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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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#281: Disclosing Client Names

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, April 12, 2010
Updated: Monday, April 12, 2010
Do you consider the mere fact of someone being a client to be confidential information?

This depends on the client. Having signed some agreements that prohibit me from even revealing that I am working for a client (I didn't take it personally), I now ask if the fact that I am advising a client is privileged information. Some clients may just want to control their image, others may not want competitors to know they are engaged in a strategy renovation or other transformation. For most clients and most types of engagements this will not be an issue, but don't assume that this is something you have an automatic right to divulge.

Tip: Always ask if you can go public with the relationship. Furthermore, you may also want to see how a client wants you to describe your relationship. These may include just listing their name as a client of yours, mentioning (e.g., in public or on your website) the nature of your engagement, or describing the work as a case study in your marketing materials. All have different implications for your client, and it is up to them to decide how much disclosure they want.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  confidentiality  consultant role  customer understanding  ethics  professionalism 

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#280: The Customer is Always Right. Really?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, April 9, 2010
Updated: Friday, April 9, 2010
The client is the one who pays the bill and I am being asked to solve the problem they see, not the ones I see. However, I have to say that a fair number of times I really believe the client is dead wrong on facts or conclusions. Is it my job to tell them they are wrong?

Our responsibility as management consultants is to provide independent and objective advice based on our expertise and experience. To withhold information or our best professional judgment is to fail in our professional responsibilities.

Are there times during which it is inappropriate to tell a client all you know? Of course, such as when a group is working through an issue and the experience of getting to the answer and developing skills to do so is part of your charge.

However, we are sometimes faced with a strong-willed client who may be sure of "facts" or opinions and doesn't suffer fools gladly. It is important to inform your client that you are obliged to give him or her the facts as you know them (back them up) and perspective as an independent professional advisor. If your client is unwilling to hear

Tip: You don't have to disagree in public or be disrespectful, but you do need to provide your independent and objective expertise and tell what you know. The customer is usually, but not always right.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  client relations  communication  consultant role  engagement management 

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#279: Building Business Close to Home

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 8, 2010
Updated: Thursday, April 8, 2010
I used to work for a large consulting firm and was on the road a lot. Now that I have my own firm and would rather spend time with my family, how do I build a solid base of local business?

Building a local base takes experimentation. Try some of these strategies, including a new approach to any of these strategies that "didn't work before."
  1. Join the local chapter of a professional or trade group in the industry in which you'd like to work. There are probably new groups that didn't exist when you last looked.
  2. Join the service clubs, chambers, and community associations in which your clients are members. Make sure you are an active and visible contributor to the community, and not think being a member on the list is enough.
  3. Get to know the local press, i.e., business, community, etc. and offer to write commentary on business trends or in response to local news. This is in addition to your social media activities (people still read local print media).
  4. Hold an event either in your home or in a club, restaurant or hotel. Do these with no expectations but bringing people together. Those who need your services will come to you.
  5. Send a clipping or printout of a relevant article regularly to your prospect list to keep you top of mind. Keep the focus local (e.g., it could be an industry-wide topic, but make your comments about how it might be relevant to a local company).
  6. Teach for the most prestigious local university or at a mid- to large-size corporate university.
  7. Offer to do a regular column for the appropriate local newspaper or magazine. You may want to team up with a partner for this, one who is already well-known in the local market.
  8. Publish a brief newsletter (hard copy or online) targeted to an industry or a local business sector.
Tip: There are lots of ways to increase your visibility but put yourself in front of your prospects in the most favorable, persistent way you can imagine. We just need to readjust our span of view from national to local. Considering that you probably only worked with a few clients at a time when you were national - remember that there are hundreds of prospects in your own backyard.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting lifestyle  customer understanding  marketing  work-life balance 

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#278: Coaching is Not Consulting

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, April 6, 2010
I am an experienced consultant to management and I am looking to expand my services. Since I already consult to executive teams, executive coaching seems like a logical add-on. What do I need to know about executive coaching to get started selling this service?

Executive coaching can be a useful adjunct to management consulting. However, just like consulting is a profession with its own skills, behaviors, body of knowledge and competencies, coaching is also a distinct profession. One should not "do coaching" because they have experience working with individual executives.

There are similarities between coaching and consulting, just as there are similarities between auto repair and heart surgery. The client presents a problem or opportunity, the expert (consultant or coach) gathers information, diagnoses the situation, works with the client to formulate solutions, and implements or assists in implementation of the recommended solution. In most cases, an emphasis is on helping the client to build the capability to self-diagnose and sustain performance in the future.

The differences are important, however. Consultants often bring models and patterns from other industries, develop directive solutions to recommend to clients and, as frequently as not, are not involved in implementation for very long. Coaches help diagnose, develop solutions and support ongoing self diagnosis and sustained improvement. But the emphasis is on the client "doing a lot of the heavy lifting" and the coach doing less directed intervention. The coaching skills and perceptions are necessarily nuanced and rarely are the behavior and personality patterns in clients "just like my last client."

Tip: Each profession has its own association (The International Coach Federation or IMC USA), body of knowledge, practitioners, and base of literature. Just as effective consulting requires training and experience, so too should you seek specialized training and certification before you attempt to provide coaching.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  coaching  consultant role  consulting process  customer understanding  professionalism  roles and responsibilities  your consulting practice 

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#277: Why Consultants Do What We Do

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, April 6, 2010
What is it about consulting that is so gratifying? Sure the problems are intellectually stimulating and it feels great to solve them. But why is it so popular?

Consulting as a profession resonates with each of us for different reasons. However, there are some common themes that come up when we discuss how we approach our own professional development, client relations and community service. Perhaps Dan Pink and others express it best when they talk about why people love coming to work and why they look for more than just "getting the job done."

We get a lot of satisfaction from work when we can pursue, and achieve, three things:
  1. Autonomy: We want to have control over our work.
  2. Mastery: We want to get better at what we do.
  3. Purpose: We want to be part of something that is bigger than us.
Tip: Think about management consulting. Especially for independent consultants, many of who have deliberately graduated from larger firms, we take control over our marketing, client selection, project management and team selection. Most of us spend a considerable amount of time reading, going to conferences and in discussions with other consultants about approaches and practices. Finally, we are participating in the building of companies, communities and nations by our improvement of public and private sector organizations. Who wouldn't be thrilled at that?

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  career  community service  consultant role  consulting lifestyle  your consulting practice 

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