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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 

#331: Lean for Your Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 21, 2010
Updated: Monday, June 21, 2010
We have become a lot more efficient in our consulting practice (we've had to with the 2002 and 2009 recessions), but wonder what other consulting firms are doing to streamline operations.

Response to a tough economy depends on your location, practice size and specialty. Larger companies have been hit hard, many shedding offices or partners, and very small, specialized firms have often lacked the breadth and agility to adapt. However, firm efficiency is really not about responding to occasional threats, but about sustained efforts to improve productivity and reduce waste. Sound familiar? It should, since "lean consulting" should be part of every practice. We can all take advice from Tim Wood.

Don't know Tim? Let me introduce you:
  1. T is for Transport Waste - Do you have needless documentation and routing, whether in paper or electronic form? These can be non-value added.
  2. I is for Inventory Waste - Do you have supplies you have not used in a year? What capital do you have tied up in inventory or underutilized assets?
  3. M is for Motion Waste - Are you going to meetings you could hold on the phone or online? Are you making separate trips that could be consolidated?
  4. W is for Waiting Waste - Do you have to wait for clients, suppliers, vendors, your own staff? What is the cost of that lost time?
  5. O is for Over Producing Waste - Are you doing more research and analysis than the situation calls for?
  6. O is for Over Processing Waste - Are you delivering more elaborate work products than the client needs or wants (e.g., the 50-page PowerPoint show)?
  7. D is for Defect Waste - Do you have in place a robust quality control process, even on those "simple" processes you execute all the time? What defects have you uncovered lately?
Tip: We mistakenly think that since we are a service business, and that a lot of our processes are "creative" or "custom," we are in no position to apply lean processes to our businesses. Whether you have a sixty person practice or are a solo practitioner, Tim can help you reduce waste.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  performance improvement  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#330: A Taste of Your Own Medicine

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 18, 2010
Updated: Friday, June 18, 2010
I wish I had more time to work "on" my business instead of just "in" my business. I spend my days selling or delivering services and I am afraid that if I looked closely at my own practice, I wouldn't like what I saw. Any suggestions?

You are right to be concerned. Your clients want to have confidence that you are running your own business well before they entrust theirs to you. Would you take wardrobe advice from someone with ill-fitting clothes and beat up shoes?

Take Some of Your Own Medicine. You provide consulting services in a range of areas. How about taking on your own business as a client. Do some due diligence on you as an individual, your market, your clients, your reputation. What would you recommend in terms of strategy, operations, and culture? What do others in your field think (or say) about your services? Are you a rising or falling stock?

Finally, if you were going to report back to your new "client," what would those findings and recommendations be? Is it good news or not?

Tip: There is an extra benefit of this exercise. You get a close in look at how well your service delivery works. If you look at your "report" of findings, is it complete? Are there aspects of your own business that are not covered? How likely are your recommendations to work? How do these recommendations align with your existing marketing and service plans? Are the reports expressed in a way to make them conducive to implementation?

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  learning  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#329: Cut Your Losses

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 17, 2010
Updated: Thursday, June 17, 2010
Boredom doesn't quite describe it, but I have been providing some consulting services for a long time and they don't excite me like they used to. Clients still demand them so why should I change my business?

This issue is at the heart of your value as a consultant. Part of what you bring to your clients is your skills and experience. Part is your enthusiasm and leadership. If you can't bring both, then it's time for a change. Maybe it is time to think about a different line of work. No, I don't mean something other than consulting, just changing the suite of services you provide.

Most important is to cut your losses - trim a service that you haven't enhanced in a while. Look at your services. Is what you offer better than similar services provided by others? Could you write an article about it that includes the latest trends and insights about the needs of people who use this service? If not, it's time to give up that old tired service and develop some new ones. Agreeing to stop offering a service on a certain date is often just the thing to help you create a newer, high value one.

Tip: Run your plan by a colleague who knows you personally as well as professionally to validate your strategy.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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#328: Consulting Among Friends

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, June 16, 2010
How do you respond to consulting colleagues who, with no prior relevant experience, take on contracts in your area of specialty and then come to you for help? Am I being competitive by not wanting to share my years of education and experience that give me an edge?

It is difficult to see someone with less experience serving a client for whom you presume you could provide better service. There are two responses, either of which might reduce the odds of this happening in the future.

First, determine how the client selected your colleague instead of you. What does your colleague provide, in the client's eyes, that you do not. It may be that you are not known to the client and your colleagues was the only presumably qualified consultant available. In this case, (sort of) shame on you for not having a better market presence, and it is something you can address. On the other hand, consultants usually think they are selling competence, when in fact clients are buying confidence. There are lots of consultants around with enough skills and experience, many with more than enough for the job at hand. It is possible that the client trusts your colleague even without the superior technical expertise you know you have.

Second, decide under what conditions you will help your colleague with your expertise. Treat them like any other client for whom you would devote time. Of course, you can provide 15 minutes of general advice as a friend, but at some point it becomes paid consulting. Just like you could ask a friend who is a doctor about what kind of flu is going around without feeling you are crossing the line, but you wouldn't want to ask them to do a complete physical outside of a professional setting.

Tip: Respect the client's choice of consultant. Treat it as an opportunity to learn and grow. As to your friend, offer to work together for a fee - don't be embarrassed about asking, since this is what you do for a living and you invested a lot in the acquisition of that knowledge.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  learning  proposals  prospect  reputation  your consulting practice 

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#327: Multisourcing Consulting Engagements

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I have noticed that several of my long term clients have been bringing in other consultants to handle some services that I used to provide for them. They say they are happy with my services but this is troubling - should I be worried?

This is called multisourcing or unbundling, and has been a growing trend since the recession about six years ago. A decade ago, a proven consultant could work on retainer basis on a range of projects. This was convenient for both the client and consultant. However, clients have changed their approach to purchasing consulting services.

Kennedy Information reported a few years ago a trend that clients were becoming more price sensitive and, with the exception of large systems integration contracts, were looking for the best talent and lower overhead often found in smaller, boutique or specialized consultancies. Increasing senior partners were departing larger firms to start their own practices. Also, more consultants were joining firms and advising executives on hiring and management of consultants. In sum, clients are more sophisticated about locating the best talent at the best terms.

Tip: What to do about this? Be proactive and talk to your clients. Discuss, for each consulting service you provide or could provide, what value they expect from you and how your services meet those expectations. Where they are not enthusiastic about a particular service you provide, find out what changes in services they want, or are likely to want soon. Clarify in your own mind what specific benefits (e.g., innovation, price, ease of access, experience, market expertise, research data, responsiveness) you bring and then talk it over with your client. This is no time to wait and see if your client starts shopping around for other consultants.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales  trends 

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