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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 

#516: Losing a Sure Engagement

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 7, 2011
Updated: Monday, March 7, 2011
There are many times I have a solid lead on an engagement that just slips away. Everything seemed to be in place but something goes wrong at the last minute. Is this common?

I can't speak to how common this is among consultants but it certainly happens when most of us pursue a goal, whether it be a business deal, athletic competition (consider the number of athletes who dropped out of the Olympics at the last minute due to injuries or illness), or other objective. We tend to chalk up the wins but dwell on the near misses (or near hits, as the case may be).

Above my desk I have a poster of a painting by Charles Russell called Meat's Not Meat Til It's In The Pan. It shows a cowboy just after he has shot a bighorn sheep, anticipating a hearty dinner. However, the sheep has fallen off a cliff and is hung up on rocks below. Russell makes his point that sometimes everything can go exactly right, except for a small detail that prevents the outcome you expected. The meal the cowboy assumed he would be eating is now just out of his grasp.

Most of us have had one or more of these happen to us in our careers. A CEO asks us to start work and the Board suddenly decides on a new corporate direction. Our facility modernization consultation is shut down by the client's market dropping off. And so on.

Tip: The print is a constant reminder to not put any engagement on the books until work actually starts and you have a signed letter of agreement in hand. Meat's Not Meat Til It's In The Pan!

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  engagement management  marketing  practice management  proposals  sales  your consulting practice 

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#515: Prepare Carefully To Be Spontaneous

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, March 4, 2011
Updated: Friday, March 4, 2011
Every so often in a client meeting I am asked to quickly summarize progress on an engagement and plans are for the coming week. Any tips to make these presentations go better?

First of all, you shouldn't ever be caught by surprise by requests like these. Your client wants to be on top of his or her business. Effective consulting means understanding your clients, their situation, your project plan, findings to date, and where the engagement is headed.

Here's one way to be sure you are fully prepared for a "spontaneous" project summary. At least every week (or before project team briefings), prepare a summary of your engagement. The specifics will depend on the nature of your client and the project but here are a few items you might include:
  • Overall client need and objectives
  • Key project assumptions
  • Work scope for this period
  • Activities for this period
  • Key findings to date and significance
  • Emerging issues and uncertainties
  • Recommended change in project scope and cost
  • Requests for staff and information requests
Put this on a single sheet of paper and spend five minutes practicing your "spontaneous" briefing. Even if you never have to deliver it, this will help you sort out and clarify key factors driving you toward a complete and effective solution to your client's needs. Use this as a record of your project status, either for your own documentation or as a report to hand to your client.

Tip: If you can't summarize the key elements of your project on one page, and to your client in just a few minutes, you may need to think more about what are the most important items to convey.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting process  engagement management  practice management  presentations  proposals 

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#514: Get Critical Business Skills From Gaming

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, March 3, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011
Generation X and Y have their own approach to work that includes a task orientation, a focus on results and an eagerness for change. These sound like skills that companies value in consultants. Will Gen X and Y workers inherently make good consultants?

Businesses highly value consultants who can "see the big picture," are adaptable, and are enthusiastic about managing change. Gen X and Y, with the same perspectives, do seem like they would make great consultants. But why?

One aspect of this approach is the pervasive impact of video games. John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas write, in The Gamer Disposition in Harvard Business Review's Breakthrough Ideas for 2008, that online multiplayer games create the exact skills most desired in today's knowledge workers. These are:
  • They are bottom-line orientation
  • They understand the power of diversity
  • They thrive on change
  • They see learning as fun
  • They marinate on the "edge"
Seely and Brown see these individuals as learning (from these complex, adaptive, interactive systems) a range of skills such as flexibility, resourcefulness, meritocracy focus, and innovativeness. If you are looking for consultants, think about Gen X and Y candidates.

Tip: To develop your skills in systems thinking, adaptability, cooperation, decision making, innovation and stress management, think about participating in role playing and other interactive games.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  demographics  innovation  learning  professional development  teaching/training  trends 

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#513: Association Volunteer Work is a Productive Investment

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I see other members doing a lot of non- compensated volunteer work for our association. Can this type of effort pay off? How do I get involved?

Volunteering almost always pays off in both the short run as well as the long run. You will be amazed at the doors that will open and the opportunities that will arise from such a small investment of your time. Volunteering can provide a convenient way to develop a new skill or sharpen old ones. It gives you an opportunity to work with other talented folks, make new friends and enhance your professional network with additional valuable colleagues. You will also often experience a strong sense of accomplishment and will frequently receive recognition for your efforts. You will feel more a part of your organization, and fulfill your obligation to your profession, than you ever have. In short, volunteering is one of the best investments any consultant can make.

Getting started often begins by simply asking an organization where help is needed (and where your skills might be best applied). Most professional associations are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers.

Tip: Volunteering often provides you with something more important than a direct business payoff. You will learn, grow, and meet many great folks. Remember, though, to always approach your volunteering unselfishly, and always be as positive, productive, and giving as you are able. If you must have a "business case" for volunteering, consider how clients look at a service provider who doesn't think enough of his or her profession to commit time to supporting it.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  networks  professional association  professional development  professionalism 

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#512: Being a Unique Consultant May Not Be of Value to Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, March 1, 2011
How can I create a unique brand among a sea of similar competing consultants that will provide some marketing gravity?

Certainly creating high value helps with your marketing but reconsider the premise of your question. I infer that you consider uniqueness as equivalent to value. For any qualification you have, you should not be surprised to know that there are a lot of other consultants who have that same qualification, skill or experience. What makes you of greatest value to a client (other than the fact that you are in front of the client and those other consultants are not) is the 3-5 characteristics for which a client has the greatest need at this time. Your value is a combination of your qualities in the context of the client's needs, not the inherent mixture of your particular qualities.

Tip: Being of value to a client does not mean you have to be one of a kind, just of value in those areas that matter to your client right now. When in doubt, ask what prospects need, and don't be surprised if the answer is different than it was last year.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  marketing  reputation  sales  your consulting practice 

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