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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 

#436: Consulting Humor: Explain Your Fees

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 15, 2010
Updated: Monday, November 15, 2010
Since humor is based on pain, old and well worn jokes about consultants tap into some uncomfortable truths about how some clients perceive our services. We are well advised to pay attention to the implicit messages in this week's jokes (Yes, we'll do jokes all five days. Trust us, there are a lot more).
The dominant value of management consulting services is in diagnosis, not necessarily in implementation services.

A company had a boiler that was working intermittently. They tried everything they could do but nothing worked. Finally they called in a consulting engineer, who they knew to be expensive but the best in the business.

He arrived and set to work studying the boiler, checking connections, temperatures, and overall operations. He then stepped back, stroked his chin and after a few minutes, made a mark on the side of the boiler. He then picked up a sledge hammer and took a full swing and hit the mark.

The boiler gasped and sputtered, then started to work perfectly.

The consulting engineer then gave his bill to the client. The boss was shocked and said "I'm not paying $1000 for hitting a boiler with a sledge hammer." I need to see a detailed invoice.

The consultant's bill: "Hitting the boiler: $25. Knowing where to hit the boiler: $975." (This is an old joke; each time it is told, the prices go up)

Takeaway: When setting billing rates, explain to your client that much of what you are being compensated for is diagnosis. The 10-20-30 years of experience you bring drives to a solution that the client or consultant can then implement. Consultants get a bad rep when they try to diagnose without enough experience and then try to prescribe solution without enough skill.

See more at (or contribute to) IMC's Consulting Humor blog

Tags:  fees  proposals  sales 

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#435: How Consultants Get Into Ethics Trouble

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 12, 2010
Updated: Friday, November 12, 2010
Ethics has obviously become a huge concern in business. New federal regulations on professional service firms require them to have codes of ethics. Am I OK as long as I do my job as a consultant professionally, or do I have to be concerned with the ethics of my clients and colleagues?

Ethics for consultants is increasingly complicated, and one reason why the professional conduct associated with the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation is of increasing interest to businesses hiring consultants. Consider the following scenario:

A CMC consultant was contracted by a business security services provider. It is important to note that an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) exists between the consultant and the security provider. The provider had recently uncovered a systems security breach at one of their clients, a publicly traded corporation. During the breach investigation it was discovered a "Bot" had been attached to the Oracle database. A "Bot" is a computer program that is unknowingly installed on a computer system and performs predefined repetitive tasks. These tasks can include espionage activities like stealing competitive information, customer data and even financial information. The Bot had been programmed to copy and send product costing and pricing information to an external web site.

The CMC advised the business security provider that given the type of data involved, the competitive position of their client may have been compromised. This event needed to be reported to executive management due to possible material damage to the company's sales and their competitive position. This being the case, it may need to be disclosed due to Sarbanes-Oxley regulations as well. A meeting was called with the business security service provider's direct customer. In that meeting with the head of IT and the head of security, the CIO demanded that this not be communicated in any way to anyone.

Tip: This could happen to any consultant, not just computer or security consultants, and you would be obliged to respond appropriately. Consider how you would do so. Does the NDA control your actions? Should you go to the CEO, state attorney general, your client, the Board, someone else? Say nothing (since "it's not in your scope of work")? Try to reason with the security provider? Resign from the engagement? Not so clear, is it? Would more information help? This is why ongoing discussions of ethical situations are so important.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  confidentiality  ethics  reputation  roles and responsibilities 

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#434: Think Hard Before Changing Your Business Name

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 11, 2010
Updated: Thursday, November 11, 2010
I am thinking about modifying or changing the name of my consulting firm. Any suggestions?

Before your client knows much about your company, he or she infers much from the company name. John Doe and Associates usually means it is just John Doe. Excellent Research, Consulting and Meeting Planning might be interpreted as a range of unfocused business services. Zyzzx could mean anything.

Technology, markets, management trends, generations and reputation of consultants evolve nationally or in your own market. Have either you or your consulting space changed enough so that your name doesn't reflect (to a prospect) who you are? Given how most people locate your business, how important is a unique name in online searches vs. in conversations? How important is it to be findable vs. memorable?

When a consultant is the company in a relationship business, we are tempted to just name the company after ourselves, assuming that the name will express what the company is and does. This works very well for your current clients, but what about prospective clients?

George Eastman, founder of Kodak, gave some classic advice about company brand and name. "A trademark should be short, vigorous, incapable of being misspelled," said Eastman. "It must mean nothing. If the name has no dictionary definition, it must be associated only with your product." Although logical advice, this works only if you are able to put some resources behind establishing and supporting a name over time. Most consultants don't consider a rebranding effort worth the cost.

Tip: Even though rebranding or renaming your company will incur some costs (both in dollars and and in market confusion), it is worth at least a though experiment every few years to really think about whether your name still reflects who you are and what you stand for. Ask a few clients what your company name says about you.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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#433: Get Your Online Life Back

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I spend a fair amount of time online, with a lot of time attending to social media, email, web-based or database research and quantitative analysis. Most of this is presumably productive, but what is a "right amount?"

There is no "right" amount because each of these activities may be highly productive for your particular consulting practice. It is easy to feel like any one of these is "too much" because, compared to the past, you are spending much more time on that activity. How much time did you spend 15 years ago on email? Is what you spend now too much or too little? New web applications, new distractions, and new resources can skew our appreciation for what is really most useful.

Consider RescueTime, an application that intelligently tracks what applications you spend your time with, including where you spend most of your time surfing. It has a really clever feature, called Focus Time," in which you set a time during which it will warn you if you stray off your chosen task (to, say, respond to that "urgent" instant message, or "quickly" look up something on a website - that lasts 5 minutes).

Tip: Before tracking your time, estimate how much time you spend throughout the day on various activities and adjust to what you think is an appropriate proportion for each. Once you get your usage data, you can see what, based on your own criteria, is too much (or too little) time spent in a given activity.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  project management  social media  time management 

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#432: Even Expert Consultants Need Mentors

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Coaching has been getting high marks from successful executives for several years. I've been very successful in my consulting career and just don't see any benefit in it for me. What am I missing, if anything?

There are two issues here. First, would someone as accomplished as you benefit from a coach or mentor? As good as we think we are in a particular discipline, we can see things from only one perspective. All of us go to a spouse, colleague or friend for a second opinion on many issues. Why wouldn't we do the same on our profession? Tiger Woods, inarguably the top golfer in the world, has at least one golf coach to help him tweak or completely rebuild his swing. Just because you are good doesn't mean you can't improve.

Second, what kind of coach or mentor is best for you? Would you best benefit from a consulting mentor, perhaps a senior colleague whose professionalism and experience you admire? Would a life coach, whose expertise integrates your attitudes, skills and approach to your profession and life, provide a more sustained beneficial change? Or maybe a coach known for developing your capability in a specific discipline such as marketing, public speaking or negotiation?

Tip: Just because you are a good consultant doesn't mean you can self-diagnose where a coach would best help. Take your own best advice (leave diagnosis to the experts) and spend some time with a coach or two to see in what areas you could most benefit.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  guidance  performance improvement  professional development  your consulting practice 

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