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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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#476: Go the Extra Mile for Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, January 10, 2011
Updated: Monday, January 10, 2011
I am a good management consultant. With over 30 years of experience, my services are well respected and always use the latest techniques. But my clients don't seem to connect with me emotionally and I am convinced I'd get more business if that trust was there.

Consulting is often described as a relationship business. However, not every consultant or client wants such an emotional connection. For some, it is all about the job, not a relationship.

On the other hand, there is tremendous benefit to having a relationship, and it often takes very little to create it. Consulting is like being in love (stay with me on this one). Dating brings out our best side. We go the extra mile. We think of ways we can make the other person's life better. We don't have to; we just do.

Your job as consultant is to improve the lot of your client. If your focus is really on your client as a whole, you will find journal articles of interest, suggest ideas unrelated to your scope of work that might benefit them, introduce them to your colleagues or other clients, provide services for others at the client organization that help the organization, or even remember a birthday.

Tip: It doesn't have to be all about the job. What have you done for your client this week that is not in the scope of services?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role 

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#475: Spend More Time Getting to Know Your Client's Business

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 7, 2011
Updated: Friday, January 7, 2011
What is the right balance between building our consulting skills and learning about the changing markets for our consulting firm's services?

Both of those are certainly important, but even combined, they make up only part of what should be your professional development agenda. When you consider that your job as a management advisor is to bring value to your client, and that your client's top priority is neither your consulting skills or your marketing space, you get the idea.

I recommend you spend a significant amount of time working to both understand and to develop working skills in areas that are directly relevant to your client's business. For example, if your client is a transportation company, how much do are you regularly reading about trends in infrastructure financing, the impact of deficit reduction strategies on state and federal transportation spending, or the impacts of employment, green technologies or new safety rules on sales of new vehicles? This is what your client struggles with, and these are the kinds of insights that show your value to clients. Knowing the latest employee assessment technique or social media just doesn’t cut it.

Tip: Keep a clear priority on building skills and awareness of trends in areas of most interest, thus value, to your client. Bring your regularly renewed knowledge to your client (e.g., a copy of an article you just read, or your own 2-page summary of all you have recently read or heard) and see how appreciative and respectful your client is. Remember, it is better to be seen as standing shoulder to shoulder with your client facing the same future as partners, than to be standing behind him or her and serving only when asked.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  customer understanding  knowledge assets  professional development  your consulting practice 

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#474: Give Referrals With Adequate Qualification

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, January 6, 2011
Updated: Thursday, January 6, 2011
I am always hesitant to refer another consultant. What if they don't perform well? I feel it can hurt my reputation.

Consider a referral as important as any recommendation to a client of strategy, process or other improvement based on your professional judgment. Don't consider it a "throwaway" recommendation for which the client should take all the risk (i.e., "After all, I just gave them her name. It is up to them to vet her before hiring her.").

Also, before you provide names of consultants, be sure you understand how well you do know them and how well you understand the risk you are assuming, as well as imposing on your client. Just because you know someone socially (even if it is for 20 years) doesn’t mean you can vouch for their professional capabilities in a consulting engagement setting.

Tip: Be clear how well you know the referral and explain what you know and don;'t know about them. It may still be useful to say to a client that you have never worked with this person you are referring but they have an excellent reputation with people you do know and trust and yo have known the referral for 20 years and regard his or her highly professional and ethical. If you really don't know that much about the person, say so and decline to make a referral.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consulting colleagues  ethics  networks  referrals  reputation 

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#473: Use Your Accounting System to Control Costs

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I run a small consulting firm and, like all businesses, am looking to better control costs. What are some ways other consultants are reducing their overhead?

Here are two quick (and admittedly oversimplified) approaches small businesses commonly use. First, understand what you are really spending on administration, since most small businesses really don't know. If you are not automating your costs so you can analyze them, do so now. Next, look back over the past year or two and determine what the trends in those costs have been, with a goal of predicting future costs. Finally, determine which costs are in control (i.e., predictable) and which ones are not. You need to be able to describe a process before predicting it and, in turn, predict it before controlling it. Only then can you decide whether (and how) to reduce those costs.

Second, set some priorities for reducing costs, but only the truly low value adding ones. Some businesses just "cut overhead costs" by a certain percent without understanding the effect this will have on their business. Almost every expense has some indirect value added, and cutting them just because they are "administrative" doesn't mean you will not affect your overall business performance. Assuming you can predict administrative costs, test the impact of cutting back on biggest ticket costs (e.g., are you really using all the features you are paying for?).

Tip: Consistent with your desire to control and reduce administrative costs, consider a service like Wave Accounting. Wave is an accounting service with a clever business model - it is a full featured, secure, online accounting system (similar to products like QuickBooks) that is totally free, paid for by targeted ads. Its regularly upgraded features and analytic capabilities will help you get control over your business costs. An automated accounting system will save you time by automatically downloading your credit card and banking data and provide you the ability to predict and control your costs.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  practice management 

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#472: Competing With Insourced Consulting Practices

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, January 4, 2011
This goes in cycles, but it seems that we are in a phase of companies shifting from external consultants to building their own consulting divisions internally. How can external consultants compete with that?

Competition with an internal consultant is no different than it would be with any other source of management advice. If your value to the client is greater than that of alternatives, then you will likely be invited to serve that client.

First, consider why companies are shifting to internal consultants. Most often it is perceived to be a savings in costs, specifically the hourly rate. Although on an activity based cost basis (including facilities, training, overhead, backup staffing, etc.) the costs may appear to be close, the client often does not see it that way.

Second, consider the environment in which insourcing companies find themselves. This is often both a cash preserving and cultural issue, meaning that managers prefer to not spend budget outside the company at the same time they may be laying off staff or cutting salaries. Better to retask current staff, even if they may not have all the expertise an external consultant might bring.

Tip: The solution is to do more research than normal about the client's consultant selection rubric. Is this insourcing a temporary issue driven by the CFO, a culture issue driven by the HR Director, or a strategic move by the CEO? Remember, when everyone is changing how they use consultants, this brings uncertainty and risk to all. Don't give up when the client says they have decided to insource consulting. Help your prospective client clarify the issues and true costs (including opportunity costs) of retasking a valued staff member to replace outside expertise.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  prospect  sales  trends  your consulting practice 

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