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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 

#271: Staffing Your Firm

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 29, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I've been a solo practitioner for more than 15 years. Although it's been satisfying, I want to start to build a larger consulting firm. What do I need to consider before selecting people?

Building a firm is more than just "staffing up." Do you want to staff up for a current engagement or a long term business strategy? Would a stable of 1099 consultants work better than permanent staff? What legal form of business do you currently have and is it appropriate for your intended staff? Do you want to hire experienced staff or "grow your own?" Do you want staff to help run the business or just deliver client service? Is this part of an exit strategy?

There are a lot of questions that go into this decision. However, let's assume you answered them so we can address your question of how to select the right types of people.

Look at the following characteristics:
1. Skills in the technical disciplines you need
2. Attitude toward working on a team
3. Experience in your industries of interest
4. Enthusiasm toward your operating style 
5. (tolerance for risk, work pace, willingness to lead or follow)
6. Compatibility with your other team members
7. Compensation needs and flexibility
8. Commitment to professionalism and ethics

Tip: Remember the adage that we hire for eligibility but fire for suitability. As you build, give at least equal weight to attitude, behaviors and perspective as you do to technical skills and experience. Talented people are in short supply. Even if you can identify the perfect staff, you will still need to market your firm successfully to these prospects.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  planning  practice management  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#270: Closing Out Engagements

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, March 26, 2010
Updated: Friday, March 26, 2010
How should I wrap up an engagement without leaving the impression that I am not interested in future assignments?

There are several aspects of ending an engagement that might lead a client to feel that you are no longer interested in their welfare. First, you are about to submit a final invoice, thus may seem like there is no more desire to do work. Second, your effort moves from purely customer support to include some documentation and administrative tasks, possibly reducing the proportion of time you are available to client requests. Finally, there is an unwitting tendency to leave off some tasks that aren't the core of your effort, even if mutually agreed to.

These do not have to leave a bad impression if you manage them well. Discuss your final invoice in the context of the entire engagement, not just the final set of tasks, to show the full range of what you have delivered. Near the end of the engagement, reaffirm wit the client that he or she still needs the documentation and administrative tasks to be completed. The client may feel that what may have seemed like a good idea at the beginning of an engagement may no longer be useful and they would rather receive more consulting services instead. Finally, honor every commitment you make with a client (even the above mentioned administrative services).

Tip: As always, constant communication with your client is essential as the engagement comes to an end. Part of the discussion is how your commitment is to their continued success, not just the current project. Weave future activities into the discussion of the end of your current engagement.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  communication  consultant role  engagement management 

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#269: Confidentiality

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, March 25, 2010
Updated: Thursday, March 25, 2010
I just learned that one of my client's key employees is planning on leaving to go work for a key competitor in a few months. I like and respect this person and feel that he is a real asset to my client's firm. What do I do?

The IMC Code of Ethics Interpretive provides us with the following guidance (from Section 8.0 - Recruiting Client's Staff):

"Where key performers indicate that they are unhappy and are considering leaving your client, help your client to recognize and better utilize their potential. For instance, if you can see that an employee could be of greater value in another assignment, suggest reassignment."

Who do you work for? Where is your obligation? Did you receive this information second-hand? Was there any confidentiality involved in the receipt of the information?

Here are two strong guidelines you should always apply to situations like this:
  1. Remember that your primary obligation is to your client's organization.
  2. Do not receive information in confidence unless you can first ascertain that it will not prevent you from serving the best interests of your client.
Tip: Therefore, if one of your client's employees approaches you and says "I would like to discuss something with you confidentially..." Stop them before going any further and simply say "I'm very sorry, but I cannot receive any information from you in confidence that would be potentially detrimental to my client (in this case, your firm is my client)."

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client staff  consultant role  ethics 

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#268: The New Normal

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, March 24, 2010
How can consultants take advantage of the the New Normal in business?

"New Normal" is defined as an equilibrium state in business or culture that represents a discernable change from a previous commonly recognized equilibrium. Equilibrium does not mean lack of movement, but a relatively stable set of processes, relationships and significant components of a system. A major disruption (e.g., economy crashes, demographic structure changes, new technology arises) affects so many aspects of our lives, that the combination of changes people and institutions are compelled to adopt to restore their effectiveness can create a new equilibrium around these new relationships and processes.

What does this have to do with consultants? Everything. First, in stable times, we need to be a step or two ahead of our markets and clients. In turbulent times, we need to be agile enough to be ahead in whatever direction our clients and their industries go. Second, our own business is built on the "Old Normal." As the world changes, we need to change our own relationships, processes and assets on which our practices rest. Third, there is no one "New Normal for business as a whole. Because each significant disruption affects industries and populations differently, the New Normal will manifest itself differently.

Tip: We never really know when what the media reports as "The New Normal" is done changing. Most reports describe what the change is, but do not recognize when a new equilibrium is reached. Part of our job as consultants and experts is to be able to see far enough ahead to help our clients adapt to what will become a stable, recognizable New Normal, not describe the bumpy ride they are already on - and can see for themselves.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting terminology  customer understanding  market research  planning  trends  your consulting practice 

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#267: Will Anyone Remember You After Your Speech?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I don't speak much but I have a few opportunities coming up. How can I make sure attendees remember both my topic and me?

First, make sure they hear and see something memorable. This means a solid and timely topic to present. Nothing is less memorable than a talk that is loosely organized, that they have heard before, or that is hard to follow. Even if it is a topic you know well, update it with references to current or emerging aspects of your audience's industry, professional discipline or region. Set a standard of at least one-quarter of the content should be outside the "conventional wisdom."

Second, do something different from every other presentation and speech your audience sees. This could be a contest or a series of questions to the audience about the topic. You will engage them as well as gather some market research about audience awareness or attitudes about the topic. They will remember because they were engaged and learned something about how others saw the topic. Make it challenging.

Third, make it easy for the audience to connect with you after the event. They may remember you the day of the event, but you asked how to make them remember you weeks or years after the event. The usual strategies apply: hand out your business cards, make sure your contact info is on your slides, put a handout on every seat before your talk, and collect business cards from all attendees.

Tip: You want to know who is most interested in your expertise under the assumption that they are future clients or partners. Offer something through your website related to your talk, preferably an update or subscription to your speaking topic. This will let you know who is really interested in you and your expertise and provide an ongoing way to engage them in a conversation about the topic. This does not have to be a formal newsletter; it could even be a monthly email from you on trends in your topic. Don't make it harder than need be, and start to use information from your correspondence with your community.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  networks  publicity  reputation  speaking 

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