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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 

#526: Make Sure Your "New" Skills are Relevant to Client Needs

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 21, 2011
Updated: Monday, March 21, 2011
I worry that my skills are not keeping up with the pace of business and management. My consulting business is good, but when I see the list of emerging management techniques, there are a lot that I don't know anything about. How do I get back up to speed?

We can be lulled into a false sense of security by a steady stream of clients asking for our services. However, client appreciation of what we provide is not the true test of value. It is whether we are providing what our clients need.

When was the last time you took a real inventory of your skills and services? I know, I know, you are too busy chopping down the next tree to stop and sharpen the axe. But how do you really know whether or not your services are in line with where business and management are going?

One way is to take advantage of research and surveys of what executives think are the most useful (or at least the most popular) management tools. You might look lists such as those published by Bain Consulting, who conducts an annual survey of which techniques are growing or declining in importance. Are your services at the "in" or the "out" end of the list?

Tip: You will find Bain's 2009 survey of Global Management Tools and Trends quite insightful. Are your emerging skills the same as those most in demand by your clients?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting skills  knowledge assets  learning  professional development  trends  your consulting practice 

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#525: Understand How to Apply Ethics Principles, Not Just Know Them

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, March 18, 2011
Updated: Friday, March 18, 2011
I just learned that one of my client's key employees is planning on leaving to go work for a key competitor in a few months. I like and respect this person and feel that he is a real asset to my client's firm. What do I do?

The IMC Code of Ethics provides us some pretty clear guidance, based on sections 5.0 of the Code, "I will treat appropriately all confidential client information that is not public knowledge, take reasonable steps to prevent it from access by unauthorized people, and will not take advantage of proprietary or privileged information, either for use by myself, the client's firm, or another client, without the client's permission." and section 8.0 of the Code: "I will refrain from inviting an employee of an active or inactive client to consider alternative employment without prior discussion with the client."

Where key performers indicate that they are unhappy and are considering leaving your client, help your client to recognize and better utilize their potential. For instance, if you can see that an employee could be of greater value in another assignment, suggest reassignment.If you believe that they are likely to take key information with them, you have an obligation to not be a party to that action that may damage your client's interests.

For whom do you really work? Where is your obligation? Did you receive this information second-hand? Was there any confidentiality involved in the receipt of the information? Here are two strong guidelines you should always apply to situations like this:
  1. Remember that your primary obligation is to your client's organization.
  2. Do not receive information in confidence unless you can first ascertain that it will not prevent you from serving the best interests of your client.
Tip: Let's say one of your client's employees approaches you and says "I would like to discuss something with you confidentially." Stop them before going any further and simply say "I'm very sorry, but I cannot receive any information from you in confidence that would be potentially detrimental to my client (in this case, your firm is my client)." This might not be obvious to you but discretion, and a nuanced understanding of how best to apply the Code in various situations, is more useful than just "knowing" what the Code says. This conversation is probably best held between the employee and their supervisor - if the employee doesn't want to have this discussion, it is likely that you don't want to be involved either.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client staff  ethics  intellectual property  reputation  roles and responsibilities 

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#524: A Consulting Practice Benefits From a Website

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, March 17, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 17, 2011
I have all the executive coaching and consulting business I need and never had a website. Do I need one now?

Website aficionados might start a response to your inquiry with, "In today's competitive e-world, having a website is almost a requirement for doing business. Having a presence on the web can provide you with a lot of benefits in marketing your business, etc." However, there is a more nuanced reason to have a website than just your electronic billboard. Consider a few outcomes of having a website:
  • It increases your visibility beyond your current market. You might enjoy new types of clients and consulting environments by making it possible for them to find you.
  • It levels the "firm size" questions by removing the assumption that you are small-time by not having a website.
  • It provides a consistent message about the nature and scope of your services, removing the inquiries of those for whom your services are inappropriate.
  • It is a mechanism to create an interaction with your clients and community(ies). Your website is more than just about selling your services - it is an effective way to engage your communities and enhance your perspective, or even your capabilities.
  • It can be an efficient way for clients to contract for your services (if your services can be ordered a la carte).
  • It provides an around the clock way for your clients and prospects to see what you are doing and weigh in with their own suggestions for possible work or new services they'd like to see. It can keep you top of mind if done right.
Tip: Given the widespread popularity of using online searches to learn about businesses, having some type of web presence is almost a necessity for today's consultant. Although establishing a website for your business is a relatively easy and not cost prohibitive, care must be taken to properly represent your business in an interesting, informative and professional manner. Having a site that is poorly organized, unclear, error-filled or difficult to navigate might actually negatively impact your ability to obtain and effectively serve your clients.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  communication  market research  marketing  prospect  publicity  sales 

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#523: It's Hard to Overprepare For a Presentation

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I have a big presentation and I want to make sure I am prepared. Do you have any suggestions for me?

It seems that regardless of how experienced we are as presenters, we seem to forget the basics as our confidence grows, sometimes with bad outcomes. When preparing for a presentation, remember to take the following steps:
  1. Make sure to do a complete "dry run" of your presentation. Give a simulated performance including standing up, advancing the slides, speaking out loud to your imaginary audience, and so on. Better to find out now about miscalculations in timing, botched slides, questions that come up in your own mind about coherence of your thoughts.
  2. Think about the questions that might be asked by your audience and rehearse your answers in advance. Do you need another slide or data in your hip pocket to address these fully?
  3. Check your equipment and supplies (including your overhead projector, computer, remote, other A/V, flip charts, etc.) Try to have a back up readily available in case any of your equipment malfunctions. Some presentations can go on without technology, others can't.
  4. arrive early (or check out the venue the day before) so you can set up the room and arrange seating, ensure there are no new equipment issues, and once again run through any of the more challenging aspects of your presentation.
  5. Create a checklist containing all of your planned preparation steps so that you don't miss something critical. As an experienced speaker, you should have been developing one of these over the years, refining it with each presentation (including presentations by other speakers).
Tip: Practice makes perfect. Be prepared. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Chance favors the prepared mind. These and many more sayings about advance work are memorable for a reason. listen to them.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  meeting preparation  presentations  speaking 

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#522: Make Sure Your Recommendations are Characterized Accurately

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Client staff sometimes characterize a consultant's recommendations and suggestions to suit their own purposes. What should I be on guard for to make sure my recommendations aren't distorted after I make them?

Be aware of several very subtle yet powerful techniques that change people's perspectives in a way you didn't intend:
  • Calling something a "notion" or "suggestion" or "idea" diminishes the strength of your recommendation. If you are sure of your recommendations, be sure to use that word in presenting it.
  • Personalizing ownership of your recommendation (e.g., "Joe's idea") can sometimes prompt divisiveness, even if it is the consultant's idea. Let a concept (or recommendation) stand on its merits and not carry the baggage (good or bad) of its source.
  • Describing the idea as "new" or "bold" or "aggressive" can put a spin on your suggestion that might not be accurate, and may be off-putting to those who have heard (or tried) it before.
  • Aligning the recommendation with some functionality (e.g., "the marketing-based proposal" or "IT-focused approach" can erroneously suggest that the idea "belongs" inaccurately to some group or heading.
  • People changing the intended focus when describing your recommendation. For example, your proposal for improving return on marketing investment by decreasing the number of pages in an advertising flyer to focus on key sale items might be incorrectly characterized in the meeting as "cutting advertising costs" instead of "maximizing advertising effectiveness". This might elicit defensiveness in the some participants.
Tip: There are more subtle changes that can slip in if you are not watching. Try to catch these mischaracterizations early. Confront them directly, forthrightly and with sensitivity.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  presentations  recommendations 

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