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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 

#165: Discontinuing a Product or Service

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 30, 2009
Updated: Friday, October 30, 2009
How do I stop offering a service for which I am very well known? I think I would like to move my practice in a different direction and do not want future clients to have preconceived or limited notion of what types of services I can provide.

First, make sure that your current clients will not be adversely impacted by you discontinuing this service. If it will, you must determine whether it is worth the risk to discontinue the offering.

If this is a profitable endeavor, you might consider offering to sell this "service" to another consultant. It might enable someone just starting out to build up their practice or it could provide an experienced practitioner with an opportunity to supplement their current offerings. Remember, you invested time and effort in building value into this service, and you should always explore any opportunities to benefit from your hard work prior to abandoning it. If you do sell or license this product or service, make sure to provide specific contractual assurances that it will be delivered or provided in the manner that you expect. Also make sure that you build in contractual protection against any perceived responsibilities for how the product or service is delivered once handed over to the purchaser.

Tip: If you decide to simply discontinue the product or service without establishing a continuity plan via sale, the best thing for you to do is to inform the people who have been served by you that for the following reasons, you have decided to discontinue offering this product or service. Be sure to provide them with as much advance notice as possible. Some clients will come and ask for help, others will make other arrangements and, surprisingly, some might actually ask you why it took you so long to make this decision!

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  intellectual property  practice management  product development  reputation 

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#164: Ask An Important Question

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 29, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 29, 2009
As consultants, we tend to ask a lot of questions. But one simple inquiry, asked multiple times, can often help you uncover significant insight into the root cause to a complex problem - Why?

Professionals in the Quality Improvement field have often used a technique referred to as "The Five Whys". This technique has been most frequently attributed to Taiichi Ohno, widely identified as the founder of Toyota Production System. This method allows the questioner to dig past the "symptom" layers in order to get to the actual root of a problem. This simple methodology also helps the practitioner to "link" the root problem to its components.

Here's an example:

Customer e-mail complaints are taking too long to be responded to. Why?Our Customer Service team does not seem to be able to meet the volume of complaints. Why?There has been a marked increase in the number of complaints received in the last 3 months. Why?There was a product problem in our most popular product and customers began calling in droves to complain. Why?Manufacturing has not been able to determine why the problem is occurring. They have not yet provided our service representatives with instructions on how to handle the calls from our existing customers.

Obviously, the questioning could continue (or even take far fewer iterations), but asking "Why?" five times will usually provide sufficient insight into the root of the problem.

Tip: Although the technique of asking some variation of the question "Why?" multiple times to get at the root of the problem seems to be an overly simplistic approach to a serious issue, it is deceptively powerful. Give it a try!

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process 

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#163: What Won't You Do As a Consultant?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 28, 2009
My consulting strategic plan lays out my financial goals, objectives, marketing and delivery strategies and target clients. Anything else I might have missed?

You have covered most of the bases but what about looking at this from the other side? A common practice in consulting brainstorming is to take an issue and look at the opposite point of view to see if you can generate some insights. Strategy is as much about what you will not do as it is about what you will do. Instead of just creating a wide open space in which to work, you are most effective if you concentrate your efforts on projects and clients that satisfy both your business and emotinal needs.

Tip: Make a list of all the things you will not do in your practice. This includes lifestyle (no weekend work), client selection (no Gen Y clients), project scope (no long term projects), staffing (no employees), fee (no time and materials), etc. This will help further clarify your perfect client/project and focus you efforts.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting lifestyle  planning  product development  your consulting practice 

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#162: An Ethical Question

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 27, 2009
A consulting colleague has developed a unique methodology to evaluate an organization's ability to successfully implement change. It is deceptively simple, and I think the tool is extremely clever. In fact, I like the tool so much, I have begun to use the approach in my engagements. Do you see any ethical issue with me utilizing my colleague's approach with my own clients?

The IMC USA Code of Ethics is clear on this matter. Within Section 12 ("Public and Profession - Respect for Rights of Others"), it states that "I will respect the rights of consulting colleagues and consulting firms and will not use their proprietary information or methodologies without permission."

Tip: If you are going to utilize a colleague's established methodology in your practice, get their permission first before doing so.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  ethics  intellectual property  teaming 

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#161: Give Your Clients a Choice of Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 26, 2009
To reduce operating costs, we have trimmed our consulting offerings to just one high margin service. Should we keep just this one, which seems to be in demand, or build more?

Risk and opportunity are the first things that come to mind. Specifically, the risk of a single product and the lost opportunity of such a limited set of offerings. Let's discuss risk first. Your one offering may be in demand now but the market may change and reduce demand, another competitor might offer the same or a substitute product, or you might lose the people or control of an technologies for information components of your service. Without a robust service offering, you put your company at risk.

A one product company loses opportunity. First of all, you become known for that product rather than your suite of possible services. Eventually, prospects don't think of you offering anything else. Second, by not having a route for people to buy lower cost or more commoditized products, few people will place the trust in you to even try your product. You may like all clients to arrive at the high margin, high value service but, by reducing a choice of what types of your services to use, you are making it hard for them to buy.

Tip: Consider the value of a portfolio of services. First, provide a few low cost or free white papers, tips (like these), or blog of relevant topics. Next offer some modest cost, commodity-based, easy to use, short term services, such as workshops, seminars, assessments or one-day consultations. Then offer a suite of medium-term services, perhaps through partnering with subject matter experts, to broaden the appeal and value of services across a client's enterprise. Finally, offer some high value, high margin, and high touch services at the executive level. This portfolio approach allows a user of consulting services to enter your desired path to high value services at any point, and move up the pipeline to the point where they find value/cost equilibrium. This will lower your risk, increase opportunities and provide valuable market data on what service offerings you need to expand.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client development  customer understanding  market research  marketing  planning  practice management  product development  reputation  sales  sustainability 

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