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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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#661: No Excuse for Lost Computer Files

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, September 26, 2011
Updated: Monday, September 26, 2011
With eDiscovery rules in force, what are my options and obligations for storing records?

Consultants should be aware of the implications of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for discovery of electronic data. What is now required to be retained includes most electronically stored information (IMs, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, emails, voice mails, etc). You might be asked in a lawsuit to provide these records, and you should learn the rules for proper retention.

Courts can provide some allowance for reasonable "housekeeping" of emails and other work papers. However, once it becomes apparent that there is a legal issue, you must preserve all documents that might pertain to the lawsuit. The case a few years ago of nearly five million White house emails "inadvertently missing" is the kind of circumstance at which these procedures are aimed. The White House had an automatic records management system designed to store these records, but it was removed and deliberately not replaced, the kind of circumstance on which a court would not look favorably. Having some minimal procedures for record keeping (and following them) is important.

All consultants should read a good summary of e-discovery rules and, especially, how they apply to social media.

Tip: This tip is not a legal opinion or guidance, only a recommendation that all consultants should be aware of their legal obligations to store records. If you need a backup capability, purchase an external hard drive or select an online service like Mozy, Carbonite, Amazon Cloud or many other services. These can provide unlimited online automated backups for as little as $5/month (or 2-5 Gb storage for free).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  computer  legal  privacy  recordkeeping  security 

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#660: Are You Ready to Advise Your Client?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 23, 2011
Updated: Friday, September 23, 2011
The past week has been a rough one on one of my clients, devastated by possibly losing access to credit over the next few months as this economic situation unfolds. What can I do to provide value if all her attention is focused on finance (and that is not my area of expertise)?

Consultants often find themselves in a situation where they are not the leading contender for the client's attention. This may be because there are emerging issues that suddenly capture a client's attention (as you mention above), or that there are other consultants or staff that provide more value than you do (something, given our high opinion of ourselves, we prefer doesn't happen).

Don't presume that you should, or even can, always be at the center of a client's attention. You were asked to provide some valued skills to address a specific set of issues. It is for the client to determine where these skills are best applied and, if yours ebb and flow in importance, that is OK. Your best value to your client is to make sure that your skills are best adapted to the client's current needs. If corporate finance (or another issue) does unexpectedly take center stage, your expertise could leverage these needs. It may be that your original scope of work may have to be put on hold, or that your engagement may even have to be terminated, if that is in the client's best interest.

Tip: Think through how your original scope of services has changed because of the new situation. Lay out suggested changes you think might be of value to your client - including terminating the engagement. When you think you have a good proposed change in scope, talk it over with your client and, as quickly as possible, modify your services. This change should include steps to work with other staff and advisors who are addressing the new priority issue.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  customer understanding 

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#659: Time to Reassess Your Pipeline

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 22, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2011
I am worried about my client pipeline now that the economic conditions are changing. What's a good way to evaluate where prospects stand?

Now is a good time to reevaluate your pipeline, although maybe with slightly different criteria than historically. On a sheet of paper or spreadsheet, list your prospects and grade them along criteria of attractiveness for the coming year (add or modify this list as you see fit):
  • consistency of likely engagement with your practice strategy
  • engagement revenue volume (big or small job)
  • profitability (considering possibly greater cost of service for travel, staffing, materials)
  • risks (overweight of project as % of total practice and impact of termination)
  • industry profitability over the next year or two
  • likelihood of follow on business
  • referrals possibly generated
Now, rate your clients/prospects from A to F:
  • A clients - low risk, high referral, long term, likely to add services
  • B clients - modest in all categories but not likely to grow much
  • C clients - difficult to adopt new services, slow to pay, high risk
  • D clients - you have concerns and will probably not renew
  • F clients - these are low margin, problem clients, may be ethically challenged, and you'll seek to terminate when your obligations are fulfilled
Take a hard look at your clients in the context of changed economic conditions. Which clients are in need of more or less of your services? Which are going to be pressed to pay on time? In which client personally do you have better chemistry? You may be surprised how some clients move up and others down in the rankings. Focus on the A clients or prospects, try to upgrade the B and C clients and plan on dropping the D and F clients.

Tip: Discuss your ranking criteria with your colleagues. Do you agree on which industries are good prospects, on the attractiveness of your specific services, on the likelihood of selling additional services to named clients? You may gain insights from discussing these criteria, or you may find common ground for collaboration.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  prospect  sales 

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#658: Perfecting Your Brochure

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I have never used marketing collateral to publicize my business, instead relying on word of mouth. Yet, most articles talk about having a website and brochures, and doing webinars and podcasts? Is any of this necessary?

First, congratulations on having a consulting practice sustainable by word of mouth. If this circumstance brings you a steady stream of challenging, lucrative and socially productive work, then that's great. If this is not the case, then having these pieces of collateral, per se, may or may not be useful. However, going through the exercise of creating them may well be.

Here's what I mean. Ask most consultants what they do, why they do it, how they do it, and who they do it for and you can expect a 15 minute (if you are lucky) explanation. Very few have a clear, concise and "get-to-the-point" description of who they are. Part of this is due to not finding the words that resonate with a wide audience. Being able to say, "I create secure supply chains for transpacific container shipping companies by combining personnel training, integration with your current information technologies and performance tracking systems" is a lot clearer than "I am a supply chain consultant."

Tip: You may not have a brochure, nor need one, but the process of having to put down on a single sheet of paper who, what, where, and why you do is not as simple as it sounds. Give it a try and do two things. First, map this explanation against your last five engagements. Does your practice description capture what you did for these clients and the value you delivered? Second, pass your practice description by about five clients or colleagues and ask them if they recognize you (possibly uniquely) in your description. If not, go back and rework your "brochure." Even if you never use it as an actual brochure, you will have a clearer way to explain the core value you really provide.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  presentations  prospect  sales  your consulting practice 

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#657: Surround Yourself With the Right People

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I have pretty good professional and personal networks. They provide a good way to refer work to others and receive referrals as well. How can I move my network up a notch?

First, be clear (this means writing it down) what you think is the goal of your network(s). People use them in different ways and the "next step" could be different for each network objective.

Objectives could include referral targets, useful to you because companies will come to you because you can always find the right consultant (if it isn't you). A network can also provide you leads, assuming you are clear about what type of leads you seek and those in your network are clear about your needs. There is also a network of people who can provide you technical, market or trend information when you don't need expertise, per se, in the form of a consultant. There is a use for a parallel network where you are the source for information, be it for media, government, nonprofit or other "non-consulting" entities, for whom your expertise is valuable.

Tip: Given list of your objectives, name five people for each objective that come to mind immediately as the people who could help you or be helped by you. If you can't come up with five, do a little research or ask others in your current networks who they consider their dream team of advisers and contacts they want to be in their networks. These should be people you wouldn't normally consider in your network; they would be more visible, more influential, and more in need of your services or information.

Pick only one off the list and contact them with a few ideas of how you could work together. Spend a few weeks developing this new addition to your network and evaluate your approach to growing your connections. Every few weeks (your pace may vary), pick another person and work them into your network. Based on this success, reevaluate the others on your network and recalibrate how helpful you can be or they can help you.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  networks  referrals  teaming  virtual teams  your consulting practice 

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