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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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#991: Kickoff Meeting Design

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 20, 2009
Updated: Sunday, February 22, 2009
What are some tips on good design for project kickoff meetings?

There are two aspects of a kickoff meeting. The first is about setting the tone for the engagement and about the relationship between client and consulting teams. Especially if this is for a new client, much of the kickoff is making sure expectations, roles and responsibilities, decision making, communication protocols, problem solving issues, etc. are raised and some consensus reached. The goal is to leave the meeting with a feeling of trust on both sides that this project is going to be a success because both parties are committed and competent. This requires some preparation and for you to have an approach for each of these issues.

The second is about setting the speed and direction of the actual technical work. Assuming there was a project plan discussed before the official kickoff meeting, specific activities and major milestones are usually a key subject of the kickoff meeting. Make sure you have thought through the scope, sequence and content of work activities. Who will be responsible for information, facilities, staffing, quality control? How will your performance as a consultant and the performance of the project be evaluated? What mechanisms will you collectively use to maintain documentation and communicate project progress with staff? At least the groundwork for these needs to be laid at the kickoff meeting (or a process and time to resolve them set), because as soon as the meeting is done, you go to work.

Tip: What you don’t want a kickoff meeting to be is a casual discussion of “getting to know you.” Set the tone for your services by being professional, prepared, and positive. Provide an agenda if your client has not already done so. Bring neat copies of project plans, timelines, samples of the work products you intend to create and descriptions of the roles you are expecting the client to play in the project. Finally, demonstrate enthusiasm for the work you are about to do, directed both at the client’s organization as well as on behalf of your firm for the opportunity to provide your consulting services. Build a kickoff meeting template and refine it with every engagement.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting process  meetings  reputation 

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#990: Making Sure Everyone Knows Your Name

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 19, 2009
Updated: Thursday, February 19, 2009
Because I have an unusual name, I frequently get misspelled nametags at conferences. I have solved this by always keeping a Sharpie and extra card stock in my briefcase.

This is a great idea, worthy of a resourceful consultant. However, let's take your idea one step further. Name tags are meant to introduce you and your company. Why let conference organizers influence your brand and image by their tag design? If the font is too small, people can't read your name. If you have a distinctive corporate logo, it is unlikely to be on your name tag. Sometimes the conference theme on a tag will dominate the tag, as if your name was an afterthought. And then there are tags that organizers misspelled or forgot altogether.

Tip: Take matters into your own hands by bringing your own name tag. Create a tag that highlights your brand (colors and shape are in your control and it doesn't have to be a 3x2 inch rectangle), make your name font as big as you want, and attach it in a way that suits you (women aren't forced to use the standard suit lapel clip if they don't want to) and you can hone the design over time until it is perfect for you. Make up several to keep them in convenient places.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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#989: About Your "Revolutionary" Consulting Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Several consultants I know seem to be in constant demand by providing services developed by a famous author or management professor. Is this something I should add to my consulting portfolio?

Let's break this down. First, there will always be organizations that are willing to try something new when traditional approaches do not work. Business books are among the most popular simply because effective management of businesses is hard work. That doesn't mean, however, that the latest fad or book is any better than foundational business principles that get less press. You know what works; you have been honing your consulting skills and behaviors for many years.

Second, ethical consultants are obligated to provide independent and objective advice to clients. If you go and get "certified" in some author's new method, is this really in the best interest of your clients, whose needs you don't even know yet? When you are oriented around a solution rather than the problem, you risk becoming the child with a hammer for whom the whole world is a nail. Your "certification" can easily cloud your independence and objectivity.

Finally, who is to say that the latest book or research is even new? Bob Sutton, coauthor of the Knowing-Doing Gap, shows why there is precious little new in management, despite the steady stream of "breakthrough ideas" coming out of business schools and large consulting firms. In Management Advice: Which 90% is Crap? Sutton, who admits to being cited for introducing revolutionary ideas that were just repackaged old ideas, advises caution to both purveyors and consumers of the kind of advice consultants tend to give.

Tip: Before you try to convince your client (or yourself) that you are delivering "never before seen" management advice, do a little research to see where your ideas came from. Odds are really good that they have been tried before, and may or may not have been effective. Only when the methods proven to be effective (even if they require hard work) begin to no longer apply to your clients should you begin to search for alternatives.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  ethics  innovation  intellectual property  marketing  professionalism  your consulting practice 

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#988: Saying Thank You to Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Maybe it is my Midwest values, but I always thank my clients for providing me the opportunity to serve them. I am surprised when they are appreciative and wonder whether this is a common practice among consultants.

Both client and consultant are giving and getting something out of the engagement. The client retains the consultant to make his or her organization better and the consultant provides services in exchange for learning and remuneration. A job well done, on either party's part, deserves some show of appreciation.

There are a few issues, however. First, when is the right time to express thanks? At the outset of the engagement is a good time to create some goodwill with a genuine expression of appreciation for the opportunity to provide service. Then again, once it is clear that the service has been provided, was well received and benefited the client, another thank you is appropriate. Second, how should this appreciation be expressed? At the outset of an engagement, a verbal thank you is appropriate, even for an existing client. At the conclusion of an engagement, a verbal thank you is acceptable but a written note, not included with the last invoice, is the preferred approach.

Tip: Even beyond thanking your client at the beginning and end of the engagement, consider another option. Several months after you have concluded your engagement, review the engagement and write a note to your client. Include some observations you make given some distance from the engagement, offer some additional recommendations for how their organization might further improve their condition, and again offer a thank you for the opportunity. This will certainly let your clients know that you consider them part of a relationship and not just a contract. This will raise your stock in their eyes.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  goodwill  professionalism 

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#987: How to Know What People Think vs What They Say

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, February 16, 2009
Updated: Monday, February 16, 2009
I am a trusting person but I know there are times a client says one thing and really thinks something else. How do I know what a prospect or client is really thinking?

Consulting is a relationship business. We sell our services. We need to read people and organizational cultures as part of our diagnosis. In the end, we want to communicate our findings and convince clients of our recommendations. In all these interactions, our ability to understand what people think and feel is critical. We can't always relay on what they say to fully gauge where they stand.

Psychologists and criminal profilers have developed a body of knowledge of how to read people. The value of these skills for consultants is not about uncovering whether someone is telling the truth as much as it is about better understanding their level of interest, willingness to work with you, the effort they will put in on your behalf, and how their mood might relate to acceptance of your recommendations.

Tip: Look through some books such as David Lieberman's You Can Read Anyone. Lieberman tells how you can use techniques of observing pupil dilation, reaction to your level of confidence, attention paid to different parts of your proposal, tests of loyalty, and knowing how much influence a person really has on decisions that affect your interests. These are not the same insights as those found in books on "sales techniques" or "how to close sales." A small investment in time to see people as they are rather than as they say will more than pay itself back in faster decisions and less wasted time.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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