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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 

#725: Build the Network You Think You Don't Need

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 23, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 23, 2011
I've never found networking events to be particularly productive in the consulting business. I'd rather be getting to know potential clients than other consultants or professional service providers. If the goal is to build our consulting firm, shouldn't we focus on clients?

Networking is taken as an article of faith among consultants - as well as other professional service providers and business people of all stripes. You may be asking the important questions in reverse order. The third question is how valuable is networking; the second question is what do you mean by networking; the first question is what is the objective of networking.

Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad, says "The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work." HIs point is that, regardless of the size or breadth of your consulting practice, the pace, complexity and uncertainty of the business environment means that you will increasingly need fresh relationships, resources, and information sources to thrive. A few colleagues or data sources are no longer sufficient to give you what you need. This is what networks are for.

The next question of what networking is should not focus on "networking events." Regardless of how well these are designed, they are largely semi-structured aggregations of people who, if you are lucky, can connect with each other. This may be what most people mean when they say networking but it is not the same as building a network. This requires defining the people, information, skills, resources and access necessary to keep you current with trends in your industry and discipline. A network is defined, explicit, and intentional. It is also continuously redefined. The final question, how valuable it is, can be answered in terms of how critical the network(s) are to your professional (and personal) growth. How damaging to your business is a loss of prospects, partners or revenues when the market changes, key staff leave or technologies or competitors devastate your market? Your networks are your safety valves. We can never have too many networks, and few consultants have enough.

Tip: Start by defining what you need to be agile in your business, to anticipate and respond to emerging trends. Like making a packing list for a trip, write down what you need to have and be over the next five years? What people or skills do you need to acquire theme? What different networks do you need to develop or strengthen - you may need 5-10 different networks? What is your plan to build, support and evaluate the effectiveness of those networks? How do you intend to not just connect others into your network, but to connect to other networks? The LinkedIn model of a "network of networks" is a good way to look at your own networking approach. Finally, since you don't know what you will need a few years from now, how will you build your networks so you have access to that which you think you don't need?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  agility  assumptions  change  consulting colleagues  innovation  knowledge assets  networks 

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#717: What Are the Defining Moments of Your Consulting Career?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 13, 2011
One of our firm's best engagements just concluded - I wish I could repeat the experience with every client. We had a committed sponsor, the staff worked well with us and we all grew as professionals because of the challenges (it was a merger). I am wondering what makes for valuable, or at least memorable, engagement for other consultants.

Two thoughts come to mind. the first is that many (not all) consultants have a clear idea about their ideal engagement. The criteria they use may vary from how much they learned, how successful the client became, or how much money they collected in fees. Based on those criteria, they are probably pursuing clients with whom they could get those outcomes. The more successful those pursuits, the more memorable their consulting careers.

The second is that sometimes there are the unexpected events, people, and circumstances that, although unplanned and unintended, are the most memorable. What might have been a long term, steady client suddenly changes strategy and you are caught up in an exciting, challenging project. Or you meet someone, whether a client sponsor, a staff member or a consulting colleague, with whom you interact and it changes your career or life. Neither would you have chosen this event or person nor would you have thought that it would have been as significant as it turned out to be.

For me, these defining moments in consulting (positive examples) include several colleagues who exhibited exceptional ethics and professionalism, time spent at national labs with some incredibly talented engineers, and facilitations on response to nuclear terrorism and standing up a new corporate board. Conversely, there were some moments that were not so pleasant. Yet, I don't want to forget them because they affected me in that they either helped me know what (or who) to avoid or left me with humility or awe at what I still needed to learn as a consultant. And, yes, the times I messed up and vowed to never make that mistake again!

Tip: Look back over your consulting career (add in management or other elements of your career) and pick out a few each of the people, places, events, and projects that changed your consulting skills, attitude or perspective. What are they? Email me at dailytips@imcusa.org or post your throughts on the IMC USA website in the comments section to this blog.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  consulting skills  education  guidance  learning  professional development  professionalism  your consulting practice 

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#709: Play Nicely With Your Client's Other Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 1, 2011
Updated: Thursday, December 1, 2011
During some of my engagements there are other consultants working for the same client. Occasionally, one of these firms or an individual consultant will bad mouth my firm or withhold information that is helpful to our work. Should I tell the client about this or will they see this as whining?

Let me share something a client once told me about a similar situation. The client said that, in her experience, consultants often seem to think that they are somehow floating through the company without anyone really knowing what they are doing. In reality, she said she is keenly aware of how consultants interact with each other. The quality of this interaction and mutual support was one of her most important bases of evaluation of the consultant. If a consultant is sandbagging or bad mouthing another consultant, she knows about it and usually will take action to correct it. If she didn't know about it, she wanted to know about any unprofessional behavior that was hurting client services

Your responsibility is to deliver the best value to your client possible. If you are not coordinating with other consultants working for the same client, you are not delivering the best value you can. Your client hired a group of consultants to solve specific problems or capture opportunities. Your service is better if you understand their tasks, which, since your firm was not selected for the work, probably is in an area you may not fully understand.

Tip: Take the initiative to introduce yourself to other consultants working for the same client. Ask your client if there are other consultants working on related problems and if he or she would make the introductions. Independently, suggest to (or ask) your client how you should work together and how or if you should bring concerns you observe to his or her attention. Emphasize that your ethics (this is a specific provision of paragraph 11 of the IMC USA Code of Ethics) require you to report negligent or dangerous behavior or malfeasance to the appropriate authority in your client's organization. Your client will respect you for your professionalism and the value of your services will increase.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA.

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  consulting colleagues  ethics 

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#704: Take Care When Recommending Other Consultants to Your Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 24, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 24, 2011
I sometimes want to recommend another consultant to my client but feel that it might take away additional opportunities for my consulting business. After all, there is limited money in their budget and only so much time to devote to a consultant. Am I wrong in being concerned about this?

Your feelings are very natural, but think of it this way: you are there to help the client in any way you can. If you believe that recommending another consultant will add value or provide much needed assistance to the client, you can rest assured that you are doing the right thing by making the recommendation. Sound referrals will help build trust and demonstrate your interest in the client's ultimate success even if it does not translate into direct business for you. Here are a few guidelines when recommending someone to your client:
  1. Issue a clear disclaimer so you don't appear to guarantee the performance of the other consultant.
  2. Recommend more than one consultant for the job (if appropriate and possible). Let the client make the choice. This is important to avoid the appearance of a possible conflict of interest where you might be seen as recommending someone with financial or other ties to you.
  3. Let the client do the interviewing and selection.
  4. Try to avoid opportunities for uncomfortable "pairing" if you will be working alongside the other consultant.
  5. Always be supportive and helpful to the other consultant in every way you can.
  6. Don't look for a referral fee from the client.
Tip: Recommend another consultant any time you genuinely feel it will be helpful. Putting the client's needs first is why you are there.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  recommendations  referrals  teaming 

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#691: Your Attitude is A Powerful Resource

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 7, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011
Balancing a consulting lifestyle can be complex, between personal interests and doing triage for client services, marketing, research, writing, networking and more. How do I keep from getting overwhelmed by these demands?

Things happen, to be sure, but you have a lot of control over the circumstances in which you find yourself. You also have a lot of control over how you see the world. Bad days are inevitable; bad attitudes are optional.

Think of people you associate with. Some can find something positive to say about any situation. A lost client is an opportunity to hone the sales pitch. A project that gets off track is a chance to work on project management skills. You leave a conversation with them feeling invigorated and positive.

Then there are people who can find something negative to say about any situation, even a neutral one. The new engagement will make them too busy to take a vacation. The researcher they hired doesn't have any useful skills.You leave a conversation with these toxic people feeling drained and dreading the next encounter.

Consultants, by nature, look for flaws and, consequently, improvement opportunities in every situation. We are trained to see the downside of people and processes, but that doesn't mean we have to carry that perception over into our dealing with our colleagues. Even when you think you are being "honest" or "helpful," doing so does not help.

Tip: Commit to leave every conversation with people feeling better than when you found them, whether family, client or colleague. This applies to you and the other person or persons. Find something positive to comment on, work on or look forward to. Everyone wins.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assumptions  consulting colleagues  consulting lifestyle  professionalism  work-life balance 

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