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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 

#506: Take Me to Your Leader

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, February 21, 2011
Updated: Monday, February 21, 2011
I have a lot of colleagues who head up small or solo consulting practices. Between them, they are President, Principal, Managing Partner, Chair, Executive Consultant, CEO, CXX (any number of "creative" titles), or no title at all. Does any of this matter?

To whom?

These titles are important in a large firm to differentiate between various management and executive jobs. It helps outsiders know which roles and responsibilities an individual has. HR departments use these to describe a job to applicants. Inside a firm, it helps define accountabilities, and who gets what size office. Certainly if your business is related to the Internet or marketing, there has been an arms race in creative job titles.

For a solo consultant, this boils down to what your ego needs and what makes your mother proud. It really doesn't make any difference what you call yourself. Clients are hiring you for your expertise, perspective, skills and behaviors, not because you are CEO or President or Grand Poobah. I've heard more than one client express some disdain in reaction to a consultant whose business card reads "CEO and Chairman" when they are a one-person firm.

Tip: Call yourself whatever you like, but know that it is mostly for your own benefit.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  marketing  reputation  sales 

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#505: Readers's Choice of Book on Consulting

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 18, 2011
Updated: Friday, February 18, 2011
Over the years during which I have been consulting, I have bought, read and discarded a number of books on the consulting profession, consulting skills and behaviors, ethics, and practices. Some are much better than others and some are ones I return to again and again. I wonder if others treasure the same books I do.

Most business and consulting books contain some good ideas here and there. The really good ones are filled with concepts and insights that are relevant for many disciplines and industries and continue to inspire long after their initial printing. But the ability to be inspired is a function of not just the author's content and presentation style but also how you approach your practice, your style of generating new lines of business and your emphasis on expanding your skills as a consultant. Some are new this year; others are still powerful 50 years after being published.

Some of my personal favorites (judged by the density of material and their ability to inspire new ideas and services) include:
  • Strategic Renaissance (Dudik)
  • Flawless Consulting (Block)
  • The Essential Drucker (Drucker)
  • What Were They Thinking (Pfeffer)
  • The Art of Problem Solving (Ackoff)
  • Integrating Mission and Strategy for Nonprofit Organizations
  • Rapid Results (Schaffer)
  • The Organization Man (Whyte)
  • Reframing Organizations (Bolman and Deal)
  • Selling the Invisible (Beckwith)
  • The Strategy Process (Mintzberg)
  • Strategic Management (David)
Some of these are well known to you; others you may never have heard of. All we can do to find out from the rest of you is to ask.

Reply to this email with your favorite consulting book(s). Send the name of the book and its author, along with a sentence or two of why you have found these helpful to your practice and to whom you would recommend them. We'll compile and publish the names of most popular titles.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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#504: Listen to the Team

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 17, 2011
Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011
In working with the key members of my client's project team, I have trouble gauging how well they really feel the project is progressing. When asked in meetings, everyone nods in agreement that everything is fine, but I'm not sure if that is the case. Do you have any helpful ideas to help determine their real thoughts?

Consider a two part process. First, write down a set of criteria you feel are appropriate for evaluating whether the project is "on track." These might include financial factors, timeliness, process efficiency, error or rework rates, satisfaction measures of process owners or customers, or measures of performance improvement.

Second, talk informally and individually with each member of the team. Ask how they think it is going and what, specifically, they think is working well or not. Ask them to rate the progress and their satisfaction against the common criteria you laid out (take note of any exception they take to your criteria and adjust as appropriate). Also, ask them what they would change to improve the process, specifically what, in their responsibilities, they would be willing to change. You may be surprised at how much you learn from the process and how much goodwill you can create with each team member by soliciting their advice.

Tip: By taking this action, you are setting up expectations for action. Make sure you respond quickly and publicly to your findings. At a minimum, acknowledge the strengths and opportunities for improvement raised in your discussions.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client staff  communication  consulting skills  engagement management  goodwill 

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#503: Position Your Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Too often consultants try to be all things to all people and, as a result, lose credibility. But what happens if you do a lot of different kinds of consulting work spanning more than one specialty area?

Although picking one lane in which to drive is a logical strategy, it is not for everyone. Focus on each intended audience and concentrate on their specific needs and requirements. Savvy consultants have separate, customized biographical information that they utilize for each of the different audiences they serve. For example, they might have one bio for speaking engagements, another for mailing to specific category prospects, etc. Complementing your positioning approach, also consider how your processes might be different for each of these clients/markets.

Tip: You can't be all things to all people, but you can be different things to different people. Where possible, customize your client communications to focus on their particular needs. "Position" yourself appropriately for each audience! But remember, it might be OK to drive in a few different lanes, but stay on your side of the road!

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  marketing  prospect  your consulting practice 

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#502: When You Can't Answer a Client's Question

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, February 15, 2011
What do I do when a client asks me a question to which I don't know the answer?

This might seem like a simple answer but with a few caveats. Certainly be honest and don't fudge the answer. However, consider the situation and the role you are being asked to play (e.g., sometimes the client doesn't need a definitive answer but your perspective will do). Here are some possible responses (pick an applicable one that truly represents your situation).
  • I don’t know, but I will get a response to you in the morning.
  • I know someone who is an expert in that subject and will get back to you as soon as I track her down (or, I will have her call you to discuss it).
  • That's really not my area of expertise, but if you give me an hour, I will do my best to give you some idea, if not the definitive answer.
  • That’s an interesting question and one in which I have no direct experience but, based on what I know about your situation, I suggest you consider three factors in evaluating your path forward.
  • I am pretty sure I know the answer but don't have it with me and don’t want to mislead you with a guess, but as soon as I get back to my office, I will call/e-mail with the answer.
Tip: Take your time to provide a considered response. This is not the game show Jeopardy, in which the speed of your answer is what counts. You always have the option of pausing - your client will probably appreciate that you think the question important enough to take some time to respond.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  communication  diagnosis  reputation 

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