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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 

#22: What To Do With "Found" Time

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Like many consultants, business is a little slower these days, but is looking up a few months from now. Instead of ramping up selling activities, which I am not sure I need, what else could I be doing with this "free" time?

In previous Tips, I have suggested that it is always prudent to have a list of activities for your "found" time. For example, if a client defers the start of a project for a month, what will you do with, say, 65 hours spread over the next four weeks? What we didn't mention is that list needs to be updated occasionally, since priorities will change with market conditions. A list you created last year is probably seriously out of date now.

What are your priorities over the next two years? What do you need lead time for? What will you miss most the next time you get really busy? Are your marketing materials getting a bit dated? Is your website in need of an overhaul? Do your past clients need a visit for a meal or a conversation to catch up? Have you always wanted to get started on a book but never had the 30-40 hours in one block of time to think through a good outline? Have you wanted to develop a new service with a prospective partner but needed to travel to their city and work out the details? What about taking consulting courses or attending conferences that you put off because you thought an hour of education meant an hour less billing? Not planning how you would spend a few hours, a few days or few weeks suddenly thrust on you will likely lead to you wasting them. Even if you decide to take a vacation with your family, you'd be wise to have thought it through.

Tip: If times are slow for your consulting practice over the next year, then make this time count and invest it. Once business picks up, you will wish you had it back. If your business is going in overdrive now, there is no better time to reflect on what you wish you had time for. Write it down. No, really, write it down in different length blocks of time and make sure you have all the arrangements to get started.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  planning  practice management 

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#19: Is Now The Time To Rebrand Your Consulting Services?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 2, 2009
Our consulting group has always been successful at providing needed services to clients and our experience is that those clients have in turn succeeded because of them. However, we are not getting the same kind of interest as we used to because the economy has changed. Are there typical ways to extending services into new lines of business?

There are two ways to look at your situation. One is that your services are no longer in demand because clients are looking for different services. The other is that their needs have changed and they don't recognize the value of your services in the terms you use to describe them. The response to the first requires a change in your consulting focus and business strategy. You will need to be confident that this is happening for all your clients (and potential clients) before you assume this perspective. Also, before you abandon your consulting practice, consider whether your services will be in demand again when the economy turns around.

The second outcome, clients just not seeing the value in your services, is something you can react to. Similar to the point in Tip #12 about how people react to messages, clients see different needs in their organizations when the economy or their markets shift. It may be a simple matter of recasting your services in terms of what the client's point of pain. For example, if you r expertise was in process efficiency or supply chain management, you may need to reframe your described value in terms of cost control or even finding new "revenue" from your operations. If your service is training, instead of letting someone characterize it as a discretionary expsense, make sure you can present training as a way to get 15% more productivity out of every employee without increasing headcount.

Tip: Your brand is about the promise you make to the client. When the needs of the client shift, your promise may have to shift to match. I am not saying to offer less service or reduce your integrity. Just look at the way you describe your services. This may be uncomfortable and unfamiliar but it is necessary to make sure you are highly values (and compensated) for providing what the client sees as "critical services" in the new economy.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  marketing  planning 

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#15: The Relevance of Organizational Values

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, March 27, 2009
Many companies follow the rational strategy development model that includes Vision, Values, Mission, Objectives, and Strategy. I understand, operationally, how all of these other than values fits in taking a company forward. What good is spending time figuring out organizational values if nobody pays any attention to them?

This statement begs the question of whether it is the poor articulation of values or their lack of use that is the issue. I would agree that too many companies place too little emphasis on defining their values. Even when they do, the values they do articulate are often aspirational and not the values currently espoused or acted on by the management and employees. When they don't, it is frequently because management fails to see how values could be "used" in executing the strategy they have developed.

What we can miss is that values are more foundational in an organization's day-to-day operations than strategies or tactics. If tactics are what you do, then values are who you are. In crafting the long view of strategy, a consensus on values underlies your decision making and problem solving processes. When a problem arises that challenges you in ways not foreseen by strategy, then values are what you must have to reconcile the conflicts in those decisions. For example, how should a company resolve a conflict between an employee and a customer if you haven't had a full conversation about how you honoring employees compared to how you serve customers.

Tip: If your client has not had a serious conversation recently about values, you could provide value by facilitating that discussion. Whether your specialization is in leadership, human resources, process management, marketing or any other area, a conversation about values as a way to increase the consistency and fairness of decision making is a natural consulting service.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  planning  values 

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#998: How Strong are Your Management Practices?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 2, 2009
As clients get more serious about hiring the best consultants, I am seeing a lot more emphasis placed on project and financial management instead of just the technical approach and technical qualifications. How should I play this?

You are not alone. It used to be that you could just explain your approach, that you were qualified and provide a list of references. Not any more. It seems in every recession, companies want to be sure you can manage your own affairs as well as theirs. They often want you to explain your staffing, quality, cost and schedule controls. They want to see something to assure them that you have business continuity and risk mitigation strategies in place, especially for larger and higher profile projects.

This is something you should be ready to provide to prospective clients. At a minimum, think about each of these practice and project management functions and how you do, could, or should manage them. Where will you go to acquire and train additional staff? How do you control costs? How are your project communication systems integrated into your project management systems? What mechanisms do you have to assure that your work activities are monitored for quality control and work products are quality assured? These do not have to be elaborate (for small projects or practices they won't be) but you need to have thought these through, if not implemented them.

Tip: Start with the basics: cost, quality, staffing, schedule and risk. What can you say about how you manage each of these in a typical project? What is the most likely, or most disruptive, thing that could happen to negatively affect your client? What systems do you have in place or procedures could you quickly implement to maintain the project to the standards to which you committed? Write these up and refine them over time.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  planning  project management  proposals 

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#981: Know Your Client's History

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 6, 2009
Updated: Friday, February 6, 2009
I recently had an epiphany when I sat down with a client's bookkeeper of more than 30 years. She told me about the culture and history of the company and it gave me insights that I never would have gotten talking to my client sponsor, who had only been at the company for a few years.

Thanks for sharing this nugget of wisdom. As consultants, we often consider our job is to address the presenting issue in the here and now. We, and often our client, neglect to fully appreciate the powerful effect that the residual culture, processes and institutional memory from years ago exerts on how an organization operates today. Given that a professional consulting engagement includes understanding the full context in which our recommendations are being made, we should not forget time as a key dimension of our environmental scan.

Tip: Build in an historical assessment as part of your environmental scan. Ask your client sponsor which employees, maybe even employees who no longer work for the organization, have the institutional memory. To the extent time is available, ask to see old newsletters and company planning and operational summaries. Board minutes that describe strategic thrusts on which the organization was built can provide insight into how it might be amenable, or resistant, to changes that you are about to suggest. You are likely to find out things that even your client sponsor doesn't know.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  consulting process  customer understanding  learning  planning 

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