfully applied with your clients. You will have to make a more compelling case for how your approach would work and why it should be preferred over the popular one. Second, more subtle though not less important, is that you have not made a convincing case that the prospect should trust your judgment to select the most appropriate approach, whether yours or someone else's.

This discussion is one you first have within your team and with yourself. Are you satisfied carrying out someone else's processes and ideas or are you a master craftsman who creates new value? Are you comfortable using a process that may be the latest fad but that you know doesn't always work as proposed? Don't you have an ethical responsibility to stick to your guns and tell the client that it is not in their best interest to use a technique that, despite the number of book written about it, is really nothing new or is a departure from good "first principles" business practices?

Tip: There is a difference between a cover band and the real deal, between a karaoke singer and the original artist. The former are usually enjoyable enough (and sometimes dreadful) but they are not the value creators and rarely in a position to innovate and lead a profession. Those creators, the "master artisans," are where we all aspire to be as management consultants. Are you going to be an innovative and creative consultant, or a "karaoke consultant"?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  consulting process  innovation  trust  your consulting practice 

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