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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 

#326: Post Conference Planning

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 14, 2010
Updated: Monday, June 14, 2010
Even though I am an experienced consultant, conferences are a key part of my practice regeneration and networking strategy. However, although I do meet interesting people, get great ideas and learn about what is going on in my area of practice, I think the value does not last as long as I'd like.

For many consultants, a conference is an important strategy to develop new skills and new business. However, many of us think of conferences as expenses and not investment. We conclude that we are spending a few days "away from our business" and we need to get back to work as soon as we can to "make up for the lost time."

There is a better way to look at this. First, you are taking time to work on your business so you are best served by leveraging the information you gained and people you met. You don't visit a prospect or client without a well thought out plan of how the event will go; do the same for a conference. Have a plan and work it.

Second, the time right after the conference is potentially the most productive. On the plane ride home, send a follow up email to each person of interest you met (you can knock out 30-40 short emails that will be appreciated and may result in a response waiting for you by the time you arrive home). Go through conference material and note the items you think can best help your business - and toss the rest. Go over your preconference plan and see how you did, making notes for the next conference to gain even greater value.

Tip: Tip: Don't come home and put your conference binder on the shelf and toss collected business cards in a drawer. Schedule a half to whole day immediately after you arrive home to consolidate all you learned and connect with your new contacts.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  education  professional development  teaching/training 

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#325: Pro Bono Work as a Business Generator

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 11, 2010
Updated: Friday, June 11, 2010
You've said before in the Daily Tips that doing pro bono work is a great way to develop business. I just don't see how, given that volunteering time is time I can't bill. Please explain again why this is not a money loser.

You are absolutely correct that replacing a paid day with an unpaid day is a money losing proposition - when considered on a cash basis. However, there are two things about this assumption that make false the conclusion that pro bono work is a bad idea.

First, we don't bill 100% of our time. We do spend time for which we are not being directly paid in activities like administration, research, conferences and other professional development, networking and calling on prospects. These all pay off down the line - some soon and others much later - but we do them because we see the connection. We are accruing assets that will produce income later. So, to say that every unbilled hour we could be billed is unlikely (but good work if you can get it).

Second, the nature of pro bono work differs than paid consulting. Your attitude and your relationship with the "client" are different. They see your commitment is to the cause and that you place service before fees. The people for whom you are providing services look at you differently and so do your colleagues. I am far more likely to ask a consultant to join a team if I see they are willing to donate their time and skills to a cause than if they are only interested in chasing paid work. Few may express this out loud but commitment to community is a reliable mark of a true professional consultant.

Tip: Contribute some of your time (it can be as little as a few hours a month) to serve your community in some way that leverages your consulting discipline or industry expertise. It extends your skills, introduces you to a new group of individuals, builds your community, and places you (legitimately) favorably in the eyes of your professional colleagues.

P.S. Aside from the honor of contributing your skills to your community, serving competently leads to requests for paid consulting services. Done right, you can replace much of your marketing time with pro bono time and get the same book of business and improve your community at the same time.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  community service  goodwill  professionalism  reputation  your consulting practice 

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#324: Non-Competes for Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 10, 2010
Updated: Thursday, June 10, 2010
A prospect wants me to sign a ‘non-compete’ clause. It's a sizeable contract but I am reluctant to sign a non-compete. I've never signed one before. Should I just tell them I won't sign it?

If you flatly state that you won't sign under any conditions, you are at high risk of losing the assignment and maybe that's acceptable to you. But there are other things you can do to handle this situation more effectively.

Start by determining, without being defensive or antagonistic, the rationale, history, and flexibility the organization that is behind their request for the non-compete. It may be that they have been recently burned by a consultant or just that they have a conservative legal counsel. Once you have the business reasons for their concern, explore alternatives with your client. Describe these alternatives in the form of scenarios they will accept, person to person. Don't get into the legal terms - those are for formalizing what you two agree to in business terms.

Then run this past your attorney. The clock is ticking, so act quickly. Find out what your attorney recommends in order to minimize your exposure and liability in time and dollars. Go back to the client with suggestions for revisions (or it may be that your attorney has recommended you not sign) and would like to talk to the client's attorney. The key in successfully resolving this situation is to maintain a highly cooperative attitude (in business terms) while making sure to limit your exposure and freedom (in legal terms).

Tip: Some non-compete clauses are unnecessarily restrictive and guard for every possible contingency. Given that your objective is to improve the effectiveness of the client's condition, consider framing your non-compete discussion in terms of how, given your professionalism and ethics, a non-compete is a constraint on that effectiveness. Make a strong business case for an appropriate non-compete, or none.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  confidentiality  customer understanding  goodwill 

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#323: Streamlining Client Feedback

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Many of my engagements involve interviews of staff, customers and suppliers. These take a long time to compile and analyze. Are there any shortcuts that other consultants use?

Interviews are a logical part of organizational diagnostics, but reduction in the level of effort in just the beginning of possible improvements. Treat this activity like any formal research project, to include a research plan with explicit objectives, clear data collection, compilation and documentation processes and a formal evaluation.

Of the many ways to improve the process to streamline the interview process, here are two tips. First, standardize the interview process with a script instead of just "having a conversation" with the interviewees. Select specific questions and areas of investigation you want and review the draft script with your sponsor. This will make the time you spend in the interviews more efficient by staying on topic.

Second, use a data collection form tied to the script to make compilation and evaluation more efficient. For example, you might include a grid for interviewee estimates of future sales or resource requirements. This will help assure that your interview does not end with important data missing and will speed up compiling of responses.

Tip: Interviews are more than just conversations. Make the process efficient with a deliberate research and data collection plan and save yourself the time you seek.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  information management 

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#322: Shaking Things Up

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, June 9, 2010
I've got a client whose business is going through some very rough times and I can't seem to get them to accept and implement my recommendations. They seem very hesitant to commit to the sweeping changes I believe are necessary to pull them out of this slump. They agree with the initiatives in principle, but are concerned that employees won't support the initiatives. How can I help them with this?

Here are a handful of thoughts/questions that just might help:
  1. Avoid the "all or nothing" approach and phase in the components of the initiative in a gradual, non-disruptive manner, implementing the least risky and widely accepted steps first.
  2. If you are unable to phase in the changes, ensure that you gain alignment with the core leadership group before proceeding.
  3. Identify the key dissenters and identify the facts behind their perceived resistance. Deal with each individually and try to address their concerns prior to proceeding with any implementation steps.
Tip: This is not uncommon for organizations under pressure. You may want to enlist the help of someone who specializes in the management of corporate transformations and change initiatives, particularly one possessing expertise on the on the human-side of change). This should be someone who has experience and a proven track record in this area. Bringing in vital extra resources is a sign of strength, not of weakness.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  crisis management 

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