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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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#729: Are You Reaching High Enough in Your Business?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 29, 2011
Updated: Thursday, December 29, 2011
How do consultants generally measure the success of their business? If we were interested in just making money we could just track consulting income, but there are a lot of other reasons to be in this profession.

There is an inherent conflict in your question. Our goal is to create lasting value for our clients but such value is not necessarily fully valued by the marketplace. Measuring our worth by our revenues falsely assumes that the client's business, and the increment of performance we provide, is fairly reflected by market capitalization, revenues, profits, etc. Consider a Navy Seal and an investment banker. Seal s are drawn from a far more selective group, they are better educated, trained and equipped, yet receive far less compensation than bankers. The latter may even receive a financial bonus with no downside risk for "exceptional" performance, while a Seal puts his life and reputation at risk and is paid the same regardless of performance. The market is not a true measure of your intrinsic value or contributions.

A second aspect is that your client may benefit tremendously from your counsel but is not in a position to pay you what you would be worth in more financially advantaged markets. Consultants who advise educational, public sector, nonprofit, government or market-depressed private sector clients know this well. We all know colleagues who are paid far more or less for the same work. We also know that fees can increase or decrease in certain markets even if the value of our services do not.

Do you know how you know when you deliver value? Your client sponsor tells you. Client staff commend your services. You see your recommendations implemented and have the intended effect. Your clients thrive. You get unsolicited referrals. You gain the respect of those colleagues who know your work. You are sought out by others in your client's industry. You are asked to speak to professional and civic or industry groups. You recognize growth your own consulting competencies. "That's all well and good," you say, "but it doesn't pay the bills." It is true that you need to generate an income to stay in business, but don't let compensation substitute as a measure of your value.

Tip: Michelangelo said, "The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." When setting your goals, consider setting some for those indicators of value above, and set them high. Revenue is fungible; it is the impact on your client that is the true measure of value delivered and something that you uniquely provide.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  compensation  evaluation  quality 

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#574: Make it a Regular Task to Evaluate Work-Life Balance

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 26, 2011
Updated: Thursday, May 26, 2011
I find that my schedule tends to be erratic, fairly unstructured and, since I work out of an office in my home, my family often finds my work hours disruptive. I am disciplined in my business so why does this work-life balance seem to slip so easily?

Many consultants share your concerns. What will make you and your family happy and at the same time allow you to be more productive and get more business?

Establishing an effective work–life balance is not an easy task, but it can start with a simple discussion with your family. Do you understand what is driving their unhappiness with your work schedule? Does your family understand the challenges you need to address in your work day? Perhaps some collaborative problem–solving and brainstorming with your family can result in a workable model that pleases both parties.

Sometimes, truly elegant solutions to this problem can be found in some fairly obvious places. For example, while many people sleep through the early morning hours, there is an excellent opportunity to get up earlier and be able to work in a quiet environment without common distractions found during the workday (i.e., phone calls, etc.). The early morning is a great time for reading e-mails, writing, planning, preparing reports, rehearsing presentations, etc.

Tip: Achieving a good work–life balance is critically important. Always remember that you are in almost total control of your time and have the ability to adjust your hours wherever you see fit. Remember the old saying: "Work to live. Don't live to work!" But, perhaps most important, is to set a regular schedule (quarterly is a good interval) to formally review your balance. Is it satisfying? Has it slipped? If so, why? What conditions are in your control or beyond your control that made it so? What is your explicit plan to restore your desired balance?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  evaluation  values  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#543: Be Sure You Are Measuring Your Client Correctly

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Are there a set of best practice performance measures or do these vary by industry, region, type of organization, etc.? It seems that there is no agreement as to the "right" metrics (or do people just pick the ones for which they compare favorably)?

It does seem sometimes like performance measurement is a combination of art, science and public relations. Good practice suggests a consultant select a formal measurement and management model, develop a portfolio of metrics that can be used to compare progress over the long term (and with competitors or benchmarks), and compile and validate performance data. The dirty part of this exercise is the selection of metrics that are valid and actionable.

There has been some effort lately to rethink the traditional performance metrics. Financial metrics have a lot of history and may stay the same but measures like public trust, raw material sustainability, employee loyalty, innovation, knowledge asset growth, organizational agility, and process efficiency are being debated. The key is to find a set of metrics that are valid (measure what they say they do), reliable (measure consistently over time) and actionable (support fact-based decisions). Creativity may be necessary to develop a suite of metrics that support emerging strategic or tactical direction of the organization. They may not look like those of your client's competitors or that it used in the past but you owe it to your client to measure effectively.

Tip: If you are interested in this issue at a national scale, check out Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn't Add Up. Joseph Stiglitz addresses the longstanding problem of making national policy on GDP, a fundamentally flawed metric that excludes some desirable value added activities (e.g., unpaid work, sustainability) and includes destructive activities as "productivity" (e.g., weapons production, pollution, and clear cutting old growth forests). This serves as a counterpoint of how you might discuss a new set of metrics with your client.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  consulting tools  customer understanding  decision making  evaluation  innovation  methodology  performance improvement 

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