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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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#677: Is Consulting All You Do?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
My consulting career is going pretty well, with a full book of business and a growing staff. It does occupy a lot of time and there are times when I feel like I am giving up on other experiences. Does a successful consulting practice preclude other activities?

Consulting can be time consuming, but doesn't have to overwhelm other aspects of your professional life. In its traditional form, consulting involves building relationships, developing professional skills and technology, and applying them through time spent solving problems. As a professional who brings together experience, skills and perspective, it doesn't have to all be time intensive one-on-one consultation with a client.

There is a range of opportunities to use your expertise in other ways:
  1. Writing - Take on a column, blog, book, white paper, etc. to bring new perspective to your practice, build your visibility and create some lasting value from your expertise.
  2. Speaking - At any level, speak to trade associations, business or consulting conferences, or to community groups about topics related to your area of expertise.
  3. Research - Conduct some data collection, surveys, analysis or other approach to generating new information about your area of expertise or interest.
  4. Volunteering - Give back to your community by offering your management and consulting skills to local nonprofit organizations.
  5. Productizing - Turn your expertise into tangible products such as book or DVD "how to" guides.
  6. Starting Another Business - There is no reason why you can't extend your work into non-consulting businesses related to your area of expertise, as long as you manage conflicts of interest.
  7. Partnering With Other People - Find individuals with whom you have not worked before and who you respect to develop new partnerships with, getting out of your comfort zone and perhaps a new way of practicing your consulting.
Any of these approaches is a way to freshen your consulting business and develop some new perspectives outside of the traditional day to day advice business.

Tip: Perhaps overlooked by many consultants are hobbies. Consider ways to pursue your passion in areas totally outside of consulting. For example, if you are a process consultant, you might enjoy furniture making, where details, procedures and materials combine just as in process reengineering but to produce a tangible object. If you thrive on platform speaking, maybe you could lend your passion to teach acting or storytelling. There are lots of examples but each hobby or other pursuit allows you to use or utilize your skills and interests in something other than consulting.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  coaching  community service  mentor  pro bono  publishing  teaching  teaching/training  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#325: Pro Bono Work as a Business Generator

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 11, 2010
Updated: Friday, June 11, 2010
You've said before in the Daily Tips that doing pro bono work is a great way to develop business. I just don't see how, given that volunteering time is time I can't bill. Please explain again why this is not a money loser.

You are absolutely correct that replacing a paid day with an unpaid day is a money losing proposition - when considered on a cash basis. However, there are two things about this assumption that make false the conclusion that pro bono work is a bad idea.

First, we don't bill 100% of our time. We do spend time for which we are not being directly paid in activities like administration, research, conferences and other professional development, networking and calling on prospects. These all pay off down the line - some soon and others much later - but we do them because we see the connection. We are accruing assets that will produce income later. So, to say that every unbilled hour we could be billed is unlikely (but good work if you can get it).

Second, the nature of pro bono work differs than paid consulting. Your attitude and your relationship with the "client" are different. They see your commitment is to the cause and that you place service before fees. The people for whom you are providing services look at you differently and so do your colleagues. I am far more likely to ask a consultant to join a team if I see they are willing to donate their time and skills to a cause than if they are only interested in chasing paid work. Few may express this out loud but commitment to community is a reliable mark of a true professional consultant.

Tip: Contribute some of your time (it can be as little as a few hours a month) to serve your community in some way that leverages your consulting discipline or industry expertise. It extends your skills, introduces you to a new group of individuals, builds your community, and places you (legitimately) favorably in the eyes of your professional colleagues.

P.S. Aside from the honor of contributing your skills to your community, serving competently leads to requests for paid consulting services. Done right, you can replace much of your marketing time with pro bono time and get the same book of business and improve your community at the same time.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  community service  goodwill  professionalism  reputation  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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#246: Serving on Boards as a Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, February 22, 2010
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2010
In a previous tip you mentioned getting active in association committees/boards. Frankly I have found them time consuming and pretty much a waste of time. What am I missing?

Putting time and effort into an activity that is not income producing is seen by some consultants as a waste of time when they could be billing. I think this misses the point of professionalism for several reasons. First, income is not the full test of value of activities (sleep is not income producing but we do it anyway). Serving in a capacity that mimics the circumstances of our clients is incredibly invaluable to build insight, skills and credibility. When you have to walk in your client's shoes for a bit, you become a better consultant.

Second, part of your obligation as a professional is to give back to your profession and community. Others judge your refusal to make this contribution as a statement of your position on the selfish-altruistic scale. I know clients who assume their prospective consultants are qualified in skills and experience but base their hiring decision on participation in professional and community activities.

Tip: Especially when it comes to governing boards, consultants are not always welcome. Not that you can't bring a great deal of perspective and experience. It's just that this is governance and not a management function. Many consultants just can't take the advice hat off and assume a governance role. If you can't do this, then you need to find another way to contribute. Talk with your sponsor about your attitude and areas you can best support your organization and cause. There is a place where you can make a difference, both to the organization you serve and to yourself.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  community service  consultant role  customer understanding  learning  professional development  professionalism  reputation 

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#131: Consultants Serving on Boards

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, September 14, 2009
Updated: Monday, September 14, 2009
I know consultants are often unwelcome on boards but it would seem to be good experience. If I could help an organization, shouldn't I offer, or accept an offer, to serve on a board?

You are right that consultants are often unwelcome on boards, but not always. Aside from the obvious concerns about conflicts of interest with consultants serving on boards of organizations to whom they are providing consulting services, it is the nature of their perspective that causes some concerns. It could be argued that a management consultant could provide business experience, context, and guidance to an organization. However, this is the appropriate role of management, not of the board as the governing body. As such, some boards pull in the welcome mat for consultants.

Perhaps the first issue to consider is what the board really needs. If they are an operating board and not a governing board, then maybe your management consulting expertise may have a place. Second, what do you have to offer? Are you bringing something unique? As smart and experienced as you may be, are your attributes really something that would add value to this organization at this time in a board role? Third, what will you get out of the experience? Are you looking for experience in board operations to add to your credentials, build your insight into how boards operate, or are you passionate about the organization's mission and want to contribute? If it is only the first two, reconsider. Even though those reasons may be useful to you, what value do they bring the board?

Tip: Board service can provide professional growth in addition to serving your desire to contribute to a cause. When you spend your time thinking about management, planning and execution, some time putting on a board/governance hat can provide useful perspective. It does not have to be for the same types of organizations in which you normally consult. A well run nonprofit board or corporate board in an entirely new industry can challenge your skills and broaden your understanding of how different boards function.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  boards  community service  consultant role 

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