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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 

#451: It's Always a Good Idea to Have an Idea Box

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 6, 2010
Updated: Monday, December 6, 2010
In my reading and going to conferences and professional development events, I often run across ideas that resonate but don't apply to my consulting practice right now. Later, I wish I could remember where those ideas came from. Any ideas how to track down these ideas?

You can always use Google or other Internet search tools to find resources related to an idea you recall. You can even use an arcane technique, rarely used these days, called "asking a colleague." This does require picking up the phone or getting together to talk with someone, but the technology still works!

However, what about those great ideas you don't recall but might be just what you need? You know a great idea when you see or hear it. We suggest creating in "Idea Box (or Folder, or File)."

Ideas come in many formats - images, scribbled notes, electronic documents, recordings, etc. Converting them to electronic format is hard because it seems like too much effort and organizing them is hard because the filing taxonomy isn't clear when you are collecting random ideas.

Just set up a box, file drawer, or folder to collect hand written notes, pictures, printouts, magazine articles, etc. that strike you as interesting. Make notes on each of what impressed you and how you might use this in the future. If there is a specific time you might use it (e.g., ideas for speeches, when you land a certain client), set up a category (folder) for those items.

Tip: Regularly go through the Idea Box and toss out bad ideas and update notes. Over time, an organizing scheme will become evident. This will keep your innovation pipeline full and help you create new services for clients and your practice.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  information management  intellectual property  knowledge assets  market research 

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#450: Good Things Come From a Well Written Consulting Contract

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 3, 2010
Updated: Friday, December 3, 2010
What are the key components that I should include in my contracts with clients?

We obviously cannot provide you with specific legal advice and always recommend utilizing an attorney in compiling or reviewing your formal contracts. Some obvious ingredients of an effective contract are:
  • A thorough description of the work to be performed, including a clear specification of the scope and boundaries of the project.
  • A clear description of the main objectives and associated deliverables of the project or engagement
  • A timetable including all important dates including those associated with the project’s started and expected end, as well as the expected date of accomplishment for the specified objectives and deliverables
  • A list specifying your requirements including key information and the specific level of support you will need from the client in order for you to successfully complete the assignment
  • In order to help set clear expectations upfront with your client, it might also a good idea to address those specific areas outside of your control (e.g., external critical path dependencies, implied outcomes such as specific increase in market share, client’s failure to deliver specified requirements in a timely manner, etc.)
  • Specific terms and conditions (e.g., compensation and payment terms, additional services, consultant liability protection, confidentiality, non-compete clauses, cancellation, disputes/remedies, any special provisions, etc.)
Tip: A consulting contract exists to:
  • Ensure mutual understanding of the assignment
  • Summarize what is agreed to and expected from each party
  • Specify satisfactory results (consultant compensation and client deliverables)
  • Avoid disputes
Unnecessarily complex contracts, unless mandatory (i.e., government contracts), can potentially overwhelm a prospective client and could result in lost business. Focus on keeping the contract as brief, clear, simple, and direct as possible.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  contract  legal 

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#449: Beware of the Three "Vs" of Virtual Teams

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 2, 2010
Updated: Thursday, December 2, 2010
My firm has been asked to support a major trade association on the biggest initiative in their history. However, although everyone is excited about it, the project doesn't seem to be getting any traction. How can I help them the way they expect me to?

The first thing to consider is the structural difficulties projects like these present. They are not like a typical corporate initiative where the normal planning and management practices would apply. Consider the "3 Vs" of your situation"
  • Virtual: It is much harder to manage virtual project teams. Most virtual team management practices assume the team is bound by history (they know each other) or culture (they work for the same company) or contractually (they are bound by a contract). A virtual team assembled from various organizations will likely lack common communication practices and infrastructure, etc.
  • Volunteer: Your team has other priorities, such as their regular jobs. As committed as they are to your project, their "day jobs" come first.
  • Vigor: Passion may be high at project start but, again since this is not their income stream or vocation, their interest may wax and wane.
Your project management plan would benefit significantly by addressing each of these constraints.

Tip: New collaboration technologies (e.g., Oovoo, where you can simultaneously videoconference up to six people, and Central Desktop) are the kinds of tools that will create efficient operations and streamline culture. Managing a virtual volunteer team does require more high touch effort, and you should build this into your project management plan. Finally, reach out to similar professional associations to see how they have managed their major volunteer-led initiatives.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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#448: Sometimes You Just Have to Ask

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Several of my colleagues get business - a lot of business - through referrals. This isn't my situation at all. Maybe I'll get one or two referrals a year but these rarely turn into business. What's the secret?

A referral is a testimonial by someone who sees value in what you have to offer. But this doesn't happen without some intervention on your part. Four things must happen to get great referrals. The referrer must (1) recognize specific value in what you have to offer, (2) know that a referral is of value to you, (3) know to whom they should make a referral, and (4) have a reason to make the referral.

First, be clear what you want them to value. They hired you for a reason but you might want referrals in another area. Tell them specifically what skills and behaviors you want them to tell others about. They will know of a lot more potential work using servicces other than what you provided them.

Second, clients are not mind readers. Your relationship is based on you helping them, not the other way around. Tell them you'd appreciate a referral. Most will be happy to do it if you just asked. Delivering exceptional value can't hurt their desire to look a bit harder to find you a referral.

Third, make a list of specific people or types of people for whom you'd like a referral. This may or may not be the same as your "ideal cllient" but is likely close. Don't make your clients work hard to create referrals on your behalf. Better that they look at a list you've given them and think of people to whom they could make a referral that you didn't even know existed.

Tip: Finally, Make it worth their while. Why would they take time and risk their reputation? Because you can provide a client's colleagues with the same value you provided them. Just like you are more than willing to recommend a great restaurant, create a desire in your client to make the referral on your behalf.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  recommendations  referrals 

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#447: Find a Way to Support the Consulting Profession

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Perhaps you've had a very successful and prosperous year. Are you aware of a less fortunate colleague who struggled in 2010?

Management consulting can be an extremely rewarding way to make a living. It can be a challenging one, as well. Although they might have many success stories to share, an experienced and accomplished consultant will also be able to relay a tale of when times were pretty tough and the outlook was bleak. Many were able to transcend these challenging periods through the assistance of others.

As IMC USA members, we often leverage the assistance and expertise of our fellow members in order to gain advice, knowledge and insight, and build collaborative alliances.

Helping a fellow consultant in need can take many forms: offering referrals, providing key introductions, identifying an opportunity, sharing a resource, assisting with a challenging task or even simply offering to provide a meal, a sympathetic ear, and some good advice.

Tip: Try to identify one fellow consulting colleague that has experienced a challenging year and could use your help. How might you be able to provide some needed assistance without the risk of offending or embarrassing them? All of these can strengthen your relationships as well as the profession.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  coaching  consulting colleagues  goodwill  guidance 

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