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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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#725: Build the Network You Think You Don't Need

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 23, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 23, 2011
I've never found networking events to be particularly productive in the consulting business. I'd rather be getting to know potential clients than other consultants or professional service providers. If the goal is to build our consulting firm, shouldn't we focus on clients?

Networking is taken as an article of faith among consultants - as well as other professional service providers and business people of all stripes. You may be asking the important questions in reverse order. The third question is how valuable is networking; the second question is what do you mean by networking; the first question is what is the objective of networking.

Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad, says "The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work." HIs point is that, regardless of the size or breadth of your consulting practice, the pace, complexity and uncertainty of the business environment means that you will increasingly need fresh relationships, resources, and information sources to thrive. A few colleagues or data sources are no longer sufficient to give you what you need. This is what networks are for.

The next question of what networking is should not focus on "networking events." Regardless of how well these are designed, they are largely semi-structured aggregations of people who, if you are lucky, can connect with each other. This may be what most people mean when they say networking but it is not the same as building a network. This requires defining the people, information, skills, resources and access necessary to keep you current with trends in your industry and discipline. A network is defined, explicit, and intentional. It is also continuously redefined. The final question, how valuable it is, can be answered in terms of how critical the network(s) are to your professional (and personal) growth. How damaging to your business is a loss of prospects, partners or revenues when the market changes, key staff leave or technologies or competitors devastate your market? Your networks are your safety valves. We can never have too many networks, and few consultants have enough.

Tip: Start by defining what you need to be agile in your business, to anticipate and respond to emerging trends. Like making a packing list for a trip, write down what you need to have and be over the next five years? What people or skills do you need to acquire theme? What different networks do you need to develop or strengthen - you may need 5-10 different networks? What is your plan to build, support and evaluate the effectiveness of those networks? How do you intend to not just connect others into your network, but to connect to other networks? The LinkedIn model of a "network of networks" is a good way to look at your own networking approach. Finally, since you don't know what you will need a few years from now, how will you build your networks so you have access to that which you think you don't need?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  agility  assumptions  change  consulting colleagues  innovation  knowledge assets  networks 

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#688: Tap Your "Other" Networks

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I have a good network in IMC, through which I get and give a stream of engagements from my consulting colleagues. What other types of networks could I tap?

Networks come in all types and sizes, and they are valuable for more than just getting consulting work. Management consulting addresses complex issues that encompass political, economic, cultural, legal, demographic, sociological, and environmental factors. None of us has the experience or perspective to know how to address each of these factors in our work.

This is where a diverse set of networks can help. Just as diversity on a team brings a richer solution for your client, diversity in the type of networks you are connected to improve your effectiveness as a consultant.

Tip: Select and commit to participate actively in, say, three types of networks. Your first should be your professional association related to your technical discipline or industry (e.g., International Widget Makers, IMC, and ASTD). The second should be a local business group (e.g., chamber of commerce, board of trade). The third can be a social or service organization unrelated to your consulting focus (e.g., Rotary, educational, musical, and athletic). Each group brings you in contact with different types of individuals and organizations. Their way of seeing the world as well as their breadth of contacts are both beneficial to your skills and behaviors as a consultant and to broadening your sources of clientele.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  networks  referrals 

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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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#657: Surround Yourself With the Right People

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I have pretty good professional and personal networks. They provide a good way to refer work to others and receive referrals as well. How can I move my network up a notch?

First, be clear (this means writing it down) what you think is the goal of your network(s). People use them in different ways and the "next step" could be different for each network objective.

Objectives could include referral targets, useful to you because companies will come to you because you can always find the right consultant (if it isn't you). A network can also provide you leads, assuming you are clear about what type of leads you seek and those in your network are clear about your needs. There is also a network of people who can provide you technical, market or trend information when you don't need expertise, per se, in the form of a consultant. There is a use for a parallel network where you are the source for information, be it for media, government, nonprofit or other "non-consulting" entities, for whom your expertise is valuable.

Tip: Given list of your objectives, name five people for each objective that come to mind immediately as the people who could help you or be helped by you. If you can't come up with five, do a little research or ask others in your current networks who they consider their dream team of advisers and contacts they want to be in their networks. These should be people you wouldn't normally consider in your network; they would be more visible, more influential, and more in need of your services or information.

Pick only one off the list and contact them with a few ideas of how you could work together. Spend a few weeks developing this new addition to your network and evaluate your approach to growing your connections. Every few weeks (your pace may vary), pick another person and work them into your network. Based on this success, reevaluate the others on your network and recalibrate how helpful you can be or they can help you.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  networks  referrals  teaming  virtual teams  your consulting practice 

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#650: The Follow Up Call

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 9, 2011
Updated: Friday, September 9, 2011
I am building a prospect pipeline with a contact application and have prepared for a series of networking events to attend to kick off my initial contacts. Other than capturing the names and relevant information from people I met and consider potential leads, what else do I need?

You are off to a good start. Capturing leads in a formal way, whether it is on a sheet of paper or in a software contact manager on your smartphone, is essential to managing a prospect pipeline. A box of scraps of paper and business cards as a strategy for getting clients is looking for trouble. Let's not get into how the contacts make it into your list, but the critical next step after first contact: the follow up call.

Following up means doing it before the memory fades (yours and theirs) and doing it in a way that leads to a higher probability of a good business relationship. Once you have identified a person who is marginally qualified, you should follow up to set a time to discuss a mutual business relationship. This is your chance to decide whether and how you commit valuable time to pursue the relationship or you will drop them in the "cool" (as in not worth pursuing right now) contact list.

Tip: The follow up call should be done within 3-5 days, preferably the next business day. You should have a follow up call script that includes a reiteration of the circumstances that brought you together, the premise of why your two businesses might productively work together, your interpretation of pressing needs of the other person (and questions you could ask to verify), an example of work you have done that relates to this need, an offer of a contact or piece of information of value to the other person (goodwill), a possible working relationship you could mutually benefit from, and suggested next steps to move toward that working relationship. Preparation and some forethought, along with not letting the prospect get cold, are the keys to turning a business card stuffed onto your pocket into a live prospect or partner.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  goodwill  information management  networks  prospect  sales 

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