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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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#712: Mind Mapping is a Powerful Consultant's Tool

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Laying out a plan of action for a new client engagement can be pretty complicated, especially if I then have to relate my thought processes to colleagues or client staff. What are some good ways to streamline the process?

If by streamlining the process you mean thinking through the elements of your engagement strategy more fully and articulating your approach more clearly, then you might try mind mapping. The process of mind mapping has been used for many years by educators, psychologists and story tellers to convey visually a series of thoughts, ideas, processes, and concepts. Rather than trying to represent these highly interconnected ideas through linear prose, a mind map visually represents ideas in a loosely radial, tree like structure (or other visual constructs).

With recent technological advances, mind maps can be much more than just graphics. White boards have replaced chalk boards as a major technological advance in drawing mind maps (that was a joke). The real advance is in software that can categorize concepts and redraw the overall mind map for more clarity, spatial organization and analysis.

The simplest mind map software tools are simply sophisticated drawing tools (sort of like Visio on steroids). These are most helpful if you are already very well organized and have the map in your head. Other tools will let you insert concepts hierarchically and reorganize, selectively display and even visualize in 3 dimensions. The most powerful tools have a strong operations and cognitive research base.

Tip: The best way to get started in mind mapping is to try out some the free (or at least free trial) mapping tools. Click here for a list of candidate mind map tools. (prepare for information overload on mind mapping books, comments and software). Start with a simple version (most companies have basic, corporate and enterprise versions) until you get the hang of the concept and a tool. Although not an explicit endorsement, I have found iMindMap a pretty robust solution for consultants and the company site's tutorials helpful to understand mapping concepts. Forward this Tip to colleagues who might find it valuable.
Let them know you want to help them in their business.


© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  consulting skills  consulting tools  presentations 

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#693: What is Your Consulting "Killer App?"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 9, 2011
If many of the services a consultant provides (e.g., assessments, process reengineering, market research) are increasingly commoditized, and the pace of change in most industries renders "long experience" less valuable, what is left to the professional consultant to differentiate their services from any other consultant?

Every discipline, business and individual has something that differentiates it from its competitors. It could be the unique value proposition, the proprietary technology or the brand. Given the nature of the profession and the implied value of creative, customized service, the equivalent for a management consultant might be called the "killer app."

The definition of a killer app (applied to computer programs) is a program or element of a program that makes it indispensible to the operation of a larger program or a "must have" product that compels purchase of the platform on which it resides. Bill Gates described Internet Explorer as a killer app in that it was so useful that it would induce people to buy Microsoft products. In the same sense, consider consultants who have a similar service, database or capability that is so powerful that it compels clients to seek them out - despite the fact that most of their services are indistinguishable from those of other consultants. The platform is your suite of consulting services, among which is your killer app.

This is a similar to a strategic competitive advantage but does not have to be as grand in its scope. Since clients are selecting from your suite of (largely intangible) services, they are looking for some (marginally tangible) service they can relate to and appreciate as unique and valuable. In this sense, your whole practice does not have to be superior, just one or two compelling items.

Tip: Find (at least) one service, asset, capability, set of data or infrastructure that you have created, that few others could duplicate, and that you know is an easy sale to clients. This establishes your services as high value, making offering additional (non killer app) services easier and giving you a position of relative strength to negotiate their value.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  competition  consulting skills  consulting tools  innovation  intellectual property  knowledge assets  presentations  product development  prospect 

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#681: Tackle Your Weaknesses One at a Time

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 24, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2011
There are some things about my skill set and consulting approach that cause me trouble in analysis, client service delivery and practice management. What's the best way to address these weaknesses?

Every one of us has some weaknesses that we should consider opportunities for improvement. Given how busy we are marketing and delivering client services, however, we rarely take the time to address them. Eventually, some of these small problems can grow to seriously hinder or effectiveness and value as consultants. This is Covey's principle of stopping to sharpen the saw.

So what are you doing about those weaknesses today? First, identify what your biggest challenges are (and, yes, we all have them). Are they writing, statistics, presentation skills, finance, creativity, interviewing, public speaking, a technical specialty, or what?

Next, get started improving those skills or attitudes. Go to your favorite online book retailer or search online for articles relating to strategies, products or processes to address your specific weakness. How many books or articles came up? Probably a lot. Read the book reviews and buy one or two or download a few articles. Commit to tackle one of your weaknesses over a week (or two or three, depending on how big a problem it is). Place the books or articles strategically around your office and home, and read them whenever you are so moved. Just don't let them escape to a pile somehwere that you can intentionally avoid or miss seeing.

Tip: The point is to make a commitment to vigorously tackle this weakenss and not avoid it because it is hard and seemingly a low priority compared to billable work. Set some kind of measure so you can know when you are done. You do not have to eliminate a weakness entirely, just improve it to a satisfactory point. Before long you will have to start looking for another weakness.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting skills  learning  performance improvement  professional development  teaching/training  your consulting practice 

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#668: Offset the Economy's Decline at Confab 2011

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
This economy worries me. Usually an economic decline provides opportunity for consultants. This time, however, clients are pulling back on most fronts. How can I best use this time to strengthen my skills and business pipeline?

Consultants can always use more time, skills and clients. Our income grows as we use time well, specifically by more efficient marketing, service delivery and practice management. Business moves fast, so consultants who don't constantly learn new skills quickly fall behind in their ability to provide high value to clients. Finally, although we nurture long term relationships, we are always interested in finding new clients who could benefit from our expertise.

Anyone can sit at home and read a business magazine or book but the most effective way to strengthen our practices is to engage with other experienced consultants. We learn more from hearing about emerging markets, new technologies and new client service approaches. Conferences provide a perfect crucible for us to get out of our safe zones, ward off consulting obsolescence, build a national network, and fill our business pipeline. We can't do that from a book or talking to our long term colleagues.

The best conference by consultants and for consultants is Confab 2011, an intense 2 1/2-day conference (October 22-24, 2011) that builds your value and access to clients. Now in its 34th year, Confab is being held at the newly renovated Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, NV. This conference is well known for its unique sense of sharing, where your new colleagues make introductions, sessions bring new marketable skills and your practice expands.

Tip: We can stay home and hope the economy turns around in our favor or take charge and invest in a known business builder. For less than a single day's consulting fees, Confab is a profitable investment to launch, expand or refine your business. Hear what successful consultants who attend year after year say about its value.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  conference  consulting colleagues  consulting skills  consulting tools  innovation  marketing  networks  practice management  professional development  referrals  teaming  trends  your consulting practice 

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#600: Make Your Presentations Soar

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 1, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 1, 2011
How can I keep my presentations focused and full of content without resorting to "Death By PowerPoint?"

Because most consultant presentations are more informing than persuading, we are inclined to reveal all we know about the subject by lots of slides with lots of content (diagrams, bullets, build slides). However, if we consider how adults learn and remember, we should resist this temptation and stick to minimal, clean content with a visual appeal. Apple's Steve Jobs has, over 20 years, evolved as a presenter into what a good consultant should emulate.

There is a simple (in theory, hard in practice) formula Jobs uses for his presentations to make them remarkably effective, and you don't need groundbreaking technology to make your presentations memorable:
  1. Plan in the Old-fashioned Way of Black-and-White - create a storyboard - on paper - with concepts before you even start dumping your favorite images, graphs or demonstrations into a PowerPoint deck.
  2. A Twitter Friendly USP - create a memorable and short theme statement for the subject of the talk that you are sure everyone will remember.
  3. Introduce the Common Enemy - central to remembering a story is a contrast between protagonist and antagonist (for Apple is was IBM), so find something notable that the subject of your talk is intended to "defeat."
  4. Focus on Benefits - instead of trying to wow your audience with all the features, which they will forget within seconds of the words coming out of your mouth, make sure they understand how they will personally benefit - they'll come back to learn about features if they are interested.
  5. Use Simple Words - without paying attention, consultants can slip into their jargon, so use the simplest words you can, which will help you boil down your message to one that resonates.
  6. Make Numbers Meaningful - especially for consultants or anyone presenting technical findings or recommendations, cast large numbers in terms that make sense (e.g., the number of widgets sold this year would fill up 30 football stadiums).
  7. Practice a lot - Jobs spends days working and reworking his talks so they are seamless and easygoing when he delivers them, often recognizing many little ways to refine the content, pace or emphasis each run through.
Tip: One final hint is the overwhelming use of graphic images instead of words. Watch some Jobs presentations and you will see how a lot of content is conveyed with only a few word slides. There are books on this topic but a good slideshare presentation gives the basics on how to make your presentations soar.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting skills  presentations  recommendations  speaking 

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