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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 

#155: How Do Things Even Get On Your "To-Do" List?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 16, 2009
Updated: Saturday, October 17, 2009
Is anyone else overwhelmed with client service, family, business development, community participation, practice management, sleep and carving out time for one's self? Sure, time management suggestions help, but how do I shrink the list?

Maybe the answer lies inside the question itself. We all have "to-do" lists that can get pretty large sometimes. The question may not be how to work faster and more efficiently to whittle down the list, but how to keep things from getting on the list in the first place.

Take a look at the list you have now. If you have multiple lists, lay them out in front of you, or consolidate them. Now consider each goal you have for yourself for the coming year or two (e.g., family, business, health, spiritual growth). Rank each list task by what goal it serves and whether this activity delivers long term or short term value. Finally, for each goal, check off the tasks that were not ones that you generated yourself. How many tasks made it onto your list as requests from others? Are these dominating your list, and are they more important than ones you have placed on your list?

Tip: It may be even more important to make sure we are not unnecessarily inviting things to go on the list. We often add to our lists because we have an idea for something we'd like to do or think we should do. However, we do not often enough take time to compare it to other items on our list or that could be on our list for a given goal. Both before adding tasks and frequently afterward, review your tasks by goal and reorder and allocate time relative to how effectively they will reach some goal. Be particularly ruthless about tasks imposed by others that really don't advance you toward your goals. It is OK to remove tasks that really don't belong there.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting lifestyle  guidance  planning  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#154: Training our Referrals to Sell You Effectively

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 15, 2009
I am not getting any referrals from my network. I am constantly recommending them but get nothing in return.

There are a couple of issues here. Let's assume that you are technically competent, professional and provide services in demand for businesses in your area. Let's also assume that the individuals in your network are reasonable, honorable people (they are in your network, after all!). This leaves a possibility that they just don't know exactly how to refer your services. This is a common mistake most of us make with some in our networks.

Remember, referrals are mostly looking out to sell their own services (if they are other management consultants), run their own businesses, or just go about their lives. We are not their primary objective on a day to day basis. We may not even be the only person they could refer. It is our job to make it as easy as possible for them to refer us. This means "training" them in our capabilities, experience, and interests and providing them with whatever collateral they find most useful. Finally, it is most useful to guide them to your most desired clients. Helping your referrals know where to go, what to sell and what steps to take after the conversation with a prospect will significantly increase your referral activity.

Tip: Some consultants prepare what is called a "sell sheet" that describes, often on a single page, the consultant's experience, attributes, unique value, consulting approaches and services, and a "how to engage" summary. Draft such a sheet and run it by a colleague who knows you well to see if it resonates with them. Offer to review their sheet and compare format and content to share ideas with each other. Once you can provide your referrers with clear talking points, watch your referral traffic soar.

P.S. How good of a referrer are you being to others in your network? If you had to create a sell sheet for your colleagues from a blank sheet of paper, how good would it be? Work with them to make sure you can effectively refer them.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  marketing  networks  proposals  referrals  sales  sustainability 

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#153: Work Your Network Like a Project

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 15, 2009
Over the past few years, a number of my colleagues have retired, leaving my network a little sparse. How can I refresh it without weakening it?

Treat networks like any asset on which you depend to generate income. Many assets occasionally weaken if they are not deliberately provided new investment. The problem comes when we look at our network as one big group of people. We don’t detect it is declining until it is significantly weakened. Breaking it down into parts and treating its care and feeding as a project makes for a more effective and sustainable referral source.

First, consider the individuals in your network in terms of categories and work each category separately. Categories might include geographic location, economic sector, how long you have known them, whether you have worked directly with them or not, likelihood of a referral, whether the referral is from you, to you or mutual, whether the person has colleagues who could serve as adjunct network resources, and whether or not the person is in an area of business in which you are interested in growing your business. These are just a few but you can come up with many more. Determine where the strength of your network comes from and monitor whether this category is growing or waning. If the age category is starting to grow older, indicating potential weakening through retirements, then start looking specifically to supplement your network in those areas.

Tip: Retirement of a network source does not mean they cannot still be useful to you or vice versa. In some cases, these individuals may be able to help you actually strengthen your network by making introductions to people they might not have felt comfortable doing so before. Also, they may be better able to work directly with you, now that they have left their employer and are less likely to have potential conflicts of interest.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  networks  practice management  prospect  referrals  sustainability 

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#152: Engagement Record Keeping

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, October 13, 2009
You talked about creating a consulting engagement playbook to help fast track and align future projects. Does this mean you shouldn't keep engagement records?

On the contrary, you should keep engagement records, for several reasons. First, even after your current engagement ends, there may be a need to retrieve specific records of the project. These may be records from your client or your own interim or final work papers. Second, you may be called back to repeat, continue or expand this engagement, for which you can use these documents. Third, you may be required to retain records by your client. Alternatively, the terms of your engagement may require you to return or destroy certain documents, proprietary or otherwise. Your engagement documentation should also include your own notes on the engagement, as well as client comments/testimonials on your performance.

Tip: It is incumbent on professional service providers to retain records for legal reasons. If you are a defendant in a lawsuit (hopefully not by your client) or if you are a plaintiff related to the engagement, you may be requested to produce your records as evidence. This means both hard copy as well as electronic versions of documents spreadsheets, presentations and emails. For an introduction to some of the issues surrounding a lawyer's perspective on electronic discovery, see a recent article E-Discovery and Record Retention: When Two Worlds Collide.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  practice management  recordkeeping 

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#151: Creating an Engagement Playbook

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 12, 2009
How important is documenting your consulting processes? I don't plan to write a book, nor are my clients the same from year to year.

In most cases, you would advise your clients to follow evidence-based management, so why wouldn't you do the same for your own practice? Even though many of our engagements are designed for each client, there are many similarities in our approach, execution and follow up. Over the years, whether we were or are in a large firm, small firm, internal practice or as an independent (often most of the above) we will develop our own best practices. Documenting these approaches allows us to jumpstart new engagements, bypassing most of the design phase. A "playbook" of project templates, evaluation formats, checklists and resources is one way you build differentiation and efficiency.

Reviewing your past practices, combined with regular reading and research about consulting and management, can lead you to steady improvement in your consulting. One place where you generate some of the most dynamic advances in your best practices is when you work with other consultants. Working with the same team may polish your approach, but working with other firms in partnership is where you test alternative approaches. It's like having in-house R&D.

Tip: Create a hardcopy loose-leaf notebook or electronic equivalent of practice management, marketing and engagement processes. If you haven't already done so, start building these with generic versions of each project's documents. Every time you conclude a project stage, look at how you might adapt or improve your playbooks. This might mean adapting an existing component or adding an alternative (e.g., marketing approaches for very different types of clients, process flows for different industries).

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consulting process  engagement management  intellectual property  market research  planning  practice management  quality  your consulting practice 

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