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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 

#100: Setting Up an Information Network

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 24, 2009
Updated: Friday, July 24, 2009
I'd like to build my network of colleagues, not so much for business referrals but to exchange business and technical information about my field. How is this kind of network building different than traditional network development?

Every kind of network (e.g., social, business, informational, bartering) differs in the criteria for participation, the pathway to develop it and the types of behaviors and skills needed to be a valued participant. Informational networks are among the most difficult in all these criteria. This is because the currency by which transactions occur (information) is the most intangible but, at the same time, the most valuable. The information most valued by the network is often hard to come by, is known by few but valued by many, and frequently has a short shelf life. Imagine how valuable advance information about emerging technologies is, your personal contact with someone who is connected to someone in demand for their research (this is the principle behind LinkedIn), or research you have just completed on a complex problem in business, technology or a particular technical discipline.

Setting up the network usually starts with a core set of people trading a limited set of information, say information about cutting edge research or innovative examples in construction financing. Establish rules for trading this information, confidentiality, types of information you collectively would find valuable, and acceptable levels of contribution (i.e., how much information of what value constitutes a fair value provided as compared to value derived). Finding the right people you trust to contribute quality information and to keep it confidential to just your group is essential. Grow the network organically from a small core of people and content to a network that works for you. Remember, an information network requires commitment and trust, much more than a casual business referral network we are more familiar with.

Tip: See whether you can build and sustain a network by arranging with 3-5 colleagues a deliberate effort to trade in a specific set of information. Plan out the growth of this network over the coming year, adding types of information and planned uses of this information, Discuss how each of you receives value from the network as compared to what you are putting in. Finally, set up rules among you for continued participation and how you might dissolve the network. If this sounds like a partnership, in a way it is and many of the rules, advice and caveats of setting up a partnership apply here.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  intellectual property  knowledge assets  networks 

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#99: When You Hear "We've Tried That Before"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 23, 2009
Updated: Thursday, July 23, 2009
What do others do when the client says "I've tried that before. It doesn't work."? Is it worth pushing a recommendation uphill against this kind of attitude?

Consultants are paid to be independent and objective. Unless you feel you have been told to drop the issue explicitly, then you should press your case with your client, acknowledging that there are different perspectives. The future is only partially like the past and your case is made by walking your client through the logic (and data) of how it is different. The key here is to really dissect the assumptions underlying how those resisting your proposal arrived at their conclusions that it will get the same results as "last time." Here are some questions to ask:
  1. When was this tried?
  2. What were the results?
  3. How was this measured and evaluated?
  4. Who did the analysis?
  5. How were conditions different from now?
  6. Why do you think it didn't work?
Tip: This line of questions often reveal that perhaps something else was tried, the conditions were different, the results may not have been properly measured or interpreted or that your assumptions are not correct. The exercise of probing may actually lead to an even better recommendation.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  consultant role  engagement management  recommendations  roles and responsibilities 

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#98: Taking Advantage of Your Family

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The consulting lifestyle is pretty intense (it doesn't have to be but it often is). Often personal and family relationships suffer. Without significantly compromising time necessary for work, how can I lessen the impact on family.

Work-life balance is certainly an issue for consulting. Some larger consulting firms have made some strides to lessen intrusion of consulting on family. Consultants are a different lot. We are often loners when it comes to our careers. Many independent consultants usually don't have many close co-workers and spend much of our time with clients and prospects. Our spouses and children often don't know how to describe what we do other than to say that we are in "consulting". Try getting the family involved. Here are a handful of ways:
  1. Take them to an industry trade show. There are always interesting booths, displays, giveaways and social/networking events.
  2. Enlist their (paid) services to help you with mailings, filing, cleaning, editing, scheduling appointments, anything. This can apply to a spouse as well as children.
  3. Ask them to review and provide their input into key reports or letters before sending ... especially the important stuff. They probably know well your perspective and can give their own take on your work and see things you missed.
Tip: If consulting is a relationship based on trust, try to take advantage of those you trust. Try to involve your family in your work wherever and whenever possible. It will reap rewards on many fronts.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  consulting lifestyle  your consulting practice 

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#97: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, July 22, 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." If the intellectual property is not yours, even if you think you might have come up with it on your own, it is not yours and any use by you may give the impression that it is yours.

Tip: If you are going to utilize a colleague's established methodology in your practice, get their explicit permission first before doing so. Better yet, work with your colleague to be clear what constitutes your own work and what belongs to them.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  ethics  product development 

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#96: Let Major Events at Your Prospect's Organization Guide Your Marketing

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 20, 2009
Keeping my pipeline full requires a large amount of time devoted to watching my industries and disciplines and for those trends for which I can create new consulting services. Are there any tricks to make this go faster?

Let's back up a second and talk about your basic premise for marketing and selling consulting services. What you are describing is the longer term component of marketing, the one related to positioning your capabilities for evolution of the market. This is not the most effective, or efficient, way to secure new engagements in the near term. Organizations are looking for professional service providers to address their current problems and opportunities. Your approach will certainly help them think of you for an issue that comes up in the future but less so for today's crises. Consider focusing on the crisis just announced this morning, even better one that has yet to break in the news, as your entry point into an organization.

For example, the US Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today that it is awarding $55 million in grants for construction of new scientific facilities at universities in Houston, Auburn, Wilmington and Miami. If you are a facilities management, design or project management consultant, here is an announcement that should trigger your search for active players in these decisions to whom you can offer your valued services. These points in a manager's life are highly emotional, either by fear or desire, in which your services are most likely to resonate. Using these events as your marketing focus is more effective than what may or may not come in the future.

Tip: Select your target industries or companies and subscribe to news notification services that suit your needs and price range. You may use Google Alerts, Factiva, and LEXIS-NEXIS, and dozens of other services. Once you have mastered how to use these high level sources, begin to use sources that go deeper into emerging news such as industry newsletters and business sources that conduct interviews with executive and business unit managers.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  planning  proposals  sales 

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