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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 

#687: Recognize the Difference Between Experts and Professional Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011
As the economy worsens and people are laid off, won't that increase the number of people who call themselves "consultants"?

Yes, it is easy for someone who has been laid off to put up a shingle and call themselves a consultant. However, maintaining a consulting practice means continually delivering value over a long time. To become a professional consultant does require more than just the desire or happenstance of "doing a little consulting."

If you are worried about competition, then consider this a good thing. You probably work hard to develop your professional consulting skills and behaviors, including certification or achieving a national reputation in an industry or discipline. Tough economic times create opportunities as well as risks for consultants. Many consulting firms go out of business when times are tough, just as many new firms are formed.

Seek out new consultants to find out which ones will make valuable partners and which ones do not (yet) have the fully developed skills and behaviors of a professional consultant. At a minimum, look for opportunities to take on new partners and evaluating the continued value of current partners.

Tip: Rather than fear or resent new consultants, welcome new consultants into your network and professional associations to evaluate where their knowledge and skills might be useful to you and your clients. However, remember that consulting is a profession and select your colleagues from the professionals, not just those with some experience. If you know skilled individuals who you think might make excellent consultants and who are considering such a move into consulting, suggest that they join an organization like IMC to develop the consulting competencies, behaviors and ethics of a professional consultant, in effect turning an expert into a consultant.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consulting colleagues  marketing  professionalism  reputation 

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#609: Help Your Clients Connect With Influencers

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 14, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 14, 2011
Clients usually ask consultants to spend much of our time improving people, processes and technology inside an organization. Are there ways we can complement the value in these areas with an external focus?

Other than bringing in other consultants with different (or better) skills, there is one good way that is effective and long-lasting. The kind of improvements you mentioned can benefit from external input in needs definition, design, implementation and, sustainability. To do this, you should consider how to connect your client with others with an interest in the client's success. This may be by geography, industry (even a competitor, under the right circumstances, might help), common customers, supporting industry (e.g., a vendor, supplier or channel partner), government or nonprofits, or customers themselves.

Your goal is to find key influencers that can complement your services or to supplement them in areas of need for the client but on which you are not working. This building of a network may not exactly be in your engagement scope but it is a benefit to both you and your client. Both you and your client benefit by making new contacts and gaining insight. Remember to get your client's permission to cast about for valuable influencers on their behalf.

Tip: Your collection of influencers could be contributed to your client as a formal advisory body, potential managers or staff, or just as informal community members to provide feedback. As you build your own network of influencers through this process, you will have an increasing depth of individuals and institutions on whom you can draw to bring to the table on your clients' behalf. Remember, it's not just what you know (about improving people, process and technology) but who you know (that you can introduce your client to).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  collaboration  goodwill  guidance  networks 

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#561: Should You Create a Networked Consulting Firm?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 9, 2011
Updated: Monday, May 9, 2011
I see other consulting firms list a series of "affiliates" on their websites. What is this all about?

There are two strategies a firm can do to increase their service revenue, regardless of size. One is to add capacity in their main line of business and the other is to extend their service lines, either through new product/service development or cross selling through a partner.

A small firm or solo practitioner rarely has the opportunity or resources to add a lot of capacity unless they choose to grow in size. For many small firms, this is exactly what they do not want to do, particularly because they would give up valuable flexibility, speed and independence available to them as a small firm. Similarly, line extensions more than the natural introduction of evolved services or an occasional new product are also difficult.

A strategy increasingly used by small firms to build breadth of offered services is to create a network of complementary service providers. These are the "affiliates" you see listed on many small firm websites. An affiliate could provide functional expertise, added personnel capacity, geographic coverage, disciplinary extensions, stage of service extensions (e.g., planning, implementation, management may be different skill sets in some industries), or financial capacity. Your affiliate strategy depends on (a) what you need to strengthen or complete your business offerings, and (b) what you think might increase the confidence of your clients that you are capable of providing the next level of service.

Tip: List the three things that you are pretty confident are responsible for your not getting business recently. Was it lack of personnel? A missing area of expertise? Lack of financial capacity? Make a list of other small firms in your network that have these capabilities and identify what you might provide to them in return if you were to affiliate? Pick one firm to talk to this week to begin the process of a formal affiliation. As your discussions proceed, you will better appreciate what you might do together to strengthen both firms (i.e., the relationship could range from "looking out for each other" to a formal, vigorously pursued strategic alliance).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consulting colleagues  practice management 

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#541: How Well Does the Design of Your Meetings Produce Ideas?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, April 11, 2011
Updated: Monday, April 11, 2011
Most of my client work and briefing sessions are well-scripted and produce the intended outcomes but are not very productive at generating new ideas.

The one word on which to focus to induce creativity is "design." I infer that you have set up the right process to generate the work products you intend. However, if you want to assemble the right conditions for creativity, take a cue from Steven Johnson's work (and book) on "Where Ideas Come From."

Johnson's premise is that new ideas bubble up over time and as a result of connecting together partially formed ideas. If ideas are protected, isolated, and pressured to "produce results," they are effectively stripped of their creative potential. Ideas, like living organisms, grow best under optimal conditions and often don't do well when forced. In many cases, what we are told are blinding flashes of inspiration are, in reality, ideas that have been percolating for years.

Tip: You would find more idea generation, evolution and maturation from connecting people with ideas often and encouraging them to bring their thoughts, without pressure to produce, to address common challenges. Don't try to force creativity into the same sessions in which your goal is to plan work, document progress and report results.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  communication  consulting process  creativity  innovation  knowledge assets  learning  market research  product development 

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#491: Consultants Still Server Clients Regardless of Team Size

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, January 31, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Some people have described being a consultant as a "lonely" profession due to the independent nature of the work,. Even if you work for a large consulting firm, you may still be one-on-one with a client or working with only a small team.

Consultants are brought in to help an organization. We sometimes work solo, but more often than not we become part of a team. As such it behooves us to learn more about effectively working in a team environment. A number of skills are required, such as effective listening, facilitation, persuasion, group problem-solving, consensus-building, communication, etc. With some focus and effort, these skills can be developed and sharpened.

Tip: To be truly effective we must master the principles of teamwork and leadership. Both are roles we assume at different times and with different clients and projects. Check out The Team Handbook by Scholtes, Joiner, Streibel et. al. for more information on working in teams.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  collaboration  consulting lifestyle  consulting process  engagement management  your consulting practice 

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