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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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#697: Consultants Need Business Continuity Plans

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Given that I am an independent consultant, is it really necessary to have a formal business continuity plan?

This all depends on what you mean by a business continuity plan. Traditionally such a plan is created to manage an organization through a disaster such as a fire, earthquake or other unusual and catastrophic event. This is the old "disaster recovery plan," which has been expanded to accommodate more organizational components (than just saving financial or data records) and more preparation and even training. The goal is to minimize the disruption to the business in the event of a disaster.

As a solo practitioner, your systems are likely to be fairly simple and a formal plan may be overkill. Conversely, many small businesses have quite a few systems or assets to protect and operations to provide for. You may have computer files that call for offsite backup, ongoing client communications that need redundancy, a base of operations in which to work during recovery, etc. Being small doesn't mean you don't need planning, it just means the scale of response may not be as big as for a bigger business.

Furthermore, there are hazards you face that larger businesses do not. Illness of the entire staff (you) is little different from the impact of pandemic flu keeping a company's whole workforce off the job. Your business may be less complex but there is greater risk of entire systems being compromised, such as when your laptop (the company's entire IT department) gets flooded when a pipe bursts.

Tip: Make a list of your critical systems and a list of what is the worst (and second and third worst) things that could happen to compromise them. How will you market and deliver services to your clients under each of these situations? What can you do to both prevent their occurrence and speed up response and recovery? Maybe it's not a formal plan, but at least you will have thought this through. Ask to see a friend's plan and see what each of you have missed.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  agility  planning  practice management  risk analysis  security  your consulting practice 

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#645: The Rising Value of Consulting Conferences

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 2, 2011
Updated: Friday, September 2, 2011
Having been to a few consulting conferences over the years, I was never a big fan. However, The Consulting Summit and Confab have gotten good reaction lately. Is there any reason to take a few days to go to these and what will I get out of them?

There are different conferences for different people and needs. The Consulting Summit, run by Kennedy Information's Consulting Magazine, is a one-day event focused generally on macro issues of the business and consulting market. The next one is being held in New York City on November 9, 2011. If you manage a larger firm, the people you can network with and the topics covered are appropriate for you. The Summit has been a great place to catch up with leaders of large firms and renew relationships.

Confab, run by IMC USA as its annual conference, is a 2-3 day event focused on client service, marketing and practice management issues. This year's conference will be held in Reno, NV on October 22-24, 2011. If you run a mid-sized or smaller firm and your focus is on new concepts in consulting practice, enhanced marketing and improving point of delivery skills, then Confab is for you. With the changes in client use of consultants, Confab is a great way to jump start new lines of business, to meet other executive level consultants from whom you can learn about new markets and new consulting techniques...

Tip: Some consultants consider conferences are beneath them. However, when markets change like they have in the past two years, don't let pride get in the way of learning why some of your business is about to decline or where some traditional consulting practices are falling out of favor. Consultants who attend conferences are those who can see changes in the marketplace and are always developing new services and meeting people with whom they can develop new business. These are the people you want to spend time with to invigorate your consulting practice

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  conference  learning  market research  networks  planning  practice management  product development  professional development  referrals  trends 

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#620: Tame Your To-Do List

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 29, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 29, 2011
Professional services like consulting and law generate lists of tasks that never seem to decline. Especially if you are running a litigation team or consulting practice, it is like two steps forward and three steps back. How do you get through the day without being pulled in all directions?

There are two issues - your inbox and your outbox. Logic, and a lot of time management techniques, focus on the path between the boxes. Presumably, if we work faster, the inbox pile magically becomes the outbox pile. Improvements like delegation, streamlining and parallel processing (all familiar to operations consultants) dispense with your work faster and hopefully better.

However, consider a different approach - constraining the size of your inbox. This probably horrifies most consultants trying to market and sell, serve their clients and manage the practice. There's just too much to do! Well, consider what happens to many of the tasks that move from one To-Do list to the next To-Do list, some of which are finally abandoned. We know urgent and important are not the same thing, but how are we going to set priorities, execute with discipline and feel like we have had a productive day (week, month, year)?

Here is a clever idea - adopt the open and closed task list concept. Basically, you create a list of tasks for the day and once done and affirmed, the list is closed for the day. Any new tasks that come up (with consideration for different job types and how much of your job is responding to emergency requests) go on another day's list. This really forces you to trade off the urgency and importance of tasks and, when they can't go on today's list and there is no room compared to other tasks on tomorrow's list, many tasks may disappear without ever landing on any list.

Tip: If It Won't Fit On A Post-It, It Won't Fit In Your Day discusses this intriguing approach. I suggest you adopt this for a week or two to see how well it enforces the discipline needed to manage your inbox. Combined with the time management tips to dispense with tasks once they have landed in your inbox (on your post it note), you will be able to say "no" more often with minimal impact on your productivity or effectiveness.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  planning  practice management  project management  time management  your consulting practice 

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#618: How to Get Your New Ideas Off the Ground

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I have lots of ideas about new consulting services and ways to market them. The problem is that I am so busy keeping up with my current business I am not sure what to give up to carve out time to try some of these new lines of business. It's not that I can't prioritize, but more that I am not sure what ideas are worth investing in.

In some ways, the fortunate consultant doesn't have many new ideas to try out. Their business just runs itself and evolves slowly as needed. The truly cursed consultant generates a steady stream of new ideas about practice management, marketing, client services and even entirely new lines of business. There's not enough time, capital, mindshare or energy to tackle even a few of these. The first of many decisions is to understand what risks are involved with trying new ideas (e.g., psychic or financial risks of failure, conflicts or branding risks of succeeding, among many others). What holds many of us back is not having a clear sense of both the path and the outcome of trying out such ideas.

That's just the pregame warm-up. The real issue is actually how to get off the ground what is likely to be a more complex, time consuming and costly idea than you planned. Is the concept really complete? Do I really have the capital? Who will backstop my current business while my attention is diverted? Can I jointly launch several of these ventures? If this sounds like a business plan, you're right. What keeps many of these ideas in the draft stage is a lack of thorough analysis of design, deployment and operation. Once we know exactly what is involved, a lot of these ideas either make no sense (so we can stop worrying about them) or they are obvious investments (and we can get started).

Tip: There’s one more step. Even after we have a competent business plan, we sometimes need a kick in the pants to get moving. No amount of risk or business analysis will give you this. It is all about personality, enthusiasm and feedback from your peers or the market. 99% is a smart collection of articles and (blissfully short and non-pedantic) videos about making ideas happen (there's a book by the site owner as well). Whenever you need some juice for your ideas, watch a few videos on areas like discipline, bias to action, focus and collaboration.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting tools  decision making  intellectual property  motivation  planning  risk analysis  your consulting practice 

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#602: Consultants Need to Embrace The Coming Boomer Retirement Wave

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Many of my current clients whom I have served so long are talking about retiring. I am aware that with all the boomer age executives retiring, I will have to develop a whole new marketing strategy to cultivate new sets of clients. Should I be concerned?

Yes you should.

We all know CEO tenure is declining, whether from burnout, impatience or getting the boot, but one could reasonably expect that nonprofit executives are generally happy to stay and focus on their mission. This doesn't look to be true. The Meyer Foundation and CompassPoint recently completed a survey of 3,000 nonprofit executives titled Daring to Lead and found that two-thirds of them plan to leave their jobs within five years.

Although every demographic, social, technological or economic shift comes with a need to shift your consulting business in some way, this is not all bad news. First, although many boomers are in executive roles, there are plenty of others waiting to move up the organization ladder from within. You should already have relations with those key managers. Second, a little shake-up in your marketing activities is a good thing; if you don't do it regularly on your own, here is a chance to reexamine all your approaches from a fresh perspective.

Tip: As distressing as this might seem, do you recognize the opportunity? Executive transitions are an opportunity for organizations to make some big changes. Every organization undergoing a loss of a long-time executive may need advice on how to make that transition effectively and with minimal stress. Your current clients may even welcome your contribution as either an executive recruiter or as interim executive. Embrace the change.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  market research  planning  trends  your consulting practice 

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