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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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#240: Difference Between and Expert and a Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 12, 2010
Updated: Friday, February 12, 2010
Is there any difference between an expert and a consultant?

There are profound differences between experts and consultants. An expert is generally regarded as one who has specialized knowledge of a domain or discipline. This knowledge may be validated by widespread acceptance by others with similar knowledge or by users of this knowledge. This resident ability may come from experience, training, education apprenticeship or a combination thereof. We generally seek out experts to make decisions or acquire knowledge for ourselves. Recognized expertise often takes years of applied effort to achieve.

A consultant is one who uses knowledge, ability or a process to resolve a problem, suggest a course of action or create new knowledge. In contrast to an expert, in whom usually resides information that serves as an answer to a problem, a consultant brings a suite of attributes and abilities to create a solution. These attributes may include expertise, but usually extend to independence, objectivity, analytical processes, extensive skills in pattern recognition, communication, and emotional intelligence. The value of a consultant is to be able to correctly diagnose and effectively transform an often ill-defined problem and apply information, resources and processes to create a workable and usable solution. Some experts are good consultants and vice versa, some are neither, few are both.

Tip: Becoming a good management consultant, just as acquiring expertise, takes a long time of applied effort. Having developed expertise in an industry or subject matter domain, some individuals consider it an easy step to become consultants. Broad and solid working knowledge, but not necessarily expertise, is an essential foundation for successful management consulting. Consultants who expand their understanding of many domains are among the most successful, just the opposite of experts, who seek to deepen their understanding and command of a specific area of knowledge. Rather than focusing on one particular industry or discipline, 21st century consultants are increasingly finding their greatest value in being able to apply their skills in evolving and entirely new industries, often identifying and applying the critical capabilities of experts as needed.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  consulting terminology  professionalism  roles and responsibilities  your consulting practice 

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#239: Practice What You Preach

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 11, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010
What's the tradeoff between being innovative in our services and showing clients we are conservative and stable in our approaches?

This is a really good question. I assume you mean making the seeming tradeoff between engendering trust as a stable, trusted advisor using proven practices and engendering trust as an innovative, responsive advisor using cutting edge consulting and management techniques. While your choice depends on your relationship with your client and their particular needs, you don't have to choose one over the other. Clients value your willingness to use practices that you are asking them to use. Make it a core philosophy of your practice to always look for ways to practice what you preach, which often means tweaking your consulting approaches with constant improvements. Having refined an approach in the past doesn't mean it can't be further improved.

Tip: Look for ways to innovate all areas of your own practice. Suggest ways to reduce time, cost or complexity. For example, it is unlikely that an hour long meeting you are running can't be done in 50 minutes if managed well. This kind of innovation makes the point to your client that efficiency is important for you as well as them and value can be extracted from almost any situation.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  innovation  practice management  roles and responsibilities 

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#238: Getting a Handle on Your Firm's Online Presence

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Other than the obvious Google search ranking, what are some ways to know whether my website or blog are really as visible as we hope?

Website or blog popularity is an elusive and ill-defined concept for many. The ultimate goal of our online presence is to be found by people who are engaged by our content and hopefully find enough value in that content to retain our consulting services. They reach us through a wide range of online routes and each of those search engines and tracking functions has its own algorithm to rank your site. Because these differ, your popularity ranking will differ, sometimes widely.

A number of ranking services exist on the web. Each one will evaluate your content and give you a sense of what aspects of your site or blog are attractive or not. Rather than assuming that "higher" is always better, look at what each ranking algorithm focuses on and, if appropriate, how your site is trending. A good compilation is 15 Tools for Monitoring a Website’s Popularity.

Tip: Consider both who you are trying to reach and who your competitors are. Use some of the above referenced popularity rankings and see how you compare with your competitors. Look at the recommendations for each of these ranking sites to improve your visibility. Ultimately, though, the quality of your content and its value to your clients and prospects means more than artificially inflating your rankings.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  market research  marketing  publicity  reputation 

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#237: Turning Down Business

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I am now at the point in my consulting life where I can't handle all the business coming at me. What is the best way to turn these assignments down?

Although most consultants want to secure as much business as possible, sometimes you can be offered more work than you can handle. If turning down work is a necessity, you must find a way to do so without alienating the client (and perhaps running the risk of losing out on future business opportunities with them). Here are some suggestions:
  1. Express regret for not being able to take on the additional assignment at this time. Let the prospect know how much, under normal circumstances, you would enjoy working with them and that you would really like to have another opportunity to work with them once your schedule frees up a bit. You might even provide a date when this might be (e.g., "I am currently on a heavy assignment, but work is expected to wrap on that in 3 weeks. If you have some flexibility, perhaps we can re-schedule this work for then.")
  2. Avoid taking the "full bucket" view (i.e., once the bucket is full, no additional water can be added.) What if you could drain some of the existing water out of the bottom of the bucket and replace it with some fresh, high quality H2O? In other words, consider carefully if this is truly an assignment that you want to turn down. Take a "whole system" approach, evaluating all of your current assignments. Perhaps this is the type of work you have been striving for! If so, look at some of your other, less significant (or no longer desirable) assignments and see if there is a potential to scale back on those (once your immediate responsibilities on each have been fulfilled).
  3. Offer the prospect an alternative (smaller scope, extended timeframe, off-hours work, limited deliverable.) They can always say "No", but at least you offered them an option.
  4. Refer them to other trusted and qualified consultants.
Tip: When turning down work, treat your client with the same level of care and respect as you do when you readily accept an assignment. Do your best to defer, re-prioritize, offer alternatives or refer your client's request rather than give an unqualified "No" to their proposal.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  engagement management  planning  referrals  sales  your consulting practice 

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#236: Preparing for the Sale

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, February 8, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I am consulting with a company that anticipates being sold in a year or two. I am a business strategist in my niche market and the owner has requested that I keep a potential sale in mind whenever I make recommendations. Do you have any advice?

What the owner is probably saying is that you should be thinking about how to ensure that the company will be worth as much as possible at the time it is offered up for sale. Here are some considerations for your planning:
  1. Avoid any unnecessary high-risk projects.
  2. Avoid recommendations that involve long term commitments that a buyer might not want (e.g., real estate, contracted services, etc.).
  3. Consider identifying and evaluating potential replacement executives should the owner want to depart upon sale.
  4. Help the company prepare the various key constituencies for an impending sale (i.e., customers, vendors, employees, investors, etc.)
  5. Do anything you can to protect the firm's brand and intellectual property through firming up patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc.).
Tip: You want the company to look good at the time of sale. It should be operating soundly and in a cost-effective manner, employing talented and happy people and free of any unnecessary commitments.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consulting process 

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