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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 

#245: Take Time to Build Your Knowledge Assets

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 19, 2010
Updated: Friday, February 19, 2010
I would like to write a book or column for my trade journal, but I know it takes a lot of time and effort and I'm not sure it is worth it. Is this a worthwhile investment or am I better off just delivering client services?

There are really two questions here. The first is whether there is value in the visibility of publishing and the answer is, to some extent, yes. There are still many people to whom author credentials signify expertise. If so and so wrote a book, they must be an expert (despite the fact that their book ranks 1,800,000th on Amazon). But it is not so much publication, per se, that is the underlying issue, which raises the second question.

Are you creating anything of value? We all read lots of articles or books on business or consulting and wonder to ourselves how many more times can we see the same content year after year (or decade). Is there really anything that some publisher won't put out? So, this brings us to where you can create some value with new ideas. These can be your detection of trends that are not obvious or creation of processes to tackle new challenges that (1) have not been described before, and (2) you have applied several times and can demonstrate that they are effective.

Tip: It is easy for consultants to spend all their time delivering services to clients. However, if you really want to demonstrate your expertise, spend at least one-half of your professional development and research time (which, in itself, should be about one-fourth of your time) creating new knowledge. Part of this can be to take a project you just completed and critically evaluating its effectiveness and refining the process to use next time. This deliberate, controlled creation of knowledge assets over time will provide both better client value but give you something you can really write about that no one else has seen before. Use these activities to build a library of knowledge assets. And, if you decide to publish this kind of unique content, you will get really smart and perceptive people to weigh in and help you to make it even better.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  intellectual property  knowledge assets  learning  product development  professional development  writing  your consulting practice 

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#244: Creating Value Even Without a Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 18, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2010
Our firm gets calls from people who simply can't afford our fees. What can I do with them?

Assuming you are right that your fees are out of their range, you can still offer to take a look at what their problem is and quote on it. Sit down with them and say, "I recognize that our fees, although competitive, may exceed your budget. However, we have looked over your situation and I have some comments and recommendations. Rather than charge you for a trip, a day (or more) of my time, I just figured this would be more valuable at no cost to you. And if you have any follow-up questions just send me an e-mail. My pleasure." Does this sound like a waste of time. Not really and here's why:
  1. You usually learn a lot from the experiences of seeing peoples’ data, problems, models. It would be more instructive than the case studies you look at during your professional development work over the year.
  2. You will earn their respect, maybe even make a friend, for very little time investment (perhaps less than quoting a large fee and not earning the business).
  3. When they grow ... they will remember you (especially if your observations and recommendations are on target).
Tip: These situations can create the most avid referrals you can ever find. They contacted you and you provided value with professionalism and for free. Think of how they would view you if you just turned them away without any discussion or consideration.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  client development  fees  goodwill  professionalism  prospect 

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#243: Using Staff Input

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Clients hire me for my expertise and independence but many feel I should base my recommendations from talking to the people in the organization first. I feel it's generally a waste of time. What do you recommend?

I understand your perspective about maintaining your independence and objectivity. However, independence does not mean ignoring your due diligence in collecting information and opinions from staff. It is important to meet with two types of people, (1) those with historical perspective and data, and (2) those who will be important in implementing your recommendations. Your experience comes in play by interpreting how accurate and relevant you judge their perspectives to be. Here is where you may need to check with a range of people to determine where the facts are. People's opinions are valid whether you agree with them or not, but you need to know them because these are the context in which your recommendations will be received.

A formal process to gather information can help if you are inclined to consider staff opinions and understanding of the facts to be of little use to your engagement. First, develop a standard list of a dozen questions that require very specific responses (e.g., Yes/No, A/B/C/D,) and uses them as talking points for pointed interviews with staff. These might be questions like, "Imagine it's your money, your organization. What would you do in this situation?" Another might be, "What are the 3 things/actions/directions you feel will most benefit the organization?" Use these to get to a competent data source to which you can then apply your expertise.

Tip: Work this out with your client. Be clear as to the extent you plan to base your findings and recommendations on staff input versus your own opinion. Don't hide this because when staff hear youre recommendations and they are based on the exclusion of their input, the likelihood of full implementation goes way down, which was not your intent.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client staff  consulting process  customer understanding  goodwill 

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#242: How to Prove Your Value to Your Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, February 16, 2010
My firm assures that we deliver on all the tasks we said we would. However, clients occasionally want to talk about how they should evaluate the quality of our work. Is it appropriate, or risky to go beyond what we said we would do?

Consider that there are two approaches to evaluating your work. First is the judgment, from your perspective, of whether you kept your promises. We are obligated to be clear to our clients about our project objectives, activities, schedule, cost and quality of work products. For each engagement, we create a project plan and mutually agree on it with our clients. If we deliver on your plan, then you have done a good job. This is necessary, but not sufficient, for a successful consulting engagement.

The second is the judgment, from your client's perspective, of whether your intervention has improved their condition. Although theoretically you may fail to do all you said you would do and could still improve the client's condition, it is likely that you need to go beyond just checking off the boxes on your plan. Part of your initial discussions with your client, even before finalizing your project plan, should be about how he or she will know they are better off as a result of your being there. A project plan has no foundation without these criteria, and such criteria are the real subject of evaluating your work.

Tip: Rather than risky, it is essential to evaluate projects in terms of how your client is different, not just whether tasks were completed as planned.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  customer understanding  engagement management 

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#241: Best in (Whose?) Class

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, February 15, 2010
Updated: Monday, February 15, 2010
My clients always want me to conduct benchmarking studies and help them be a world-class company. For most, there is no way they will soon, if ever, be world-class. How should I let them down gently?

You had me right up to "let them down gently." Organizations vary widely in both their current capabilities and their potential. Our job as management consultants is to help them improve as much as possible within their (steadily improving) capabilities. We help most by being clear and realistic about their path to improvement. Implying that they will never be world-class contradicts the experience of many companies who originally never seemed to be world-class prospects. Despite its bumps along the way, for example, Hewlett Packard started in a garage and has become a widely admired company.

When a company talks about being best in class, we should be clear that this means best in a specific class, not best in all classes. If you are a small nonprofit, do your benchmarking on similar size and function organizations, not multinationals with no similarities with your client's current or near-term capabilities.

Tip: It is easiest to focus on exemplar organizations when creating scenarios for a company. For example, describe the desired improvement in sales function to be like Company X, the capability for innovation like Agency Y, and the governance like Company Z. These should all be organizations whose current operations are realistic targets. You can always raise the bar after you have made some progress. Depending on the effectiveness of your advice and their follow through, who's to say they can't eventually become world-class?

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consultant role  customer understanding 

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