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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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#320: Preparation

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 4, 2010
Updated: Friday, June 4, 2010
It seems like experienced consultants serve their clients with such ease. They can deliver speeches, run meetings and conduct analyses with little or no preparation. What do I need to learn to do this?

It is hard to really know how much preparation goes into an activity unless it is your own activity. What may seem effortless often takes a lot of preparation. Attributed to many people, a famous quote goes something like, "If I am to speak for ten minutes, I will need a week to prepare; If I am to speak for an hour, I am ready now." However, effective preparation is absolutely necessary. It doesn't get so easy that one can dispense with it altogether, which is what you infer that experienced consultants do.

A good house painter knows that the key to a long lasting and attractive paint job lies in the preparation (e.g., scraping, spackling, cleaning, taping, etc.) The prepping often takes more time than painting itself! What's this got to do with consulting? Everything! Here are some key points in the process to prepare carefully and do "your homework” well in advance:
  • Before Soliciting a Prospective New Client — Make sure you are focusing your efforts on the right person in the firm. Also, know thoroughly what products and/or services the client provides (you might visit their website, for starters).
  • Before Your First Conversation with the Client (Over The Phone Or In Person) — Know as much of the "knowable” as you can, including the client’s competitors.
  • Before Any Meeting On Any Given Topic — Thoroughly research the topic to be discussed at a client meeting, even if it's not your within your direct area of expertise.
  • Before Proceeding With an Assignment — Research and study to be sure you thoroughly understand the pertinent facts and variables.
  • Before Visiting an Unfamiliar Location — Try to find out as much as possible about the geography, business norms and culture.
  • Before Submitting a Report — Have you checked your facts? Make sure to always challenge your own assumptions before they are challenged by the readers.
Tip: Prepping pays off for consultants in the same manner that effectively prepping for a paint job pays off for a painter. True professionals know the importance of adequate preparation regardless of the field. What can really help is to begin to write down the steps you find most effective in preparation for an activity (in addition to the steps in the activity itself). Most people just document the latter and disregard the ability to improve the most important part- preparation.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  consulting process  engagement management  learning  meeting preparation  practice management 

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#317: Know Your Client's History

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Every so often I get a client that spends a lot of my team's time going over company history and what every consultant before us has done for them. How do I politely decline what seems to be burning up a lot of time when we could be working?

There are several things you could do. First, with respect, it is the client's choice how to spend your time. If they feel it is important to let you know about their history and how they got to where they are now, think about why this is a problem for you. It may just be the thing you need to help you understand where their head and heart are with the changes about which they are asking you for advice. Consider that their need/desire to go through their history says a lot about the importance they place on tradition, process and company history.

Second, hearing about what they have tried and why it worked or did not is invaluable. You are there because either internal or consultant-aided change processes have not worked, or at least have not persisted. The success of your design depends on how well you understand why past efforts failed, and whether your approach is likely to work under current conditions. In many cases, clients may not have really understood the approach a prior consultant was taking and this was cause of failure. Knowing your client and how they have related to consultants is important and is well worth whatever time they are investing to help you understand this.

Tip: Consider it a gift to have a client willing to spend time and attention reviewing where they came from and how they have tackled this problem in the past. This should already be a key part of your inbrief with any client. Don't shortcut the process.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  customer understanding  learning 

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#315: Association Memberships

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 28, 2010
Updated: Friday, May 28, 2010
I belong to several professional associations, ranging from technical to marketing to industry groups. How do I know which ones are really working for me?

We join professional associations to increase our skills and knowledge, increase our exposure to others in our profession and, ultimately, to increase our ability to practice our chosen discipline. IMC USA describes this as Get Smart, Get Known and Get Business. If your association is helping you with all three, then it is probably a good one for you.

Another issue is the nature of the professional support you get. One example is management consulting, which consists of two distinct parts: the "What" and the "How." You should belong to associations that can help you improve in both areas.

The "What" is your technical discipline and industry perspective, and associations like SHRM, IEEE, ASTD and other technical associations are "musts" to belong to. The "How" complements technical with consulting skills and behaviors, ethics, interpersonal and organizational capabilities, and the opportunity to meet and learn from people in many different technical disciplines.

As cross-disciplinary skills and experience become more important, professionals need places to meet and work with others in different fields. Someone with technical skills without consulting skills (and vice versa) will find it increasingly hard to keep up in the management consulting profession.

Tip: If you are a practicing management consultant and already belong to a technical association, IMC USA invites you to explore membership in the premier professional association and sole certifying body for management consultants in the US. With the coming ISO registration for management consultants (which will be based on the CMC designation awarded by IMCs around the world), greater commitment to yourprofession through associations and professional certification in both technical as well as consulting disciplines become of equal importance.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  career  consulting colleagues  education  learning  professional association  professional development  professionalism  trends  your consulting practice 

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#307: Tapping the Education Market

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Many of my clients are trying to get their staff to go back to school or take classes to improve their skills. Is this a useful consulting opportunity?

It may not be a full time consulting practice but you raise a great opportunity for many consultants to augment their current practice. Enrollment at colleges and universities is already about 12 million, part time post secondary and technical education is on the rise and businesses are encouraging their employees (through tuition reimbursement and other incentives) to beef up their skills. For businesses to keep up, most employees will need to engage in continuing education. Many unemployeed workers are being told their best chances for reemployment will require more education or training.

Consider how your practice ties in with skill development. If you are in HR consulting, training program design and assessment is right up your alley. If you are in process manageme4nt or marketing, think about how courses or practicum in psychology, statistics or management would help. Regardless of what your practice focuses on, there is an education component to make sure that staff whose processes or strategies you enhance are able to sustain and further improve your gains.

Tip: Whether it is an online university, courses from training organizations like the American Management Association, or a degree or certificate program at a local community college, there are an expanding set of skill building opportunities. Spend some time looking through curricula and talking to faculty at some of these institutions and map out what education will leverage the value of your consulting recommendations.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client staff  learning  teaching/training  trends  your consulting practice 

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#299: Your Best Consulting Moment Ever

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 6, 2010
Updated: Thursday, May 6, 2010
Today's tip is about reflection and perspective on what delights you about the profession and your practice of consulting.

Spend a few minutes thinking back over your consulting career. Close your eyes (after you are done reading this) and go over the research, marketing, selling, engagements, client conversations, analyses, interviews, publicity events, presenting findings and recommendations and being called back to provide additional services. What were the one or two most satisfying and rewarding events or moments you have experienced?

Was it when your team received applause at a board meeting for your work? Was it winning an engagement you had been pursuing for some time? Was it reaching a unique conclusion or insight after a long period of analysis? Was it the times you spent with a valued colleague working on a hard problem? What about being able to speak to audiences about your work or about consulting? Or is it the flexibility of lifestyle consulting can accord?

Tip: What were you doing when you experienced your favorite moment? If you think about a few of your favorite moments, is there a pattern? Are they all related to selling your services and wining an engagement, or re they mostly about doing the work? Are the winning moments all of one type? If so, how will you make 2009 a year when you get to experience more of those delightful moments? Why shouldn't you focus your efforts on living a consulting life full of joy?
P.S. Conversely, what were some of the worst moments of your consulting career. Is there a pattern? Can you restructure your practice to eliminate or at least mitigate them?

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  learning  your consulting practice 

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