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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 

#406: Make Sure You Get The Right Type of Exercise

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 4, 2010
Updated: Monday, October 4, 2010
Most people are aware that a steady program of exercise helps to prevent the gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs in the human body over time with age. Did you know that your brain operates on a similar principal?

According to the Mayo Clinic, human brain cells function less efficiently as a person ages. This can potentially affect the speed of mental processing and the ability of the brain to rapidly retrieve information.

Just as physical exercise keeps your body strong, mental "exercise" can help to keep your mind sharp and agile. One way to "exercise" your mind is to continually challenge yourself by learning new skills. The Mayo Clinic states that, by doing this, your brain will produce new connections between nerve cells that allow them to communicate with one another, thus helping it to store and retrieve information more easily, regardless of your age.

What are some other ways for you to mentally "work out"? Doing puzzles (like the daily crossword or Sudoku), simple memorization exercises, reading, playing a game, and engaging in interesting conversations are just a few of the many things you can do.

Tip: As important as it is to your health to "exercise" and keep your brain strong, it is also important to exercise your body on a regular basis as well. It has been theorized that physical exercise can also help your brain's cognitive ability by facilitating the improved flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  health  work-life balance 

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#405: Surprise Your Clients, But Not as a Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 1, 2010
Updated: Friday, October 1, 2010
I believe in saying what I'll do and doing what I say (and don't buy into the consultant cliché of "under promise and over deliver"). However, I do want to provide whatever support for my client when possible. What are some ways to give that impression without being obnoxious about it?

You are right to be cautious. Clients are smart (they hired you, didn't they?) and keenly perceptive (they got their job, didn't they?) so be genuine or don't bother. Here are a few thoughts:
  • Purposely "beat" a promised deadline (e.g., something expected next week is given to them tomorrow).
  • Periodically send over helpful information and notes about things you feel will benefit them.
  • Send an informal note recommending articles of particular interest to them or their business with no other "strings" attached.
  • Prepare a summary report of an event you just attended and send it to them without telling them in advance that you are going to do it.
  • Provide friendly, unexpected reminders/acknowledgements of key dates, events, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. Do not even consider these unless you have already talked about the event and share its significance.
Tip: The ultimate goal should always get them to think "Wow, that was way more than I ever expected. I appreciate that." What you don't want them to think is "That's odd. I wonder why he or she did that?" It has to be natural and something that occurs to you as a person, not in your role as a consultant. Non-business items can be more appreciated than business items.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  goodwill 

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#404: Be Professional When Discussing Other Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 30, 2010
Updated: Thursday, September 30, 2010
I have run across a consulting firm in my market that does really awful work. I don't mean just low quality, but that provides advice that I believe is harmful to clients. Shouldn't I say something about them to my clients so they are forewarned?

Tread carefully. You are in possession of "information" about this consulting firm's work based on your perception of the quality of work and value to clients. Three points. First, you may possess the experience and perspective to effectively evaluate whether or not this consultant is right for you to work with. However, it is up to each client to evaluate the qualifications, experience and chemistry of a consultant. You may be dead right, but it is not for you to say.

Second, do not make the mistake of badmouthing this firm. As the expression goes, "Nobody raises their reputation by lowering that of others." Provide factual information but don't pass judgment (out loud).

Finally, there is an obvious conflict of interest in judging other consultants, especially in the context of consideration for engagements. If a prospect asks you about a colleague, your answer implicitly alters the relative judgment about you, raising ethical questions and the appearance, if not fact, of a conflict.

Tip: This conflict is especially serious when a prospect asks you for the names of several other consultants with similar expertise to evaluate. The appearance of a conflict is that you could easily recommend higher priced or lower quality colleagues to improve your chances of winning the engagement. Explain this to the prospect and just say that you can't provide specific recommendations.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  ethics  publicity  reputation 

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#403: Consultants Should Know Their Stacking Order

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I can only focus on one client at a time, two at most. Any more than that and I feel that I am not giving them the attention they deserve. Are consultants who serve many clients at one time unethical?

This is not really an ethical issue. The ability to address multiple projects at one time is related to what some computer scientists refer to as "stacking order." In an computational system, this is a function of how the system is designed to operate. In a person, it is a function of how we are "wired." Some of us naturally and competently handle many projects at the same time; others are best only focusing on one. And "at a time" can mean during a single day or over a longer time period. How many projects you feel capable of handling is not a "more is better" characteristic, but just a function of who you are and, whatever it is, you can make it work for you.

To find your stacking order, consider the way you approach nonconsulting tasks. Do you read 4, 5 or more books at a time, completing a few chapters in each before moving on to the next one, or do you read one book exclusively to completion, then move on to the next? If you are a "one book at a time" type, then it is likely you work best with a single, larger consulting engagement into which you can commit your full attention and effort.

Tip: Consider the size, scope and sequence of consulting engagements that best fit your stacking order. Are you inadvertently creating assignments that are orthogonal to your stacking order? It is harder to rewire your preferences and abilities than it is to retool your consulting offerings and business model. Alignment lets you be more comfortable and give clients the attention they deserve.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  engagement management  ethics  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#402: Share Your Innovation With Your Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, September 28, 2010
I know people more readily accept ideas they generate themselves. However, there are times I also know that one of my proprietary concepts would be perfect for a client. I am torn between taking credit (because I worked hard to create it) and letting them use it (so they get the value they deserve).

Consultants who generate a lot of ideas, approaches and methodologies face this often, but the steady stream of new ideas contains the answer to your dilemma. We most protect the ideas that we think we can't replace. If you are generating state of the art (or at least so you think) concepts, then even if you let a client use one, there will be more. But even if you only have one or two proprietary methodologies, there is still away for both of you to win.

You do not have to "give away" anything. Clients respect (or should) your intellectual property and letting them use your construct to develop solutions to their problems is integral to what you do as a consultant. It is, in fact, the basis of your value and, even if they use your methodology to arrive at a solution, it is perfectly appropriate to ask them to honor your intellectual property rights and to provide full attribution.

Tip: Ask to prepare (or at least approve) the final graphics of the client work product featuring your visual concept or text they use to describe the source of the methodology. This way, you will be assured that your property rights are respected and that proper attribution is made. A client using your methodology is not an assault on your creation, but a great way to increase its value through publicity in "real" use.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  innovation  intellectual property  knowledge assets 

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