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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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#456: Have Some Courage as a Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 13, 2010
Updated: Monday, December 13, 2010
What are some of the main stumbling blocks to a consultant's success?

There can be many such impediments, but David Maister says the biggest hindrance to a consultant's success is a lack of courage to stand by the long-term goals, plans and strategic vision they have set for themselves. We often help clients define and pursue their future but deny the same for ourselves.

The temptation to forego your long-term career/practice vision (and the supporting strategy for getting you there) in favor of short-term benefits (a quick pay check, the lure of steady work, stability, an intresting engagement, etc.) will at times be very high. Especially when the economy is slow overall or in your area or industry, it seems easy to divert from your path (assuming you have articulated one) without consequences. However difficult it might be in the long run, and assuming you confirm that your strategy and vision is sound, the courage of conviction will ultimately be more rewarding.

Tip: Having a long-term vision and strategy in place is critical for achieving whatever it is that you ultimately want to accomplish in your career. Standing by your strategy takes courage. Maister's book, The Trusted Advisor (2000 - Touchstone) regarding the importance of trust in client relationships is still well worth reading.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  planning  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#455: How Much of Your Consulting Have You Memorized?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 10, 2010
Updated: Friday, December 10, 2010
Consulting has a rich history. Academics and consulting firms generate a seemingly endless stream of theories, principles, practices, books and products. Who can keep them straight, much less remember them all?

Certainly over the past twenty years, consulting firms have turned out the "approaches" to consulting, management and business. Without getting into how many have been able to stand up to rigorous validation (remember the In Search of Excellence companies a decade later?), recognize that it is not necessary to "keep them straight." You only need to settle on a few that you can understand and that you can verify have proven valid in your own practice.

Let's focus on your second issue, that of remembering all of them. A 2008 article in Ethics Newsline addressed the diminishing reliance on memorization as the basis of what we "know." With the ability to search just about anything online, we conclude that there is no reason to commit to memory that which we could look up. This is a subtle but fundamental change in what we consider as professional knowledge. If anyone can look up business concepts, management examples, ethical principles or consulting techniques, then of what value is experience, reflection and memorization of consulting skills and development of behaviors?

Imagine trying to effectively diagnose and recommend improvements to a client without some historical knowledge of the beginning of the consulting industry (who was Frederick Taylor, what was the Hoover Commission?), management principles (is strategy a linear process or a portfolio of real options?), contemporary concepts in problem solving (why use TRIZ or rapid prototyping?), business ethics (why is section 404 a contentious area for consultants?), organizational change (is the 7-s model complete?), and consultant credentialing (what impact will the new ISO standards for consultant certification have on client selection of consultants?). Without a basic understanding and a commitment to memory of these kinds of principles, events, and concepts, are we relegated to treating consulting as a research project ("I'll get back to you with my recommendations as soon as I finish Googling your issue")?

Tip: Professional development for management consultants means reading, research, understanding and committing to memory a broad toolkit of business, management and consulting skills. You need to have those tools sharpened and ready to use right away, not have them "back at the shop."

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  knowledge assets  knowledge management  learning  professional development  your consulting practice 

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#454: Get Yourself a (Small Apartment) Kitchen Cabinet

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 9, 2010
Updated: Thursday, December 9, 2010
I consider myself a disciplined professional but my New Year's resolutions for my business last year didn't get as much traction as I had hoped. What can I do to get back on track and execute these well?

This is a common problem, even among those of us who consider ourselves experienced professionals. Consider two aspects of what may well be a complex problem.

First, recall what your "plan" looks like. Did you write it down? Really? All of us have general ideas of what we expect to accompish in the next year. Fewer of us have written down specific near-term objectives and tied them to our overall business goals. Still fewer have explicitly linked those objectives with clear strategies and action plans. Find a middle ground, Plans that are too vague (or not written down) or too specific (the complex ten-page business plan for a small firm) are hard to execute.

Second, some perspective and external discipline is always valuable. Many business books recommend convening a "Kitchen Cabinet" of your accountant, lawyer, banker, financial advisor, and several others in similar consulting practice areas as you. Defining, convening and sustaining such an effort is often so difficult, however logical, that few ever do it. The objective is to get points of view different from yours, not points of view from everyone who could weigh in. The concept is good, but think in terms of a very small kitchen.

Tip: Identify two people who know you and your business. Ask them to look over your (1-2 page) plan and offer you some comments and suggestions. Ask them whether they think you have forgotten something or overlooked an opportunity. Finally, ask them if they would be willing to meet with you over lunch (your treat) in six months and at year end to go over your progress.  You may find that this provides to discipline you need to (1) get your objectives and strategies into simple terms, and (2) provide you with someone else, however informally, to look over your shoulder and help keep you on track.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  guidance  learning  planning  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#453: Grow Your Consulting Practice Efficiently

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I really want to grow my consulting business, but I never seem to have time to get to all of the ideas I have. As a result, some of my best ideas were overcome by events and are not longer viable. How do I make sure this doesn't happen?

Although few consultants would admit this, it happens to almost all of us. We are a creative profession, always thinking of new ways for our clients to increase business, reduce costs, leverage resources, make an impact, and innovate. Of course we come up with more ideas about our own business than we can use. However, this doesn't mean we should let the best ideas dissipate because we "didn't get to them."

Two issues are important to address: what you do and how you do it. First, pull out your five year plan (you do have one, don't you?) and confirm that it is still relevant. Next list all the ideas you have been thinking about to grow your business, alter your mix of service offerings, or change the way you run your practice. Describe each in terms of how it ties to your business objectives, and get rid of those that do not directly lead to your objectives in the near term or require resources you do not have. Finally, define what resources are required to implement each strategy and assure effective results. This should reveal which strategies are nonstarters and which ones are winners.

Second, decide how you are going to implement these business changes. Each day is a wasting asset. Make it a priority to make a conscious change in your business each month or quarter. How can you cluster these ideas together so they leverage each other? What resources do you need to implement them? Do some of them cause you to rethink your five year plan? Are there other people or companies you need to make these happen?

Tip: Balance planning and implementation, but do not wait for an annual planning session to make regular conscious improvements in your business.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#452: Explaining What a Management Consultant Does

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I have what I consider a clear "elevator speech" or "value proposition." What I am not so confident of is my ability to express in the next 2-3 minutes what I can do for a client. What I do is pretty complex and depends on the client's need but I seem to fumble the explanation.

This is not unique. In the absence of specific details on the client situation, needs, capacity for change, resources, and history, it often requires some restraint for a consultant not to reply "it depends" in response to an inquiry of "what can you do for me?"

Where we get tied up is in balancing a clear general response with our wealth of knowledge and experience in similar situations. This is not the time to tell everything you know, especially since, until you know more about the situation, your experience may or may not be relevant, or the information premature.

Explain to a high school senior what service you provide to managers and businesses. Ask them to explain back to you what you do, and be open to clarifying questions. A blank look from them or a flurry of clarifying questions will tell you a lot about your success in explaining yourself. Once you can explain your service in a way that doesn't require specialized knowledge, you will have the basis for a 2- 3 minute introduction to your services.

Tip: Removing all the jargon, historical examples, and arcane references to the best practices literature on consulting will give you a clear, understandable and concise pitch that connects on an emotional, not intellectual, level. And remember, it is not what you do that is interesting, but what the client becomes as a result of what you do, that is of greatest interest.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  marketing  proposals  prospect 

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