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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 

#120: Are You Worrying Too Much About "Restoring" Your Consulting Business?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 28, 2009
I have been working really hard over the past year to get my consulting practice back on track. What new hurdles will consultants have to overcome until the market comes back?

Two issues come to mind. First, many in business recognize that economic conditions have been difficult over the past year. Our clients have challenged us to serve them better with innovative approaches to streamline processes, improve revenue and find new markets. Regardless of what challenges they face, our job is to use our skills and experience to help clients navigate into new markets in new economies, adopt new technologies, leverage new social and business relationships, and figure out new financing . . . get the picture? The theme is that economic disruptions, especially this one, accelerate changes that would have eventually come. They also create disruptive conditions to create new opportunities and challenges that no one expected.

Second, why should our consulting practices be any different than the business of our clients? We face the same accelerative and disruptive forces they do, so it stands to reason that our business would evolve like theirs. One aspect of this situation is that many parts of our business also may not be the same as they once were. While some aspects of our practice might look the same, there are distinct changes in consulting. Engagement sizes seem to be decreasing, clients are more selective about choosing for individual talent than firm pedigree, more are using pricing models, participative compensation or value pricing, and many clients are building internal consulting practices again. We are more likely to restore our consulting practice to health not by doing more of what we used to do but by doing what we advise our clients to do - create a new practice.

Tip: Do some research on the consulting marketplace and what clients need from consultants. Kennedy Information and Top-Consultant research and write about emerging consulting trends. Attend conferences like Confab where you can connect with experienced consultants in a range of fields who are successfully refining and building their practices. Write a business plan for your business that focuses on innovation instead of restoration.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  customer understanding  innovation  market research  planning  practice management  product development  trends  your consulting practice 

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#119: Managing the Consultant's Social Networking Image

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 27, 2009
I know that employers now examine a candidate's Facebook page to glean insights into their character. Do you think clients do the same for consultants they are considering retaining?

I am not aware of this happening but if I were researching consultants, I would look up their LinkedIn page first, then Facebook, then one or two others, depending on the industry or disciplinary focus. If I were the CEO of a nonprofit, I might look to see if they had a presence on Care2, or one of the newer business sites (e.g., Ziggs, Ecademy, or Focus).

These social networking sites are increasingly important because they are more regularly indexed by search engines (because of the constant addition of content) than most consultants' websites. So, when a client looks for "Pat Jones consultant supply chain security," they are increasingly likely to come across you in a social media site before your own website.

Tip: This is not just making sure your personal and company profiles are current and accurate. We've heard stories about job offers to recent college grads being rescinded after an employer saw their Facebook page, so we don't need to talk about profile content. However, of more interest to clients may be the dialog and ideas you provide in discussion forums. Your knowledge and perspective (and communication skills) are why your client presumably wants your services. Being part of the discussion in your discipline or industry can build your reputation, but flaming people or offering uninformed or poorly communicated posts can cause a client to have second thoughts.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  communication  marketing  networks  professionalism  prospect  publicity 

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#118: Tapping the Intern Talent Pool

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 26, 2009
It seems like the economic downturn has a silver lining - the availability of a wealth of available talented college graduates still looking for work.

It is true that the normal intern pool would diminish near the end of summer. However, this year, the unemployment rate among recent college graduates remains high. Large companies have cut hiring of both full-time and summer employees this year to minimize cash expenses and commitments to longer term personnel costs. Smaller companies are often even more risk averse. The National Association of Colleges and Employers annual student survey says that 20% of 2009 college graduates who applied for a job actually have one. Some of these might be perfect for your consulting business. Even those who are electing to attend graduate school are looking to part-time work to supplement their income.

Recognize that identifying and vetting potential interns does take time, but this is an investment in extending your capabilities. Given the variable talent needs of consultants that change from porject to project, it is best to evaluate how these skilled and eager graduates can leverage your time in ways that a between-semester intern could not. You may need to identify a range of specialized skill sets (e.g., research, communication, writing, graphics, economics, engineering, psychology, technology) that can either complement your skills or teach you new skills (despite our experience, there are still things a new college graduate knows that we don't).

Tip: Talk to local business school or undergraduate departments in the disciplines you need for current or likely projects. Compile a list of a dozen or so students who come highly recommended by faculty for their being self starters, good communicators and solid academics. Contact them and describe your consulting practice and your interest in using them on short-term assignments. From this exercise, you should get 3-4 you could use. Try them out with a short research project, say some market research, to help them understand your work style and for you to get to know them.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  staffing  teaming 

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#117: Reread Your Consulting Contract - and Your Code of Ethics - Frequently

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, August 26, 2009
In many consulting engagements, the scope of work evolves as we reveal unknown facts and the nature of the client's need evolves. To what extent are we bound to the original contract if the client approves these scope changes along the way?

This is a great question, and one for which you may not like the answer. The contract for services is the current agreement between you and the client. The term "current" means not only the original terms under which you began your relationship, but also as modified to address evolving conditions and capabilities. If you do not modify the contract, regardless of how the nature of the work may have evolved, or client acknowledges these changes, you are still responsible for delivering what the original contract states. I wouldn't recommend relying on hallway conversations and assumed client understanding of the "new reality" when your realities may differ significantly.

When you conduct your regular progress reviews, ensure that you are in conformance to the terms of the current engagement agreement. If you consider that the conditions have changed and justify a changed scope of work, schedule of deliverables or work activities, then offer an alternative engagement protocol, along with logic and supporting data. If your client agrees with your interpretation of these changes, then it should be easy to modify the contract.

Tip: Regularly reread not only the engagement documents (both original and as modified) but also your Code of Ethics. As your perceptions about the work change, and the constraints and opportunities relating to your ability to provide the agreed upon services change, you need to return to first principles. What was the original intent of the work and what are your ethical obligations to provide those services? Look to an excellent article about the ethical aspects of this by Michael Shays called Obedience to the Unenforceable (this C2M article is available for free to IMC Members in the IMC USA Knowledge Library.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  contract  engagement management  ethics 

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#116: Who is the Real Client?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 24, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I read articles that conflict on defining who our client really is. Is it the client's representative I work with or the CEO of the client organization the "true client"?

You touch on a long-standing discussion, unlikely to soon be resolved to the satisfaction of all. Both consultants and clients have taken hard lines on this topic, and there are more points of view than just the two you have raised. The issue is the definition of "customer" that itself is the topic of a lot of discussion among both practitioners and academics. To start, customers can be thought of in three basic ways. First, the traditional definition is the end user or “consumer” of the product or service being generated. Ask who is the final consumer in the value chain of the application of the product or service you develop? The second, but not primary, customer is the broker of those services (e.g., a trainer is the broker of the training program you develop). Many products that consultants develop are in the form of capabilities to be used repeatedly in the future by someone, even if it is the CEO (e.g., a strategic framework). Third, there are the adapters or fixers of the service, ones who are likely to be tweaking the service we develop as needs change over time (e.g., training program staff).

This is where the greatest confusion lies. Is the training program you are developing a service that is "consumed" by the training manager (who may be your point of contact for the client), the division manager, the CEO, the organization as a whole, the trainers and future training program developers, the trainees, the Board of Directors, the shareholders, or the company's own customers? A case can be made for each of these, depending on the service you are providing and the nature of the engagement. However, it is rarely the case that the true client is the person with whom you worked out the statement of work and to whom you submit progress reports. These are people serving as representatives of the organization as a whole, who are authorizing spending the organization's money to pay you, and through whom you are providing services.

Tip: This is something worth talking about with your client representative, especially since the ultimate value of your services is defined by the impact your services have on the organization as a whole, not just the effectiveness of the product you are developing for your contact. In almost all cases, your value to the organization as a whole (and, perhaps the definition of your fees) is greater that it would seem to a sub unit or individual manager of the organization.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consulting terminology  customer understanding  engagement management  roles and responsibilities 

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