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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 

#151: Creating an Engagement Playbook

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 12, 2009
How important is documenting your consulting processes? I don't plan to write a book, nor are my clients the same from year to year.

In most cases, you would advise your clients to follow evidence-based management, so why wouldn't you do the same for your own practice? Even though many of our engagements are designed for each client, there are many similarities in our approach, execution and follow up. Over the years, whether we were or are in a large firm, small firm, internal practice or as an independent (often most of the above) we will develop our own best practices. Documenting these approaches allows us to jumpstart new engagements, bypassing most of the design phase. A "playbook" of project templates, evaluation formats, checklists and resources is one way you build differentiation and efficiency.

Reviewing your past practices, combined with regular reading and research about consulting and management, can lead you to steady improvement in your consulting. One place where you generate some of the most dynamic advances in your best practices is when you work with other consultants. Working with the same team may polish your approach, but working with other firms in partnership is where you test alternative approaches. It's like having in-house R&D.

Tip: Create a hardcopy loose-leaf notebook or electronic equivalent of practice management, marketing and engagement processes. If you haven't already done so, start building these with generic versions of each project's documents. Every time you conclude a project stage, look at how you might adapt or improve your playbooks. This might mean adapting an existing component or adding an alternative (e.g., marketing approaches for very different types of clients, process flows for different industries).

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consulting process  engagement management  intellectual property  market research  planning  practice management  quality  your consulting practice 

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#148: Creating Case Studies From Your Engagements

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 7, 2009
When I lecture at a local university, I often use business case studies purchased from management review journals. Can I use my own project summaries instead of these cases?

Yes, and this strategy has two valuable benefits. First, no one knows the nuances of a case like the person (you) who was intimately involved in its creation. You know the players, the circumstances, the solution implemented and the outcomes. You will be better able to respond to questions about alternative approaches or the implications of variations in circumstances on intervention outcomes. Second, you have the ability to adapt the case to your teaching needs in ways that are internally consistent with the client organization. Some cases have been adapted or constructed in ways that describe an organization that exhibits unrealistic organization or actions. For both reasons, you will be able to present an appropriate case that you know well. One caveat. You must remove all explicit or indirect references to you client's name or any information that could lead to identification of your client or any other person or organization.

Tip: There is another important benefit. Creating a case gives you an opportunity to revisit and examine your client's situation far removed from your initial interaction. You may want to create cases of several of your prior engagements and use them to teach your staff or colleagues about your approach to consulting or client relations. The comments you receive from others about your case are indirectly assessments of your role in the engagement. You may even learn something new about your approach to consulting that you can use with this same client or future clients.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  intellectual property  learning 

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#133: Is There a Book in You?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I see lots of consultants have written books and this alone seems to give them instant credibility. Is it worth the trouble?

Thirty years ago, when the barriers to publishing were substantially higher, being the author of a book did bring substantial credibility. Not so much these days, although it depends what you want the book to do for you.

First, do you have anything compelling to say? Having only the desire to write a book, much less to write it for notoriety alone, is insufficient reason to sit down at the keyboard and start typing. Look at the compelling and timeless business or consulting books around – there are not a lot of them. Now look at the business books that Amazon lists of $0.01 and have hundreds of used copies for sale. A book about consulting may look good in your marketing materials, but assume that people may check out how good your book it is. Instead of a reputation booster, it may well be the opposite, and once it is published, you can't take it back.

One good way to know if you have a book in you is to see how you feel when you read other books about consulting or listed to "experts" in your industry or discipline. If you are well versed in the industry or discipline and strongly disagree with many of these people, or you think the ways they explain processes or trends are off the mark, or you have something innovative in your work that clients have repeatedly found valuable and for which you are getting a good reputation, then you have the kernel of a book. Given this potential value, however, your vehicle may not be a book, but workshops, speeches, articles, ezines, blog or case studies. If you are not generating solid and useful services in high demand as a consultant, a book will not create that demand. Better to spend your time developing your business than struggling with a book.

Tip: Don’t take this as arguing against books entirely. A book may be an OK vehicle, but consider where it fits in your overall business plan. Books are good to launch a speaking career but it is hard to compile speeches into a book. Blogs are best if you have a steady stream of ideas about emerging trends, for which a book is the wrong vehicle. Yet, a collection of blogs may make a good compilation, ezine or book. There are so many books (almost 1,000 books are published each day in the US, plus an unknown number of self published books) that you will be fighting an uphill battle for recognition. The business of publishing is changing rapidly (e.g., print on demand) and, as great a consultant as you are, take advantage of the expertise of agents. They know the market, the process and the scenario your book idea will take.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  intellectual property  knowledge assets  marketing  reputation 

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#100: Setting Up an Information Network

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 24, 2009
Updated: Friday, July 24, 2009
I'd like to build my network of colleagues, not so much for business referrals but to exchange business and technical information about my field. How is this kind of network building different than traditional network development?

Every kind of network (e.g., social, business, informational, bartering) differs in the criteria for participation, the pathway to develop it and the types of behaviors and skills needed to be a valued participant. Informational networks are among the most difficult in all these criteria. This is because the currency by which transactions occur (information) is the most intangible but, at the same time, the most valuable. The information most valued by the network is often hard to come by, is known by few but valued by many, and frequently has a short shelf life. Imagine how valuable advance information about emerging technologies is, your personal contact with someone who is connected to someone in demand for their research (this is the principle behind LinkedIn), or research you have just completed on a complex problem in business, technology or a particular technical discipline.

Setting up the network usually starts with a core set of people trading a limited set of information, say information about cutting edge research or innovative examples in construction financing. Establish rules for trading this information, confidentiality, types of information you collectively would find valuable, and acceptable levels of contribution (i.e., how much information of what value constitutes a fair value provided as compared to value derived). Finding the right people you trust to contribute quality information and to keep it confidential to just your group is essential. Grow the network organically from a small core of people and content to a network that works for you. Remember, an information network requires commitment and trust, much more than a casual business referral network we are more familiar with.

Tip: See whether you can build and sustain a network by arranging with 3-5 colleagues a deliberate effort to trade in a specific set of information. Plan out the growth of this network over the coming year, adding types of information and planned uses of this information, Discuss how each of you receives value from the network as compared to what you are putting in. Finally, set up rules among you for continued participation and how you might dissolve the network. If this sounds like a partnership, in a way it is and many of the rules, advice and caveats of setting up a partnership apply here.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  intellectual property  knowledge assets  networks 

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#94: When Your Approach No Longer Works

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 16, 2009
Updated: Thursday, July 16, 2009
The literature is filled with "tried and true" consulting approaches on which many of us have built our practices. With all the changes in business, technology and commerce, how do we know if what worked decades ago still works now?

We can't generalize about all consulting practices but you are on to something. Consulting, whether in analysis, communication, marketing, diagnostics, or any other discipline or approach, necessarily must evolve with the times. This doesn’t mean that the core of an approach won’t serve you for a long time. It does mean, however, that you need test each approach to see whether it still is valid. Specifically, you need to question the underlying assumptions and metaphors on which an approach is based.

For example, we all learned about the process of converting someone who might be interested in our services into a client. We use the metaphor of a funnel, where prospects go into the large end and are reduced in number and increased in qualification until they become clients. However, this linear model has been increasingly questioned in recent years, and some are proposing some variation on a network model, with prospects coming into the client flow at various points and leaving at various points, only to possibly reenter at a later point. Do the metaphor and underlying assumptions still support your “common sense” approach?

Tip: Both consultants and managers often use approaches that are widely written about or presumed to be “common practice.” However, we are obliged to dig deep into these approaches and identify the underlying assumptions. What metaphor is used? What factors were in effect when the approach was invented? Is the approach a retread of an old idea, or common sense with a new name. Is it a “go find a market in which no one else is active and sell to it” or “build parallel processes to streamline and reduce roadblocks in your processes” (these are really “new ideas” people have “invented” and heavily marketed)? We need to make sure we understand why we select an approach before we use it. And that’s just common sense.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  intellectual property  knowledge assets  practice management  your consulting practice 

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