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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 

#301: Offering a Guarantee for Your Consulting Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 10, 2010
Updated: Monday, May 10, 2010
I know of a consultancy that puts 20% of its fees at risk based on the achievement of its deliverables. With my firm, my clients know if they are not pleased with any of my deliverables I will do whatever required to correct them and, worst case, if they remain displeased I will refund all or part of my fees even though I have never had to in 10 years. Neither of these solutions are standard within the consulting profession based on my experience but what is?

A guarantee is a way to offset a lack of trust. In relationships with mutual trust, it doesn't even occur to either party to consider a guarantee. One party asking, "Do you offer a guarantee (or warranty or other recompense for violating expectations)?" is saying, in effect, "I don't totally trust you, so how am I going to be made whole if you don't deliver as promised?" This is exactly why development of trust between client and consultant is so important, and doing everything to justify and retain that trust - for both parties - should be attended to throughout the relationship.

However, sometimes there may be a request for a guarantee of some kind. This is more common when a client knows little or nothing about the consultant and/or the referral is weak. This is one place where certification can increase trust by affording credibility unavailable for a non-certified consultant, all other things being equal. There is no standard for consulting service guarantees.

How to ask for guaranteed work is also hard for the client. Consulting services are largely intangible, often hard to measure and implementation may not be fully under your control. The distributed control is key. Accountability is a two-way street. Both client and consultant must contribute to the success of the effort. For one party to ask for a guarantee, the other must be sure that their part is also guaranteed.

Tip: Ultimately it's the client that makes the real decisions. And if the question of guarantee comes up, guarantee your work and the results based on the client's subjective evaluation up to a point or they can choose to disengage, but both of you are part of the guarantee. Once you have this discussion, it should become clear that there is usefully a lot of trust required by both parties to make the project successful and clear requirements, a solid and well understood project plan and continuous communication will do more for success than a paper guarantee

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  roles and responsibilities  trust 

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#300: Concept of Operations

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 7, 2010
Updated: Friday, May 7, 2010
My consulting practice deals with complex situations and my communications and work products require fairly technical documents. How can I more effectively communicate to an audience the range of the issues I am working on?

You don't have to work in a technical field to benefit from learning ways to present complicated concepts in a simple form to clients, colleagues and stakeholders. An important consulting skills is to be able to simply communicate a complex issue.

Borrow a practice used by the military and other disciplines - the Concept of Operations (CONOPS). A CONOPS is a high level description of the operational requirements of a system, activity or mission. It is a formal document that lays out the rationale, structure, capabilities, uses and benefits of that system. It might be an organizational unit, a program, or project. To an extent, a CONOPS is it is what is sometimes called a requirements analysis but it is more.

A CONOPS clearly explains the objectives of a system or organization, the circumstances of its environment, forces acting on it, possible and preferred methods of operating to achieve the stated objectives, decision making principles and processes, and expected operational outcomes. CONOPS are commonly used as the foundation of a strategy and may be presented as a (sometimes complex, but complete) graphic or a more thorough narrative.

Tip: Look at some examples of a CONOPS as a graphic or a narrative of how to create one. How could you describe a client's organization or system through a CONOPS?

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting terminology  presentations 

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#299: Your Best Consulting Moment Ever

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 6, 2010
Updated: Thursday, May 6, 2010
Today's tip is about reflection and perspective on what delights you about the profession and your practice of consulting.

Spend a few minutes thinking back over your consulting career. Close your eyes (after you are done reading this) and go over the research, marketing, selling, engagements, client conversations, analyses, interviews, publicity events, presenting findings and recommendations and being called back to provide additional services. What were the one or two most satisfying and rewarding events or moments you have experienced?

Was it when your team received applause at a board meeting for your work? Was it winning an engagement you had been pursuing for some time? Was it reaching a unique conclusion or insight after a long period of analysis? Was it the times you spent with a valued colleague working on a hard problem? What about being able to speak to audiences about your work or about consulting? Or is it the flexibility of lifestyle consulting can accord?

Tip: What were you doing when you experienced your favorite moment? If you think about a few of your favorite moments, is there a pattern? Are they all related to selling your services and wining an engagement, or re they mostly about doing the work? Are the winning moments all of one type? If so, how will you make 2009 a year when you get to experience more of those delightful moments? Why shouldn't you focus your efforts on living a consulting life full of joy?
P.S. Conversely, what were some of the worst moments of your consulting career. Is there a pattern? Can you restructure your practice to eliminate or at least mitigate them?

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  learning  your consulting practice 

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#298: Who Cares if Your Consultancy Fails?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Clients often ask for bids on specific engagements and then complain that consultants only offer the same services as everyone else. How are we supposed to stand out when we are just responding to what we are asked?

I understand your point but you are also not being fair to clients. Just because they ask for something does not mean you are unable to propose alternative approaches or even alternative outcomes. If we just feed back what we think clients want to hear, we miss our opportunity to use our experience, education and expertise to advance the client's condition. To put it another way, if you went out of business, would anyone care? Are your consulting services so unique, however large or small your market, that they could not be provided by any other consulting firm?

Youngme Moon's new book Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd is a reminder that providing the same consulting services as everyone else makes them commodities and makes them valued at the lowest price. Different, scarce, and unusual consulting services - that still get the job done but show some innovation and creativity - will command both attention and higher market value.

Tip: Be constantly innovating in the scope and process by which you provide consulting services. Whether it is focusing on agility, intangible capital, or other "new looks" at management, your uncommon take on your client's future can make it so that people would notice it if your consultancy disappeared.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client development  client service  innovation  intellectual property  product development  reputation  sustainability  your consulting practice 

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#297: The Future of a Strategy Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Strategy consulting work seems to have dried up for our firm, as well as for many colleagues. Should we develop other practice areas?

The principles of management have not changed, nor have the needs of organizations for consulting services - in the long run. However, the nature and timing of what is most important in their need for advisory services does change over the short term. In challenging economic times, cost management and revenue growth rise to the top of the needs list. When new legislation is passed in a market, legal advice is needed. When the future is unclear and even survival is uncertain, many managers dial back on grand strategy development in favor of activities that will get them through the next quarter.

Strategy formation has already started to return as a legitimate and needed service. The recent Management Consulting Recruitment Channel Report 2010 by Top-Consultant says, "Strategy consulting, often the quickest to be hit in a downturn, can also be amongst the last to recover during an upturn. In many respects it’s the most discretionary type of consulting spend there is – and this has spillover effects on the hiring trends within strategy consulting. Given this, it is therefore heartening for the industry as a whole to see a general consensus that strategy consulting hiring will gather pace this year – one of the strongest indicators that as an industry we perceive the worst to be very much behind us."

Tip: Consulting services ebb and flow with client needs so, like your investment portfolio, consider offering a portfolio of countercyclical advisory services that serve your industry in lean and rich times. Your clients are (should) not just be clients when they need a specific service. They, and you, are better off if you can provide a continuum of services that are available when they need them.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  market research  planning  practice management  product development  trends  your consulting practice 

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