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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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#255: Taming the Email Monster (Part 2)

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, March 5, 2010
Updated: Friday, March 5, 2010
Your past Tips about managing email focus on controlling how much mail gets into your inbox by filtering, subscription control and filtering. Are there email management programs or add-ins programs that would also help?

There are a lot of data contained in your email beyond what is inside individual emails. Once you get control of the sheer volume of emails, to the point that you can be responsive to the content in each one, there is an opportunity to use the collective intelligence of your entire email traffic to improve the effectiveness of your communication. There are several free to low-priced applications to help you do this. Their purpose is to speed up your search for emails, show you who emails you the most, when most email traffic is sent to you, and

Xobni (inbox spelled backwards, get it?) is a clever third party application with both free and $30 versions. Xobni has really fast search, the ability to track message threads, find relationships between all the people who email you, pulls information from email signatures and content to enhance your contacts, and links your contacts to their Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles. This kind of application creates information from your email, far more than just managing it. For example, Xobni can determine who among your email contacts responds fastest to your emails, or when they most often email you (so you know when they are most likely to respond).

Tip: There are other applications, such as NEO (Nelson Email Organizer) and you might consider collections of add-ins (e.g., Top 50 Most Popular Outlook Add-Ons). Each of these has merits that you will need to evaluate for your own needs. Remember, it often takes a combination of behavior and technology to effectively manage your email.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  information management  knowledge management  recordkeeping  social media  your consulting practice 

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#254: Using Speaking Engagements to Gain Exposure to Clients and Colleagues

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, March 4, 2010
I don't want to be a professional speaker but I would like to do some speaking for visibility and to share some of what I have learned as a consultant. How might I get started?

Most consultants who build enduring practices find ways to expose their knowledge, subject matter expertise, and methodologies to prospective clients. Another audience is colleagues who may partner with them or refer them to prospective clients. Public speaking affords the speaker a chance to make direct connections with others and to observe firsthand how they react to what you have to say and to offer.

Your selection of speaking venue is also important. Choices for professional consultants range from speaking at local, regional, national and international trade shows or events sponsored by organizations associated the consultant’s area of specialization or expertise. These venues provide direct connections with clients and potential clients. Other venues are directed more to acquiring partners to team with on consulting projects or to get referrals from colleagues.

Tip: When you consider venues include speaking at consulting profession events such as IMC USA Chapter Meetings or IMC USA Confab, "The Conference for Consultant by Consultants.” This annual event is a wonderful opportunity to share expertise, consulting skills, and consulting tools with other consultants. Attendees learn from each other, refer clients to each other, and often work together on projects. Click to find out more about speaking at Confab or email Don Scellato, Confab 2010 Program Chair or call 510-523-1141.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting colleagues  speaking  teaming  your consulting practice 

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#253: We Tried That Already

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, March 3, 2010
What do others do when the client says "I've tried that before. It doesn't work."? I feel foolish, especially when I am making a recommendation that I am not certain about.

This is a very common reaction. The key here is to really dissect the response. Here are some questions to ask:
  • When was this tried?
  • What were the conditions of the company when it was tried?
  • What were the results?
  • How was this measured and evaluated?
  • Who did the analysis?
  • What were the impacts of the decision?
  • Why do you think it didn't work?
Tip: These questions often reveal that perhaps something else was tried, the conditions may have been different, the results may not have been properly measured or interpreted or that your assumptions are not correct. The probing often leads to an even better recommendation.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  recommendations 

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#252: Taming the Email Monster

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, March 2, 2010
I am sure I am not alone but my email is out of control. I can't get to all the requests I get and feel like I am getting a reputation for being nonresponsive. Any suggestions?

There is no simple answer to this but there are a few tricks people use to resolve this growing (no pun intended) problem. First is controlling what gets to your inbox in the first place, even before we get to separating important from urgent emails. It is easy to get on any number of email lists and have lots of unsolicited mail. Get yourself a good spam filtering program (note that several "Do Not Email Registry" websites are themselves scams to get your email address). Also, instead of just deleting unwanted mail that sneaks through, put it into a junk folder and save it for unsubscribing later. Most people who provide an unsubscribe option will honor it. Every little bit helps.

Second, use filters to redirect mail into groups: clients, personal friends, mail to each of your email addresses. I use specific email addresses for various types of subscriptions, online offers, and for people I don't know. As I receive email from those addresses (they are sometimes resold despite privacy policies to the contrary), they are routed into folders to which I should, may, or won't respond. Finally, when I get a few days behind on mail (e.g., when I am on travel) I sort mail by thread or sender and can often respond in groups (i.e., a common response to several people on a common thread).

Tip: Let people with whom you correspond know that you have some rules you follow, and deliver on that expectation. For example, if you are the sole addressee in the "TO:" field, you will get back to them in X hours/days and if you are in the "CC:" field, you take it that the sender does not expect an answer from you. Also know when a "Reply All" thread is out of control - either pick up the phone and resolve the issue or remove some names for the large list in the (often growing) list. In many cases, behavior can be more effective than technology in getting some control over the monster.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  efficiency  information management  process  your consulting practice 

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#251: Putting Your Consulting Skills to the Test

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 1, 2010
Updated: Monday, March 1, 2010
My consulting skill building comes from what I learn with each new client, reading and teaming partners. I've read all the "Intro to Consulting" books - what is out there for the mid to upper level consultant?

It is true there are a lot of "Getting Started" books and seminars for consulting and other professional service practitioners. Most focus on the aspects of how to define your business, getting your first clients and running a practice. What seems to be harder to find is a good blend of the nuances of higher level client service, understanding communication with clients at a high level, and sharing experiences with other experienced consultants. There are some good books to read about specialized aspects of consulting disciplines but relatively few interactive experiences where you can work with others to learn.

Workshops and case studies are my preferred learning environments. These require you to quickly diagnose the situation, clearly state your case, defend your opinions and research, and learn and adapt on the fly. Case discussions are a great way to see the world from another's position and help each other grow. IMC USA, in association with the Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CMC Canada) offers Essentials of Management Consulting, an online, team based, interactive course to build your skills in three areas:
  1. Helping clients assess their current situation, including the business challenges and opportunities they can address to improve upon the present.
  2. Helping clients develop strategies for growth and development.
  3. Helping clients address change management processes while implementing recommendations.
Tip: These kind of opportunities are easy to put off as ones for which you don't have enough time, money, or interest. Reconsider that building your skills and expertise is not a passive activity. The most successful consultants, and the ones their clients value most, are cerated by making the commitment to hard learning and active professional development.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  learning  practice management  product development  professional development  your consulting practice 

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