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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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#468: Turn Travel "Down Time" Into Productive Time

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, December 29, 2010
How can I make non business hours while I am on client travel more productive?

Some consultants travel a lot and if this is you, then you can appreciate that it is not so much time wasted and time that you can't better use (subtle difference). This is because you are away from the people, resources and spaces you'd prefer to have available. Given that you are on the road without those things, here are some tips to make your travel time more productive:
  1. Improve your ability to work from the road. Consider investing in mobile technology so you can work from anywhere and at anytime. Make sure to thoroughly evaluate a product's durability, flexibility, weight and adaptability. Although it might cost you more, you will need to rely on the dependability of your equipment to allow conduct your business at the drop of a hat.
  2. Actively manage your travel time for maximum productivity. Although many of us find working on planes is very conducive to getting work done, we often fail to consider other "downtime" opportunities such as cab rides, waiting for flights, etc.
  3. Free evenings on the road (as well as the morning hours before work) can be used for more focused work and rejuvenation -exercise, planning, reading, etc. As Covey puts it, use these pockets of downtime to "sharpen your saw" (i.e., nurturing and renewing your physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being).
  4. Keep yourself well-organized and take a little time to plan what you are going to pack in advance. Take whatever you think you might need with you on a trip. Keep it light, but take it.
Tip: Exercise, work, relax. Make that travel time work better for you. Instead of feeling constrained by traveling, feel temporarily liberated from your normal work schedule, free to do things for which you usually "don't have time."

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  time management  travel 

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#433: Get Your Online Life Back

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I spend a fair amount of time online, with a lot of time attending to social media, email, web-based or database research and quantitative analysis. Most of this is presumably productive, but what is a "right amount?"

There is no "right" amount because each of these activities may be highly productive for your particular consulting practice. It is easy to feel like any one of these is "too much" because, compared to the past, you are spending much more time on that activity. How much time did you spend 15 years ago on email? Is what you spend now too much or too little? New web applications, new distractions, and new resources can skew our appreciation for what is really most useful.

Consider RescueTime, an application that intelligently tracks what applications you spend your time with, including where you spend most of your time surfing. It has a really clever feature, called Focus Time," in which you set a time during which it will warn you if you stray off your chosen task (to, say, respond to that "urgent" instant message, or "quickly" look up something on a website - that lasts 5 minutes).

Tip: Before tracking your time, estimate how much time you spend throughout the day on various activities and adjust to what you think is an appropriate proportion for each. Once you get your usage data, you can see what, based on your own criteria, is too much (or too little) time spent in a given activity.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  project management  social media  time management 

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#331: Lean for Your Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 21, 2010
Updated: Monday, June 21, 2010
We have become a lot more efficient in our consulting practice (we've had to with the 2002 and 2009 recessions), but wonder what other consulting firms are doing to streamline operations.

Response to a tough economy depends on your location, practice size and specialty. Larger companies have been hit hard, many shedding offices or partners, and very small, specialized firms have often lacked the breadth and agility to adapt. However, firm efficiency is really not about responding to occasional threats, but about sustained efforts to improve productivity and reduce waste. Sound familiar? It should, since "lean consulting" should be part of every practice. We can all take advice from Tim Wood.

Don't know Tim? Let me introduce you:
  1. T is for Transport Waste - Do you have needless documentation and routing, whether in paper or electronic form? These can be non-value added.
  2. I is for Inventory Waste - Do you have supplies you have not used in a year? What capital do you have tied up in inventory or underutilized assets?
  3. M is for Motion Waste - Are you going to meetings you could hold on the phone or online? Are you making separate trips that could be consolidated?
  4. W is for Waiting Waste - Do you have to wait for clients, suppliers, vendors, your own staff? What is the cost of that lost time?
  5. O is for Over Producing Waste - Are you doing more research and analysis than the situation calls for?
  6. O is for Over Processing Waste - Are you delivering more elaborate work products than the client needs or wants (e.g., the 50-page PowerPoint show)?
  7. D is for Defect Waste - Do you have in place a robust quality control process, even on those "simple" processes you execute all the time? What defects have you uncovered lately?
Tip: We mistakenly think that since we are a service business, and that a lot of our processes are "creative" or "custom," we are in no position to apply lean processes to our businesses. Whether you have a sixty person practice or are a solo practitioner, Tim can help you reduce waste.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  performance improvement  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#275: Pricing Your Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, April 2, 2010
My market is pretty transparent about daily fees paid to management consultants and the range is pretty tight. But it amazes me how some of my colleagues seem to thrive while other struggle at the same rate.

First off, consultants should be looking for opportunities to charge on a value basis. Selling time as a commodity will get you commodity pricing, i.e., competition for the lowest price. When you are compensated for the value you bring to a client, there is no issue with daily fees being too high (to the client) or too low (to the consultant).

Nevertheless, if you are going to charge daily fees, then how long has it been since you took a hard look at your cost structure? If you conducted an activity based costing exercise on your business, how much does it cost you to provide a day's consulting services? Have you included insurance, overhead (all of it, not just your variable costs), transportation, research, conferences and professional development, amortization of your certifications, etc.? This is where you may find your costs too "high" for your market.

Reevaluate your costs every year to make sure that they can still provide you a profitable business and to highlight opportunities to maximize value. Remember, consider expenses as investments and consider the loss of value from eliminating it. For example saying "I can't afford to go to a professional development conference," is just looking at the expense and not the new skills, visibility, contacts and business revenue to be gained over the long term.

Tip: If you are familiar with Activity Based Costing (ABC), you might look into a variation by called Time-Driven Activity Based Costing that addresses a long-standing weakness in the original ABC method - how to deal with down time (sounds like something consultants sometimes experience). See Time-Driven Activity-Based Costing: A Simpler and More Powerful Path to Higher Profits for a good summary of this new approach (something to adopt conceptually for your consulting services but it is not necessary to rigorously follow the full methodology).

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  fees  performance improvement  practice management  your consulting practice 

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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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